New Year's Resolutions

Can you believe how fast this year went by?  It seems like only weeks ago that I decided to start this blog, and was writing my first post.  And speaking of writing blog posts, here is one of my first New Year's Resolutions: to write more often!  I am so inspired by those of you who are posting new ideas and pictures and TPT products several times a week!  You amaze me.  When do you sleep?!? 

Another of my New Year's Resolutions isn't really a resolution, but rather something that I started two months ago, and want to continue: piano lessons!  I've wanted to learn how to play the piano since I was a kid, and I just recently realized that I'm a grown up now, and can take piano lessons if I want!  So I've begun taking lessons once a week from the organist at church, and as it turns out, I LOVE it!  I practice at the piano in the school's music room after school (or occasionally at recess or lunch if I need to clear my head), and I'm already making a lot of progress.   


(Yes, my piano books are in Korean!  They were originally German books that were then translated into Korean, but they have not been published in English.  I really only need to read the musical notes in the books anyway though, and according to my piano teacher these books are the best for beginners, so that's what I use!)

Of course, there's the usual, "get in shape & drink more water" resolution that I (along with the rest of the world) make each year as well.  I'm not going to make this a formal New Year's Resolution though, because I always set these outrageous, unrealistic goals for myself that I never keep.  (For example: work out at least four times a week, and drink at least 2 liters of water every single day.  I'd make it a week and a half.  Maybe.)  Instead, I'm going to encourage myself to go to Pilates at least once a week, and bring a water bottle to work to make it easier to drink more water (versus coffee - see the picture of Starbucks on the piano above).  

So, what are your New Year's Resolutions??  How are you going to keep them??

Elf on the Shelf, Part 2

So, yesterday morning our usual elf, Bernard, was gone!  The kids just have NOT been listening or following directions, and they needed a little something to shake them up and get them back on track.  In Bernard's place was a girl elf, Bernice, with a letter for the class posted on the SMART board.  (I'm shocked no one asked how the letter got there, or worse, asked me how the letter got on my iPad which was connected to the SMART board.)

{You can see a copy of the letter I wrote for the class in my previous post.}

When I was finished reading the letter to the class, they were SILENT.  I've never seen them so fixated and quiet.  You could have heard a pin drop in that classroom.

I was initially planning on having Bernard show up in music class later that morning, but the class still had a rough morning (behavior-wise) after the initial shock of the elf's letter wore off.  (That only took about four minutes.)  Instead, when the class returned from music (where Bernard did not make an appearance), Bernice was gone too!  I told the class she must have only come to deliver the letter, and then had to go back to the North Pole.  That was what the class needed to start paying attention to directions and focus on their work.   Realizing they now had NO elf, not even a new messenger elf, they were doing everything they could to make their elf come back!

So, this morning I gave them back their elf, Bernard, plus, Bernice came back too!


The students were SO relieved to see both of them back, together!  One of the kiddos asked me if they were boyfriend and girlfriend.  I told them that elves didn't have boyfriends and girlfriends - they're just friends.  :)  (In hindsight I wonder if I should have made them brother and sister?)

It was a bit more work moving all these elves around (boy do I like to exaggerate - "all these elves"! Ha!), but I think I've finally got my class (mostly) under control and back to a place where we can try to get at least some work done this last week and a half!

Next week is going to be a DOOZY of a wild schedule: it's supposed to rain several days next week in southern California (which means indoor recess, which means crazy, cooped up kids), we have a special music schedule to rehearse for the Christmas program in the church, we've having a birthday celebration for all the kids with December birthdays, and we're decorating gingerbread houses (just to name a few!)

We teachers need to pray for each other these last few days before Christmas break!  



