Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Spotlight on...Back to School Books

The Night Before First Grade/Kindergarten by Natasha Wing are great books to kick off the school year and may calm any nerves your child has about starting school. These books introduce  some of the fun activities that can happen in the specific grade for your child. The first grade book demonstrates how to make new friends while keeping your old ones.

The kindergarten book covers the differences between daycare and school with emphasis on being big kids now. These books are based on the idea of Clement C. Moore's Christmas poem. Overall, Natasha Wing's poems help to replace the fear of the unknown new grade with eager anticipation for an exciting new school year. She writes with clever rhyme and humour. Check out these books HERE for a smooth transition into a new grade level!

I'm linking up with Mrs. Jump's class Book Talk. Have a look for more great books about the start of school! Happy reading!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Powerpoint 2011 Users Unite!

My name is Taryn, and I use 2011 Powerpoint for Mac. I am aware of the frustration caused by searching for a How-To in Powerpoint when all of your TPT friends are using 2010! I am by no means an expert and have simply learned through trial and error. Today, I am going to walk through saving slides as pictures without losing the quality of the image.

Step 1: Congratulations! You have finished creating your TPT product as a Powerpoint presentation...now let's get technical. Go to File - Save as Pictures...

 Step 2: Decide where to save these slide pictures (you may want to create a new folder as it saves each slide as an individual file). I like to use PNG format because according to Powerpoint 2010 users it provides a crisper image than JPEG...I believe them.

Step 3: As highlighted, change the Height to 2249 (I always type in 3000 - it's an easier number to remember and type. Powerpoint changes it to 2249 as a max.) The width changes automatically to 1687 if it is a vertical page and to 2999 if it is a horizontal page. You can decide if you want to save current slide only or save every slide in the presentation. Click OK.

Step 4: Start a blank presentation with the same page setup. Insert slides as background images.

Voila! You will have achieved the same crisp and clear image as a Powerpoint 2010 user.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Eager Readers

A few years ago, I started a reading incentive program to encourage thoughtful, independent reading during center time. I often found little ones could be easily distracted from the task of reading at the library center without something (other than me) to hold them accountable. I started with three themes (one for each school season) and moved toward one theme a month to keep things interesting and to vary the reading skill.

Basically, my kiddos choose a book from the class library as usual, fiction or nonfiction, and then complete a skill builder or comprehension worksheet to go with it. They hand it in or show it to me, I check it and reward them with a sticker/die cut for their poster. Here are some examples of what I’ve used:

Maple Tree Reading – leaf die cuts or stickers

Rocket Reading – star stickers or stamps

Marshmallow Reading – with cotton balls for marshmallows in a hot chocolate mug
(This one is pictured with a nonfiction reading incentive worksheet).

Gumball Reading – any circular stickers or with bingo dabbers

 Rainstorm Reading – I like to do this one in February and tie it in with the story,
 The Day it Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond. 
It could also be done with a raindrop stamp or sticker. 
(It's pictured with a nonfiction reading incentive worksheet).

It’s amazing how motivating sticker collections are for kiddos, especially when they are working towards creating a picture with those stickers. And it’s a lovely way to fill a bulletin board for an entire month. Plus, when I take it down I know exactly what will be going up next – for the entire year…love it when things are that easy and organized.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

You, Crafty Cookie!

It’s a lot of fun to see how excited kids get about decorating; and to be honest, it’s partly because I share in their excitement. One of the best parts, and often most daunting parts, about classroom decorating is the vast, blank canvas of bulletin boards. I could spend hours (and am slightly embarrassed to say that in the past I have spent hours) putting together a fun and educational bulletin board. But sometimes it’s just not possible to put in the time you would like. That’s when I like to call in my troops, because after all, it’s their classroom, too!

Students take ownership and pride in their work when they are given the chance to create a class bulletin board. Here’s a new one our class did at the beginning of the school year. The white poster on the right is a puzzle. Each student had a piece of the puzzle to fill with pictures. The pieces showed us a little bit about each classmate and illustrated that they make up one community.

