Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Activities & Elf in the Classroom

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
One of my favorite times of year, but also one of the most stressful because I have so many fun things I want to squeeze in to these last 3 weeks before break.
Here is my door for our school's Christmas door decorating contest.
These fun collaborative mosaic door coloring sheets came from Art with Jenny K
 I didn't tell my kids what we were going to do with their coloring pages.  I just handed them out and let them color.  Students who colored quicker than others would get an additional sheet, there were 30 altogether.
They were amazed when they realized that the pieces fit together and made a picture.
BTW - this was super easy to put together.  Each page had a letter and number on it so that you knew where each one fit into the picture.  My wonderful practicum student cut them all out and relabeled the backs.  Then I taped them together and our awesome first grade assistant put it on the door for me.  It was a team effort!

Then it was time to get out the Christmas tree.
Unfortunately, half the lights were burnt out.
This was my Christmas tree in my apartment in college, so it's had a good long life.
I went to Walmart that night to get a new tree...

And it's black.
I seriously did not know they made black Christmas trees.
Well I got one!
I decided I was not going to stress about it.  So this year I will have black Christmas tree.

Last week, Santa came to visit and he brought some of his reindeer.

The kids were amazed when they were told that the reindeer with antlers was actually a girl, while the reindeer without the antlers, in the picture above, was a boy.
It blew their minds when one of my kiddos put two and two together and realized that that must mean that all of Santa's reindeer are girls, because they have antlers.

Mrs. Claus is in the background of this picture.

My kids were so excited to see Jolly, our elf from last year.  He came the Monday we returned from Thanksgiving Break. And as usual, he appeared sitting on our Christmas tree.  He must be okay with black trees.
This year Jolly has discovered TpT and has been bringing us an awesome countdown to winter break card each day when he comes back from the North Pole.
You can check out this awesome freebie from Missing Tooth Grins here.

I love these cards because not only are they super cute!  But they have the countdown till Christmas Break, a fun and easy Christmas activity, as well as a kindness challenge for the day.
After we read our card each day, I hang it on our bulletin board.

The first card suggested that we make some snowflakes!
I honestly can't remember the last time I made snowflakes with a class.  I'd say its been about 8 years.  But they loved it!  I grabbed some copy paper, taught the kids how to fold it, and then we snipped away.
I hung everyone's snowflake up somewhere in our room.
The next day, Jolly's card said that we should write letters to Santa.
So during P.E., I searched TpT and found this freebie from Kidology by Krista Reid, check it out here.
 I thought it was so adorable with the little naughty and nice check boxes at the bottom.
And the kids did a pretty awesome job!
Here are my favorites.

Dear Santa,
For Christmas I want a good Christmas for all the kids around the world.  All I want is a stuffed giraffe, stuffed unicorn, and to have a good Christmas.  I love you Santa so much.  I love you Mrs. Claus and all the 9 reindeer.

Dear Santa,
I love Santa!  I wish for a new horse!  I love you!!!!  I love you!! I love you!!  I love you!! I love you!!  I love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(We've obviously been learning about exclamation marks)

Dear Santa,
I have been nice.  I wish I had Jurassic World toys.  I wish I had an Elf on the Shelf.  I wish I had palace pets.  Thank you Santa.  I love Santa.  I can't wait for you to come again.

Dear Santa,
I have been nice.  Thank you for Daphne (her dog).  Thank you for the unicorn.  Thank you for Christmas.  Thank you for dolls.  You're the best.  I've loved you forever.  You're the best forever.  I love you.  You're the best Santa.
I just thought these were the sweetest letters to Santa that I had ever read. 

- Please don't judge the state of my shelf.  Yuck! I had no idea how dusty it was.
(Just a quick note about the kindness challenges.  My kids love reporting back to me when they have fulfilled the day's kindness challenge.  On this particular day, our door holder informed me that not only did she hold the door open for someone today, she held the door open for the entire class.)
Next, Jolly's card said that we should think up a new holiday name.
So then I walked into my friend's classroom that morning and saw this fun freebie from Teaching Superkids. 
This is a job application to work as an elf for Santa.
What a super cute idea!
I knew this would be a hit!

First, we had to get new elf names.
Your first name was based on your birthday month.
And your last name was from your favorite color.

My elf name is Tinsel Sweet Feet.

