Friday, August 28, 2015

Class Grade Book

 As a kindergarten teacher for nine years, I never needed a grade book.
At least not the kind of grade book that teachers of older grades needed.
In kindergarten, my assessments were usually checklists based on standards or skills.
So when I found out I was moving to first grade, I knew I would need a grade book.
I also knew that I wanted a cute/functional one.
My county does use an online program to record and average grades, but we're required to keep a hard copy; just in case.
I wasn't crazy about my options for a commercially printed grade book.
So I decided to make my own.
Here is the cover of my new grade book.
I purposely used a graphic that looked like me!
(Please ignore the fact that I made grade book into one word, fixing it has just not been a priority at the moment.)
When I started thinking about what I would want in a record book, I realized I liked the idea of using a binder best.
I like that a binder gave me the option to include extras in my grade book.
So here is a glimpse into my newest project.

Nothing drives me nuts more than having to keep getting up to get a pen or collecting supplies.
So I thought about what I would need when doing grades and included them in my binder.
The clear pouch came from Staples.
I love that it is page size.
Here's what's included in my plastic pouch:
  • Mr. Sketch smelly stix to grade papers (grades are always better when they smell nice)
  • a grade slide card thing (I don't know the actual name)
  • two pens for recording grades
  • whiteout (not pictured, I didn't realize I needed to include a dry whiteout until last week)
I love that everything I need is right inside my binder.  So I can just grab it and get down to business.

Labels make everything better.
Don't you think?
I made divider pages for all of my subject areas, plus attendance; and then made little tabs so that I could find each subject quickly.
The actual tabs were made with Post-it Tabs. 
Click here to see the ones I used.
And then I used my electronic label maker to print the titles of each tab.
Click here to see my label maker.  It's awesome!

Here's a little walk through of my grade book pages.

I purposely took these pictures before I really started taking a lot of grades.
Since taking these pictures, we've been in school for 24 days and have already sent home our 4.5 week progress reports.  So there are plenty of grades in my grade book now.

We teach our science and social studies topics through reading. 
So these are all the subject areas that I'm responsible for.
A random idea I thought of yesterday...
Record grades in grade book.
Then record grades in online grade book.
After an assessment has been recorded online, highlight the assessment title.
This just helps me know what is what, and what I still need to enter online. 
(That was a lot of whats)

I also added some fun brightly colored notebook paper to the back.  Got this pack from Walmart.
I just loved the fun colors and thought I might need to take notes at some point.
Obviously I did.

Who needs boring old white paper when you can have neon!

I also added a pocket folder to my binder.
This way if I need to grade some papers or enter grades, I can just tuck the pages in my folder to easily keep up with them.
Plus this folder was just really fun!

I'm still getting used to giving actual letter grades. 
So this is my little cheat sheet.

Here's a version of the cover I made for my friend Dee.
And look!  I spelled grade book correctly!
If you want to check out this product in my TpT store, click here.

These are all the covers included in this set.
And they are editable, so just add a text box, pick a cute font, and type your name in the space at the top.

I've also included editable versions for every subject and uneditable ones.
The editable versions are great because you can type your kids names in the boxes and just print.
This way you don't have to keep writing in names over and over again.
And I also made a black and white version of each page in case you don't want to use up all of your color ink.

Monday, August 24, 2015

First Grade Homework

Today's post is all about homework.
Shh, don't say that too loud. 
It might be a dirty word where you're from.
But in my classroom, it's not so bad.
First, I thought I'd give an update on the summer homework packets I sent home with my kindergarteners last year.  I bought them from Mrs. Jones' Creation Station, click here to check them out.

I loved that everything was organized and already put together.
Much better than my usual thrown together summer homework pack.
I told my kids that if they brought back their homework folder to me, completed, at the beginning of the next year, that I would give them a treat.
You can check out my post on summer homework here.
Of course at the time, I had no idea I was going to be moving up to first grade with my class.

I knew I wanted to get my kids something pretty special for all of their hard work during the summer.
So I bought Smencils!
My kids were obsessed with my Mr. Sketch smelly markers last year.  Especially when I graded their papers with them.
I wasn't quite ready to buy them each a pack of smelly markers, so I figured smelly pencils were the next best thing!
I bought the big set here on Amazon.  Yes, it was a bit pricey.  But it came with 40 pencils and I figure that will last me through a lot of summer homework folders throughout the years.

Of course I sniff tested each one right away.

My kids, who brought their homework folders back, LOVED picking out their own smelly pencil.  I let them keep them in their desks and they use them all the time.
Yes, I do catch them sniffing their papers every now and then.

This was my favorite of the bunch, root beer!
I held one of these bad boys back for myself.
And sometimes when I write notes home, it smells like root beer.

These summer homework folders were such a hit, I decided to buy the first grade set for the school year. 
Check it out here.
If you buy the whole year's worth, it's editable!

So we started these homework folders at the beginning of August.
There is a monthly calendar in the front pocket that explains what to do each night.
It also has a place for the parents to initial at the end of the week.

Then I tucked 4 weeks worth of homework behind the calendar.
What a nice feeling it was, knowing that the whole month's homework was ready to go.  No more rushing around on Monday trying to figure out what to send home that afternoon.
As you can tell from the above picture, each week fits on a page.  Monday and Tuesday on one side, Wednesday and Thursday on the back side.
I love that there's not too much to do each night.  A quick review of what we've learned. 
We had conferences last week (yes, I've now been in school for 4 weeks) and several of my parents wanted to talk to me about the homework folders:
  • they liked the organization of the homework folders
  • they liked knowing what they would need to work on with their child in advance, so that if they had a busy night they could make it up before or after
  • they liked that it was just enough practice without being too much
  • they liked that it left them time to read to their child and spend a few minutes on spelling words
So overall, my parents are pretty pleased with the homework situation going on around here.
Every Friday, my students place their homework folders in this tub.
I then check that they completed the weekly work.