Elf on the Shelf

One of my favorite parts of teaching first grade during Christmas is Elf on the Shelf!  My kiddos love, love, love our elf. His name is Bernard, and he arrived in first grade on Tuesday last week. (He would have arrived on Monday, but I couldn't get organized in time! Oops!). I even had a student ask me on Monday, "Don't all the elves come beginning in December?"  Thinking on my feet, I replied, "I wrote Santa a letter asking him not to send our elf until tomorrow, so we could make sure we were on our best behavior when he got here."  Luckily the kids all nodded in agreement at that, probably because they know the class as a whole has not been on their best behavior!

I love the conversations I overhear once our elf arrives. I heard one little boy saying to another boy in an impassioned voice, "He's not a toy, he's a real live elf!!"

Here's where Bernard has shown up each morning so far:
  
   

  


Unfortunately, Bernard's presence has not contributed as much as I had hoped to my classroom management, however. There are still a few kiddos who are frequently forgetting that the elf is watching!  So, I've decided to step up my Elf on the Shelf game a bit. 

On Tuesday, our regular elf, Bernard, will not be there.  In his place will be a girl elf, Bernice, with a letter for the class (I spent a good portion of today writing this letter in rhyming verse!):


I don't want the kids to be completely devastated when they hear that their elf has gone back to the North Pole (I'm hoping that having a substitute elf in Bernard's place will prevent actual tears), so I'm only going to make them wait until after recess to get Bernard back.  (I don't want to crush them, just give them a little wake up call to be more focused and attentive these last two weeks of school.)  We have music class right after recess on Tuesday, so Bernard will be on the piano in the music room when they come in. (I hope our music teacher will forgive me for the (hopefully only several) minutes of excited exclamations that will ensue when they see him!  

On Wednesday, then, both Bernard and Bernice will be in the classroom, and going forward they'll both be somewhere in the school until Christmas vacation. And now I can have the two elves interacting with each other in the classroom when I stage them at night, or, one of them can be in the classroom, and the other somewhere else on campus (either in the science lab, computer lab, or music room, if I think that my students need to be more attentive in any of those classes on a particular day)!  

I'm very excited about how I'm modifying my Elf on the Shelf routine!  I've never introduced more than one elf to a class, so I can't wait to see how the kids will react!  Stay tuned for another post next week on how it all turns out!



Bossy 'E' Unit Bundle for all Vowels, Coming Soon!

I've been working hard on my Bossy E Bundle Unit (on CVCe long vowel words), and I'm hoping to finish over Thanksgiving break!  I've already finished the Long I unit, which you can find here on Teachers Pay Teachers.   


Please leave me feedback in my TPT store, and let me know what you think!

Dennis the Menace, times 35 . . . (and Report Cards)

Hello, blog readers!  

I realize I haven't posted a blog entry in months, so I've decided it's time to discipline myself and just start writing about what I've been up to in the classroom since my last post.  

First of all, I just want to say this: thirty-five students in one first grade classroom is too many.  Do I sound whiny?  Probably.  But the difference between 28 students (last year's class) and 35 (this year) feels exponential.  And, over two-thirds of them are boys.  And, most of them are your stereotypical boys to boot: boys who love to run, talk loudly, and get dirty.   They're all like little Dennis-the-Menaces: adorable and inquisitive, with a knack for messes and mischief.   But as adorable as my class is, and as much as I just can't stay mad at them for long no matter what they've done, I've been working my tail off trying to keep my head above water for the last three months!  More students = more grading, more parent emails to respond to, more reading centers to plan . . . I could go on and on.  My big idea of getting in shape this year, and going to Cardio Barre at least three times a week?  I fell off that wagon the first week of school.  Instead, I've been staying at school until it gets dark outside.

But let's look at the positive: I've just completed my first trimester report cards (woo hoo!), and on time, might I add!  Report card comments always take me forever, but luckily I was able to use a lot of the same comments I used last year for this year's students.  I always write my comments in a Word document before typing them into Gradelink (the online grading system we use at my school), so that I can refer back to them later for ideas when writing comments for the next year.  I realized most of my comments follow a formula: 

  1. State how much you love the having the student in class (with varying levels of enthusiasm depending on how much you truly do love having the student in class).
  2. Write about a strength that the student possesses.  (If said student is struggling in all areas, state which subject areas have shown the most improvement in the last grading period.)
  3. Include an area of growth, where the student needs additional support or increased practice.  Often time, this is where I tell parents that their child "has a tendency to get distracted, which prevents him/her from doing his/her best work." 
  4. Reiterate how you look forward to seeing the student grow over the course of the rest of the year.  