Then the kids completed their elf application with their age, which job they were applying for, and why they thought they would be a good elf.
Is this not the cutest thing ever?  And it was free!
I love the application in the picture above:
Jolly McMerry is 6 years old and wants to be a Stocking Stuffer.
She would be a good elf because...
"I can be quiet.
I can be quick.
I am a good elf.
I love you."
Trying to get on the boss's good side.

Then, depending on which job they were applying for, they had to complete a second sheet to show off their elf skills.
If they wanted to be a Stocking Stuffer, they had to list three things they would put in the stockings.
If they wanted to be a decorator, they had to design and color an ornament.
If they wanted to be a toy maker, they had to list three toys they would like to make.
And if they wanted to be a gift wrapper, they had to describe how they would wrap a present.

Sparkle Sugar Plum is 7 years old and wants to be a Decorator.
"I would be a good decorator because I would pick sparkly ornaments."

Glitter Sugar Plum is 7 years old and wants to be a Gift Wrapper.
"I will be a good gift wrapper because I put the bow on top."

Then she described how she would wrap a gift.

Holly McMerry is six years old and wants to be a Decorator.
(She asked if she could write the number word for 6)
She would be a good elf because "I am a good decorator."
On Friday, Jolly had way too much fun with our calendar board!
My kids watched me very carefully to make sure that I didn't accidentally touch Jolly when I was retrieving our activity card and our calendar piece.  Jolly brought us the Elf on the Shelf movie last year, we watched it again this year, and so they learned all about what would happen if you touched him.
Our Christmas activity of the day was to listen to Christmas music while you work.  So we had a blast rockin' out to Christmas Kids Bop music while we worked!
Stay tuned for more adventures with Jolly!
I'm excited to see what other Christmas activities he has in store for us.
And he also whispered something to me about bringing his reindeer friend with him next week.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Word Work - Stamping Fun

My literacy workstations are still going well!
They are actually one of my favorite parts of the day because I get to work 15 whole minutes with each small group.
If that isn't differentiation, what is?
I recently received a Lakeshore order. Using school money; can I get an amen!
And I thought I'd show you one of my favorite things I bought.
I love letter stamps.  But I only had one set and my students all needed to use the same letters, so it didn't work out so well.
So I purposefully bought 4 sets of lowercase letter stamps and 4 different colored stamp pads.
(My workstations have 4 students per group)
I labeled each set of stamps with a stamp pad color, so that stamps wouldn't be used on other colors.

So now, when we stamp our sight words, usually on Mondays, each students gets their own stamp pad and set of stamps to use.
No more fussing over stamps.

So much stamping fun!

My example page. 
This resource came from Reagan Tunstall.
Now my students beg for stamps to be in our workstations and get excited for Mondays.
And so far, I've only had one stamp stamped in the wrong stamp pad.  I'm sure there will be more, but I'm just going to let it go and tell my OCD to be quiet :)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Organizing Student Cubbies

It takes awhile to settle into a classroom.
In kindergarten my classroom set-up changed more times than I can even think about over those 9 years.  But by last year, I pretty much had everything set up in the way that best worked for me and my class.
So moving into a new, much smaller room, with a lot less storage space has been an adjustment for me over the past few months.
It wasn't until I was typing up my classroom tour post last month, you check it out here, that I saw some areas that need my attention.  Like NOW!
The first area was my student cubbies.
I have 3 of these shelves and they work perfectly for holding extra student supplies.  All students have their Bee Buck pocket, extra crayons, and extra markers inside their own cubby.
But it wasn't until I saw these three pictures that I realized how much space I was wasting and how sloppy it all looked.
Those sideways Bee Buck pockets are driving me insane!

My color paper on the top shelf is a hot mess!

So I went to Walmart and bought every drawer set they had, seven total.
I'd like a few more later on, but the 7 sets gave me 21 drawers, so it would fit all of my student's things.
Then I created some labels on my computer, printed them out on regular paper, and ran them through this awesome sticker maker machine.

I'm in love with this sticker maker and used it to make labels for my daily work drawers, pencil drawers, and extra crayon drawers.
You can change out the cartridges, so the one I used laminates the top of the paper and applies a permanent sticker to the bottom. 
Perfect for labels!

Here are my labels, printed, cut, and ready to go.

Oh happy day!
So much better!