On a later day, the students illustrated a flag banner based on a character skill we wanted to see in our class: patience, respect, generous, etc. The list of character words came from our reading of “Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and words the students brainstormed after our book study.

This activity established a sense of community while nurturing their hearts to be mindful and considerate of others. Afterwards, the students were on the lookout for these character skills among their classmates and school friends, sharing with me when someone demonstrated their word.

So, go grab yourself some cookies and come back to talk. What bulletin boards do you create at the beginning of the school year?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Summer Homework

A great organizational technique that the teacher before me started is homework folders. If you don’t do them, start. It decreases the chance of papers being eaten by backpack monsters and increases communication with parents about homework and assessments. I like to prepare homework folders before the school year begins; one less thing to do in hectic September. It’s a task that can be done at an outdoor table while still enjoying summer.

We use these folders for the entire school year. At the beginning of each week, I send the folder home with my students and they bring it back to me on the last day of the week. Many parents say how much they enjoy seeing that week’s homework at the start of the week. Then they can plan accordingly since all of the homework is not due until the last day of the week, unless I state otherwise with advance notice for special projects.

The folder has 4 page protector sleeves. The first sleeve is for that week’s homework schedule to slide in and out. I have students check off the list as they complete an assignment and their parents/guardians sign off on it.

The second sleeve is for work to be completed at home. This is where students can keep the leveled reader book they are working on, the sight word flash cards they are practicing, or any additional sheets you would have them complete at home.

The third sleeve is for assessments or quizzes that I want parents/guardians to see and sign. It comes back to me signed in this sleeve.

The fourth sleeve is for work that we are finished with in class and needs to go home…to stay. Be gone paper bulges and wads of old schoolwork! You belong on a refrigerator door…or dare I say, the recycling!

When the homework folders come back to me at the end of the week (* post to come on how to motivate your students to bring it back on time) I put them in ABC order mark and record the work completed that week. Then move it to the “Keep at Home” sleeve. Check that all assessments/quizzes have been initialed and move it to the “Keep at Home” sleeve. Then I change the homework schedule and work to the next week’s and it’s good to go.

Here’s what I use for each student:

Duo-tang, 4 clear page protectors, 6 white sticker labels, and a sandwich zipper bag or library pocket.

If I’m teaching a split grade I colour-code the folders so it’s easier to sort when I get them back at the end of the week. For example, grade 1 gets yellow and grade 2 gets blue. Plastic duo-tangs work best. These ones lasted through out the year so when I my grade 1 students returned for grade 2 they were able to reuse their folders. I just switched grade 1 to blue and grade 2 to yellow.

If you’re interested in trying out these homework folders, I’ll help you get started. Click on the picture below for a FREE template. Happy Organizing!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Getting to Know You

To begin the school year, I like to get to know the basics about my students from my students. I’ve seen many “All about Me” books over the years and decided one year to create my own based on the information I was looking for (how do you get to and from school, work preferences, and family info). If you teach a split grade your lower grade returns the following year. So it's great to have several themes to rotate through.

My favourite one to do is Strawberry Social! We have a back to school party and do many berry themed activities this week.

Whoo are You? – our owl theme. I found these cute owl nametags for desks at Michaels and had our classroom decorated with more owls. It tied in nicely with the Owl theme studies unit we did that fall. “Theme Studies” is our name for science and/or social studies teaching block.

Special Agents is a fun one, too, particularly for the older kiddos. At this age, they are right into the detective work we do to get to know their peers better.

These four theme “All About Me” books and the activities I do along with it are available at my TPT store. And just for reading, I’ve included the Special Agents theme sample for FREE! Click on the cover picture above or any of the Back to School themes to see the product.

What themes do you do in your classroom to start off the year? Do any of you carry your theme out for the entire school year?