The hardest part about report card comments is making sure you're communicating the areas in which a student needs to grow, while still letting the parent know that you see their child's gifts and care about their child's well-being.  However, I've found that if written well, (and cushioned in the right euphemism), you can tell parents just about anything about their child without them becoming upset with you.  


****************
For example: 
You WISH you could say: Little Johnny loves the sound of his own voice, especially when it's speaking over yours (the teacher's), and barely stops speaking long enough to take a breath.  

You should say INSTEAD: Little Johnny has strong verbal skills, and enjoys speaking in front of the class.  He has a tendency to talk with his classmates at inappropriate times, however, instead of focusing on his work.  I would like to see Johnny channel that energy into his writing, using his oral language skills to improve his writing by "writing as he would speak." 

                                            ****************

See?  It's all about how you word it.  Both comments communicate the fact that Johnny talks. (All. Day. Long.)  But the second comment shifts Johnny's (oftentimes annoying) talking habit into a positive trait.  Here's another one: 
                                            
You WISH you could say: Little Ralphie fights with other students and cannot keep his hands to himself.  

You should say INSTEAD: Ralphie struggles with impulse control, both in the classroom and on the playground.  A goal for Ralphie this coming trimester is to work on using his communication skills when feeling unfocused, frustrated, or angry.  

                                             ****************


So, with the start of a new trimester on Monday, here's to fresh beginnings, and new resolutions!

1. Go to Cardio Barre at least once a week.  (Baby steps!)
2. Write a blog entry at least once a week.  

While it is perhaps true that the only one who will be able to tell if I've been working out is me when I'm trying on my skinny jeans, it will be quite apparent to my blog readers if I'm not writing blog entries.  Hold me to it, blog readers!  (I just saw that I've reached over 1,500 views so far!  While it may not be in the millions like some of my blogging idols, I'm still flattered and surprised that I've received over a thousand!)

Late-Instagram-Bloomer

What I'm about to say will shock you: I've just discovered the wonder of Instagram


Now before you judge me too harshly, I haven't been living completely under a rock the last several years. I've had Instagram on my phone for awhile, and even posted a few pictures of myself with friends (using those wonderful filters that make me look more tan than I really am) or random pictures of sights that made me smile.  And I would periodically scroll through my friends' pictures of selfies and beach parties and happy hours.  But I never thought about searching for other people to follow who were outside my immediate circle of friends. 


Until now. (Dramatic pause.)  I had no idea how many teachers had Instagram accounts that were essentially curated Pinterest boards of their own classrooms.  Teachers' Instagram accounts are like looking at a pictures-only highlight reel of teacher blogs!  No offense to my friends, but I'm more interested in seeing how other teachers arrange their Word Walls than seeing one more picture of a beach sunset.  



So I've created a new Instagram account, FirstGradeMenagerie, that I'm using for all my classroom pictures and ideas.  (I'm keeping my original Instagram account separate, in case I decide I haven't seen enough Santa Monica sunsets this week.)  It's exciting to see how many people are already following me - people that I've never met, but have simply stumbled onto my Instagram account (despite the fact that I'm a terrible hash-tagger).  Although I do love the hashtag I've recently discovered, #todayisaid. They are hi-larious. 

 


So THANK YOU Instagram followers. You give me a boost when you like my pictures and write comments. 



I want to get my Instagram account added to my social media buttons in the bunting of my header, but until that happens, my Instagram is www.Instagram.com/FirstGradeMenagerie.  (Side note rant: Wheennnnnnen will Instagram be available on the iPad?!?!). 