The best part is that now instead of using 20 of my 24 cubbies, I'm only using 7 for student cubbies.  So now I can organize my color copy paper and other things in the extra cubbies!
I'm going to put the color copy paper in some more of these drawers, as soon as Walmart replenishes their supply.  And I need a drawer set to put in that big gaping hole at the bottom of the cubbies.

My students still have easy access to their extra supplies.
Yet I'm not wasting so much precious storage space.
Well worth the cost to have extra storage space, in my opinion.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

School Auction - Painting

So, my last post was all about our fall fun activities.
But I wanted to share one more thing that went into our school's Family Fun Night.
The auction.
After all the fun grade level activities wrap up at 7pm, or 7:45 in our case, there is a huge auction in our cafeteria. 
I had never ever been to an auction until attending our school's during my first year of teaching.
Businesses around town donate all kinds of things, some are extremely random.
In the past, each classroom has decorated a pumpkin to be auctioned off.
This year, many of us decided to do a classroom painting instead.
So here is our painting.
(If you follow me on Instagram you've already seen it)

This thing was a labor of love and took A LOT of work.
The original idea came from this pin on Pinterest.

I loved how the kids' fingerprints were used to create the Chicago skyline.
Well, I teach in rural TN and we don't have skyline.  So I decided to go with the state of TN instead since we're learning about maps in first grade.
The prep work for the painting actually started during fall break.

I found clip art of TN, cut it out, and traced it onto the canvas.
Then I thought about how there was no way every little finger would stay inside that water pencil line.
So I bought some painters tape.  The top and bottom of TN are pretty straight, but the left and right sides, not so much.  So I actually put painters tape on the edge of the paper TN I had used to trace.  Then I cut along the edge of the paper again, this time I was cutting all those little bumps right out of the tape.  So then I laid the cut tape onto the canvas right on top of the where I traced the lines.
I know, that sounded really confusing, but you can see the result in the picture above.  You can also see the little paper TN I used in the corner.
I was having way too much fun with the painters tape.  So I decided to create little rows and boxes so that each of my 20 students would have a box in which to write their name and put their fingerprint.  That way they weren't all over the place.

I was still having too much fun, and enjoying my Are You Afraid of the Dark marathon on dvd.  So I decided to go ahead and print out the letters and heart for the heading, cut them out, trace them onto the canvas, and paint them.
I put some sparkle paint on top of the pink heart.
Wow, this picture definitely shows the world that I am OCD.  But those 20 little boxes made me very happy.

I brought it to school the day we came back from fall break and had my students write their names in each box using an extra fine point Sharpie.
Then I set out all of my paint, I made sure that I had 20 different colors, and called my kids back to my reading table one at a time to choose their paint color and start finger painting.
It took two days to finish the finger painting.  After 10 kids painted, the colors started to squish together too much.  So I decided to let the first half dry over night and then the last 10 kids did their finger painting the next day.

I brought it home over the weekend to let it completely dry.  I also had the intention of pulling all the tape off while I was home.  But then I thought my kids might enjoy seeing the tape come off.  I had explained to them that all the blue tape would come off, leaving straight lines on our painting, but I don't know that they fully understood.
So the next Monday morning, we all sat on the carpet while I pulled off all the tape and wrote our class name and the year at the bottom with a sharpie.
They loved watching the tape come off.
Then I outlined TN and the heart with black paint, let it dry over night, and sprayed the entire painting with aerosol mod-podge. 
Did you know they made aerosol mod-podge? 
Because I didn't but I'm so glad they do!
I knew I needed to put some kind of protectant over the painting but was afraid that regular mod-podge might smear some of the paint.  So this was the perfect solution.

Here is our finished product!
I love that my kids can look at it and see each one of their own finger prints.
And it looks pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

I wanted to get a quick class picture with our painting before it was auctioned off.  So here we are taking our picture about 10 minutes before our first grade musical, while the office is calling for us to go to the gym. 
Nothing like the last minute, right?
My kids were all arguing over whose parents were going to buy the painting at the auction.  I wasn't sure if anyone would buy it, so I was fully prepared to buy it myself.  I figured I could display it in our room.
But someone did actually buy it, for way more than I was willing to spend.
All my kids could talk about that next Monday morning was whose parents bought our painting.
So I'm glad they enjoyed the experience.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fall Fun in First Grade

I love Fall!
With that being said, these past few weeks have been CRAZINESS!
But fun.
I'm very lucky that my school district gives us a 2 week fall break.  Otherwise I may not have survived all the things we crammed into the last two weeks of October.