Then I give them a little sticker for completing their weekly homework.
My plan is that at the end of the month, I will give treats to the students who have a sticker in each weekly box.

Here's a glimpse inside:
A letter to the parents.

Alphabet and phonics charts.

Reading tools and a reading log.
My school participates in Reading Olympics where students receive awards at the end of the year based on how many books they've read.
My parents would always start off with a bang and write down every book they read to their child.  Then around October, they would fill up their page, forget to ask me for another, or I would forget to give them one, and the reading Olympics page would be left forgotten in the back of their BEE Book until I took it out in April.
So I added the monthly reading log, included in this set, to the back.  I thought the parents might be more likely to write down the books if I'm giving them a fresh sheet of paper each month.  Then I'll keep up with the reading logs and give out Reading Olympics awards based on the logs.

And this is where my kids put their completed work so that I know when they're finished.
As my kids would say "easy peasy lemon squeazy."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Back to School

I have officially made it through 3 weeks of the new school year.
Tomorrow will be day 18.
Lots of changes going on this year.
New grade: I'm in first in case you missed that post.
New classroom: About as far away from Kindergarten as you can get, but I'm right next to the cafeteria!
New grade level team
One thing that has not changed this year is my class!
I LOVE looping!
Our first 2 weeks have been so smooth because 14 of these kiddos were my kindergarteners last year.  We do have 6 new friends, but they have fit right in.
I was a bit nervous about the beginning of this year because I'm very new to first grade.  In kindergarten, I knew exactly how to start off the year, how to start introducing my routines, etc.
Well the majority of my kids already know my routines this year, so we kinda just jumped right into everything else.
All summer I was looking for things to make sure that this year wasn't exactly the same as kindergarten for these kids, since they would have the same teacher.

One thing I know I like is to have morning work where the kids come right in, know exactly what to do, and I can talk with parents or handle situations if needed while my kids are occupied.
So right now we are going with handwriting.
I didn't stress handwriting too much last year because they were in kindergarten and were learning letter formations.  But this year, I want to see some awesome penmanship.

I tried to make it a little more fun by letting the kids use a highlighter to trace and write the letters first.  Then they go back over their letters with pencil.

I also have big plans for reading and math workstations this year.
One of components of both sets of workstations will be journals.
I want my students to be able to look at my example journal and know exactly what to do, independently, so that I can meet with a reading or math group.

But before I can expect my kids to do these independently, I modeled, they practiced, I modeled some more, and they practiced some more.
We've been doing journals whole group for the past 2 weeks, with me doing an example first while they watch.
During workstations, they will only have 15 min to complete these journals. So last Wednesday-Friday I timed them so that they would see what 15 min would feel like when they were working.
It rocked their world the first day because they realized that they wouldn't have time to talk and goof around.

These tidy tubs, which I've seen all over blogs and Pinterest this summer, have been a lifesaver and timesaver.  Last year it would drive me nuts that my kids would visit and chat with each other on their way back and forth to the trash can. 
Now, there's no excuse!
They throw their cutting trash, no food or drink trash allowed, into their group's tidy tub and then a designated student empties it when it gets full.

While the kids work on their journals, I would leave my example projected for the students to reference.
I really wanted them to get used to the formats, so I tried to choose a variety to showcase throughout the past 2 weeks.
Right now all of my phonics journals are coming from Teaching with Love and Laughter's Kindergarten Phonics Interactive Notebooks, check it out here.  But when we start getting into the first grade work next week, we'll start the first grade version.

The math journal templates came from Karen Jones, check them out here.

Wiggle Break!
Go Noodle is awesome!!

A bigger view of First Grade Blue Skies bus craftivity I showed us making a few weeks ago.

Lots of work display area out in the cluster this year.

We actually did this on our first day after reading the story First Day Jitters.  I love that story!

In addition to showing the students different journal templates that they will be using in workstations, I've also been showing them different writing and word work templates that will also be in there.
This super fun dice rolling game for sight words is from Reagan Tunstall.  I love that it works with an words you want.  So we may use spelling words or sight words to practice.

Lakeshore games are still a big hit in first grade!
Good news since this is a fun activity to do the 10 minutes before lunch when I send the kids to the bathroom one at a time.

And more Go Noodle!
They beg for the Field Trips.

More phonics journals from Teaching with Love and Laughter.
My kids love all the flaps and pockets they can make in their journals.
And they do a great job with making sure they cut and glue the right parts.  Modeling has definitely helped.

Time to empty the tidy tub!

Another gem that will soon be in our word work station is from Teaching with Love and Laughter's Writing Activities Menu.
We created our word searches together.  I picked some sight words and then let my students write the words into boxes wherever they wanted, I just told them the letters had to touch.
Then we filled in random letters.  By the way, I was doing an example on the Promethean Board while the kids completed theirs.

Then I had my kids switch their paper with a partner and complete each other's word search.
Some thought it was blast, others thought it was the hardest thing in the world.
I'm loving the backwards checkmarks on the paper above.  I told the kids to check off each word when they found it.

But I thought this would be a fun word work activity and now they'll know what to do with it when they see it in workstations.
First grade has afternoon encore, so one day I came back from picking up kids to my desk looking like this!
Some of my kindergarten teachers snuck into my room while I was gone and messed up my nice neat desk!

They were witnessed fleeing the scene of the crime giggling.

So I told them they are not allowed in my room unaccompanied anymore :)
You won't know when or how, but Cindy and Dana, I'm coming for you.