Grace Before Meals Unit

I've written another Prayer Unit!  My other Prayer Units that are currently on TPT (on the Nicene Creed and Our Father) are from when I taught 4th grade, but I've finished one that I can start using in my current classroom with my firsties.  We say the traditional Grace Before Meals prayer before going outside to recess/snack and before going to lunch, but I want the kids to really think about what they're saying instead of reciting words that have no meaning. I have several activities included in the packet, but I'll be adding more within the next several weeks after I figure out what else the kids need to become more thoughtful and contemplative pray-ers (other than needing, oh, another twenty years onto their ages).  


I've made the unit FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers until tomorrow night at midnight, so grab a copy before the Flash Sale is over!  And please, please please leave feedback on my TPT page.  I would really and truly appreciate it.   (And if you feel it isn't worth 4 stars, please send me an email to let me know what would make it 4-star-worthy.  Tell me what you need!)  Thank you, Blogger readers!  

Creating a Listening Center with an iPad

If you have an iPad in the classroom, you can create a listening center for your students to listen to read along books.    The trick is to buy a headphone splitter, which will allow up to five students to plug their headphones into one iPad.  You can even plug a second headphone splitter into one of the headphone jacks of the first, adding another four headphone jacks to your initial five.  I ordered mine on Amazon for about ten dollars - highly worth it, considering it just multiplied my iPad usability by five.  

Where before only one student was using an iPad to listen to a book on CD, now I have five students utilizing a single iPad. Even if you have a set of multiple iPads for your classroom, this still frees up iPads for other students to use at a different center. 



I've found a bunch of books with read along CD at the Dollar Tree last year, and all I did was put the CD in my computer to download it onto iTunes (I created a Read Along playlist just for books on CD), and then transferred my iTunes playlist onto my iPad the next time I synced up.  The kids know to go to Music on the iPad, and then look for the book title they're reading.  

Another fantastic feature of using the iPad as a Listening Center, is that you only need ONE copy of the read along CD.  Once you've put the music file on your computer, you can put it on all of your class iPads. 

Since there's five kids on one iPad, I did have to coach the kids on waiting until everyone had their headphones on, and their books open and ready before the group leader pressed Play on the iPad.   (I learned this lesson very quickly, after several students started crying that the rest of the group had started the book before they were ready.)

There are a few books with CD at Scholastic Book Clubs this month that I'm thinking about ordering... Now that I've nailed down my system for Listening Centers, I'm eager to start building my Read Along library!

What about you, readers?  How do you work listening to reading into your day?

Meet the Teacher Blogger {Linky Party!}




THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS . . .
  • Birds: If I lived in a woodsy area instead of suburbia, I would be a crazy-obsessed bird watcher.  Sitting in silence and watching birds hop from branch to branch is pure bliss.
  • Starbucks: I get a venti black tea lemonade with two splenda every morning on my way to work.  
  • J. Crew: The best teacher outfits EVER. 
  • Art museums: Some people like to go to movies alone, I like to go to the Getty alone. 
  • School supplies: How many types of colored pens, post-its, stickers, and award certificates does one teacher really need?  A LOT, according to my supply cabinets!
  • Dollar Tree: This is one of the best places for teachers, seriously.  There's a lot of crap to be found at the Dollar Tree, but a lot of gems, too, especially when it comes to books for my classroom.  The secret is to go all the time, because you never know what you're going to find on any given trip.  
  • Professional Development Conferences: I love being in school as the student!  So whenever my principal will pay for me to attend a conference or seminar, I'm there!   (I know, NERD ALERT, right?)  Many of my colleagues dread PD, but I absolutely LOVE it. 

IF YOU WEREN'T A TEACHER, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO BE?
If I couldn't be a teacher, I'd want to own a little shop, like Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail.  I'd sell not only books, but stationary, and colored pens, quirky lamps with pretty shades, bright mixing bowls that look pretty sitting on the counter, ooh and comfy cashmere cardigan sweaters with big pockets.  It would be like an amalgam of the Paper Source, Anthropologie, and Williams-Sonoma.  