Two days after we came back to school, it was pumpkin patch time.
We purposely went to a different pumpkin patch than the one we went to kindergarten.
And it was so much better!
They had more fun things to do, everything was organized and efficient, they had tons of workers, and there were lots of places for adults to sit while the kids played.
Although I didn't do very much sitting.  I was playing on everything with the kids.

Instead of one hillbilly slides, they had two!
Double the fun!
I even convinced several of the parents to go down the slide with me.
We had a blast!
I think I went down the slide maybe 10 different times with different kids.  I had a little trouble walking afterwards from climbing up all of those steps.

There were plenty of stations for us so we never felt like we were right on top of another class.
I loved the picture station, shown above.
I don't know if I've ever talked about our field trip shirts on here before, but this was something we started in kindergarten about 6 years ago.
We came up with a common design, took it to our neighborhood t-shirt shop, and each class chose a different color.
This helps us to know exactly where our kids are at all times and if someone is lost or separated from their group, we immediately know whom they belong to.
It had worked so well for us in kindergarten, that first grade decided to do the same.  And my parents were very happy because we had green shirts last year.  So most of my kids are wearing their shirt from last year and didn't have to purchase a new one.

The blob!

On the hayride to pick out our pumpkins.
The parents and I were cracking up because our tractor driver was dressed as a cow.
So instead of "don't let the pigeon drive the bus" we were cracking up over "don't let the cow drive the tractor."
We may have been a little delirious because we thought it was pretty funny.

And this little cutie and I just had to recreate our same selfie from last year.

As you can tell, the weather was much nicer and warmer this year.  And she's missing a lot more teeth.

Arguing with mom over finding the perfect pumpkin.
These two were so funny.

The sweetest part is when they all fall asleep on the way back to school.
She was napping so peacefully, until about 5 seconds after this photo was taken.  Our bus pulled into our circular bus loading zone and she fell over and onto the floor.
Poor thing :(
In addition to our visit to the pumpkin patch the first week back, I also had my first formal observation of the year. And the next day as well, because I didn't finish the first day.  So glad that's over with!
The last week of October we had our first grade musical "Squirm."
It was adorable.
The kids were dressed up like bats, worms, and spiders.

My festive door decorations.
All the first grade classes had matching doors with different adjectives.  I was surprised.  The others were happy, angry, sleepy, and I can't remember the last one.

We had to include student work.  So we had the kids write about our adjective.

"I am surprised when I have a birthday.
"I was surprised when there was lots of people at the beach."

I am surprised when my mom gets flowers.

"I am surprised when my cousin comes to town."
"I was surprised when my mom jumped in front of me."

"I am surprised that we're going to the pumpkin patch."

That evening, the same day as our musical, we had our Family Fun Night.
Talk about a busy day. 
I think I finally left school about 10:30pm.

Each cluster/grade level was responsible for fun family activities to raise money.
I taught kindergarten for 9 years and we always hosted a cake walk.  It was always a big success.  So I wanted to find something that would be successful in first grade too.
So first grade did "Pick a Pop."  Students pick a sucker and look at the color painted on the bottom of the stick.  Then they get to pick a piece of candy out of the color coordinating bucket.  We thought this would be great for little siblings because they'd win something every time.

We also had photo booth set up where families could get pictures with the props.

But our biggest hit of the night was our Superhero face painting.

I made little menus with pictures I found from Pinterest so that the kids knew what their choices were.
The menus worked well, I think we had only one parent ask one of us to draw something different, and they asked for whiskers so it wasn't that big of a deal.
The menus also helped us so that we could use them as a guide.

Here I am painting a Wonder Woman headband onto one of my own students. 
We originally only planned for two of us to paint faces, but it ended up being such a hit that we had to have two more helpers.
Every time I looked up there was a line out the door.  We painted faces for 2.5 straight hours. and had a blast doing it!
Notes for next years face painting:
- Get more liquid paint
- Get more paint brushes
- Buy mirrors so that we can show our finished results to the kids (we used a powder compact that one of our teachers let us borrow)
- Make a sign that says kids only (there is a very weird story behind that one)
- Make a sign that says "Please remember that we are first grade teachers not face painting professionals."
- Have a line monitor so that kids aren't jumping line
It was a long fun day, but I was very glad to get home afterwards.
And my cats were very glad to see me when I walked in the door because they wanted their dinner, which was 3 hours late.