THREE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOU:
Sensitive, Creative, Smart


FINISH THE SENTENCE, "_______________" SAID NO TEACHER, EVER!
"I can go to the bathroom whenever I want!" said no teacher, ever!

IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY, AND YOU CAN INVITE ANYONE, DEAD OR ALIVE TO THE PARTY.  WHO ARE YOU INVITING?
C.S. Lewis

IF SOMEONE WROTE A BOOK ABOUT YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD BE THE TITLE?
Oooh, tough one this is a tough one.  I'll have to think about this and update the post when I come up with a title. 

YOU GET TO PICK ONE SUPER POWER.  WHAT IS IT?
I actually already have at least one super power, and it comes in handy more often than one would think: I can put in and take out my contact lenses without a mirror.  Yes, I know, Hollywood has yet to make a movie exploiting my gift, but it's only a matter of time.  

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE OR SAYING?
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~Jeremiah 29:11

IF YOU HAD TO SING ONE SONG ON AMERICAN IDOL, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The thought of having to sing a song on American Idol is the stuff nightmares are made of.  But let's see . . . I think the last time I sang in front of a huge crowd was when I did karaoke during undergrad with my sorority sisters, and we sang Here I Go Again by Whitesnake . . . Please don't make me go on American Idol.  

ARE YOU A MORNING PERSON OR A NIGHT OWL?
I'm definitely a night owl!  Getting up in the morning can be torturous, especially after those nights when I was up until 2:30 in the morning reading teacher blogs and designing TPT products.  (I have dozens of TPT products that I've started, and yet to finish because I keep starting new ideas without finishing the old ones!  It's possible I may have a touch of ADD when it comes to creative ideas . . .)

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE RESOURCE THAT YOU'VE CREATED ON TPT?
(See the above question!)  I have a ton of products that still need a bit more formatting and a great cover before they can be posted to TPT.  However, my best selling resource that I've already posted on TPT is a unit on the Nicene Creed, for Catholic school teachers.  This product is actually one I wrote when I was teaching fourth grade, so it's way too advanced for my little firsties now, but I'm happy so many other people have found it to be a helpful resource in the older grades!

SHARE SOMETHING THAT WE MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU!
I was a huge band nerd in high school.  I played the clarinet, and I thought I would grow up to be a band teacher when I grew up.  (Turns out, I wasn't too far off!)



Your turn!  Here's what you need to link up to the party:


Tell us all a little bit about you. Follow that up by copy and pasting the Q&A Session and adding your own answers. Make sure to include the square "MEET THE TEACHER BLOGGER" button (above) at the end of your post and link it back here so others can find the linky! When your post is published, link it up and join the party below!!!



Favorite Things ~ J. Crew Martina wedges

Okay, folks, it's my next Favorite Things post!  (I feel just like Oprah on her Favorite Things show!  YOU get J. Crew shoes!  YOU get J. Crew shoes!  YOU get J. Crew shoes!
I ADORE these J. Crew Martina wedge heels - I have them in several different colors.  When I realized I could stand and teach all day in these shoes, and then leave school to have dinner with friends still wearing them, and not have aching feet, I went online and bought them in every color available in my size. (Luckily for me, they were on sale at the time.)  But it was completely worth it.  Because it's not very often that you can find a beautiful heel that allows you to simultaneously chase a six-year-old AND make virtually any humdrum outfit look polished, put together, and fancy.  And sometimes you need to step your look up a notch.  Like on those mornings when you have to choose between ten extra minutes of sleep or putting on makeup, and you decide you don't care if your students greet you with "Your face makes you look like you're feeling sick," (Don't worry, honey, Miss Bergstrom is fine!) or, "You have a mosquito bite on your chin!" (It's not a mosquito bite, sweetie!), if only you can press snooze one. . . more. . . time.  So, yes, these heels were worth every penny.  

Making sentences with Magnetic Words

The Dollar Tree really is the best place to find inexpensive teaching resources.  The pack of magnetic words below cost me (duh) a dollar, and so did the cookie sheet underneath it.  My white boards are magnetic, but I love using the cookie sheets so the little monsters lovely children don't scatter the tiny pieces all over the floor.  (And in my classroom, the floor is like a black hole.  Once something leaves the desk, it disappears like a sock in the dryer.)  
Each part of speech is color-coded as well, however I haven't taught them this yet.  Once we've reviewed the parts of speech more, I can start talking about how all sentences need a blue noun, a red verb, and even better sentences have green adjectives, etc.  Until then, students just had fun reading the sight words and helping each other sound out the other words they didn't know.  

Some of the sentences they created were pretty funny . . . My favorite may have been, "She is old."  The little one who wrote this called me over to show me, and I strongly suspect he was talking about me!  (Oh, God, thirty-three isn't old yet, is it??)


Choosing "Just Right" Books

I wrote this up to give to my parents during Back to School Night, to help them choose independent reading books for their child at home. 


New (School) Year's Resolutions

I know New Year's resolutions are supposed to begin on January 1st, but I've always felt that the fresh start associated with the "New Year" really begins in the fall, with the beginning of a new school year.  So, in the spirit of my own personal New Year's Eve (the day before the first day of school), here are my  New (School) Year's Resolutions:

Resolution #1: Write more thank you notes.
There are so many people who do wonderful and generous things for me throughout the year.   I need to be better this year about writing a proper thank you note to let them know how much they mean to me.  I've stocked my desk with fun thank you notes and cards to make it easier to keep thank-yous a priority.




Resolution #2: Leave by 4:30pm (okay, 5:00pm at the latest) everyday.
I need a social life!  I can't just go to work, go home, go to bed, repeat.  This year I'm going to make it a point to leave at a reasonable hour every day.  (Unless report cards are due.  That's a different story!)


Resolution #3: Change student work on my bulletin boards more often. 
I need to just put students' writing up each week, even if it's just a quick-write, or I don't have time to make a cutesy heading with letters at the top of the board.  In the picture below, I didn't make a heading, list the standards I covered, or even keep the board consistent with the same assignment (which makes me cringe to look at it now) - but the important things is that the parents loved seeing their kids' work when volunteering in the classroom, and I got it done.  I didn't wait to make it perfect first - otherwise I would have the same work on the board for three months before I'd change it.  



Resolution #4: Do more art.
I love doing art with the kids.  It's probably one of my most favorite things, and yet I get caught up in covering all the material I need to get through by the end of the year, so art is always the first thing to go when I feel like I'm falling behind.   But the kids need it, it makes them happy.  And it makes me happy too.  And a happy teacher = happy students.

Resolution #5: Pray more often throughout the day - both with the kids and to myself.
I want to try to remember to turn to prayer instead of Starbucks when I get stressed or overwhelmed during the day.  One of the reasons I wanted to teach at a Catholic school in the first place was so I could help my students in their faith, so I need to remind myself to share the experience of spontaneous prayer with my students.  

Who knows how well (or for how long!) I'll be able to stay true to my resolutions!  Leave your own New School Year's resolutions in the comments section!

Personalized Notebooks

I love all things paper, especially things I can personalize. My fabulous sister ordered me a set of these May Designs notebooks for Christmas last year.


just happened to go to their website today (maydesigns.com) and noticed the entire site is 40% off through August 10th!  It may be time for a few more... (After all, a girl can never have too many notebooks or too much stationary.)





Bulletin Board Borders

I love using a double border on my bulletin boards, with white on the inside and another color on the outside. It takes a little more time to put up though, especially since my teacher-OCD forces me to use a ruler to measure the spacing between each border so it's even.
 

After you've measured, you can put up the inside-border. (I really like using white for all my inside-borders.)

Here's a close-up:

Then staple up the outer border, simply following the edge of the bulletin board. 

Here's another close-up:

And voila!  You're done!




Common Core Reading Literature Assessment

I finally finished my new Reading Literature Assessment!  It uses the story "The Kite" by Arnold Lobel, from Days with Frog and Toad, which is part of the Imagine It! reading program we use at our school.  Unfortunately, Imagine It is not Common Core aligned, so it's up to the teachers to create our own Common Core assessments.  

It will be on sale on Teachers Pay Teachers for a limited time, so if you grab a copy please leave feedback and a rating! 





I'm having a TPT Sale!

I'm having a TPT sale!  Click the "My Products" link above to see my store! (I've added a few new products this week!)

I'm a Top Pinner!

So, I just got an email from Pinterest, telling me I'm one of their most active Pinners. . . I don't know if I should be flattered, or embarrassed that I spend so much time on Pinterest!  Nonetheless, I'm going to click the link to join their "exclusive preview" for a new feature, and we'll see how it goes! Anyone else out there get one of these emails too?  (I wouldn't be surprised if most of their most active Pinners were elementary school teachers!)

Screenshot of an email from Pinterest

Summer's Finally Here!


Summer is finally here!  I had to put everything in my classroom either in my cabinets, or on the bookcase behind butcher paper.  It was like a giant game of Tetris, getting every book, every basket, every manipulative, and every miscellaneous piece of teaching material into those cabinets.  But I did it!  Nothing but the furniture, the rug, and printer has been left out.  We'll see how organized I really packed everything when it comes time to take it all back out in August. . .

New TPT Product


I've added a new product to my TPT store!  This is a mini-unit on the Act of Contrition, getting students ready for First Reconciliation.  

The Facebook page is finally LIVE!

Sorry, folks, that it's taken so long, but the Facebook link is now up and running!  You can now "Like" First Grade Menagerie on Facebook to receive news and updates as they're posted. 


Using my iPhone in the Classroom

I keep my iPhone within arms reach at all times at school.  (Is there an apostrophe in arms?  Probably. I'll have to look that up later.)  No, not because I plan on checking my texts or waiting for a phone call.  I use my iPhone for all kinds of things in the classroom.  For example:

Class Dojo
I'm written about Class Dojo before as an amazing classroom management tool.  And it really is.  But sometimes I want to give someone a point when I'm walking around the classroom, or in the middle of a lesson, and to walk across the room to get to my computer would disrupt the moment.  So I pull my phone out of my pocket, and boom, it's done.  That glorious little ding will ring out, and 27 little bodies snap to attention in hopes that they too, will get their own ding.

Dictionary
"Miss Bergstrom, how do you spell porcupine?"  Uhhhh, hold on kiddo, let me double check.I'm a pretty good speller, but some words just aren't always in the forefront of my brain.  How often does one spell the word porcupine?  Or karaoke?  Or corduroy?  Sometimes I start to second guess myself, and need to verify that I'm telling the kids the right spelling.  (Worst case scenario: that writing assignment goes home with the misspelled word, kid tells parents that's how I told him to spell it, and I look like an idiot.)

Timer
I use my phone timer everyday to keep track of my center rotations.  I am terrible at keeping track of time.  I've forgotten to set my timer on occasion, and when that happens, I'll usually continue reading with the same guided reading group until one student finally says, "Isn't it time to move to the next center yet?"  Oops.  I get on a roll with the kids and loose track of time!  My God-given talents just don't happen to include an accurate internal clock.  Luckily, I have my phone nearby to keep me on track.

Music
Music can be used for all kinds if things in the classroom.  Either to go along with lessons, to calm them down, or pure bribery, music is a valuable tool.  For example, I'll occasionally tell my kids that I'll play music while they work, if they promise to stay quiet(ish).  I have a Spotify account (one of the best Christmas presents my brother ever gave me), and I use it in the classroom all the time.  All genres of music are at my fingertips, at all times:Kids are doing busy work?  Play Disney's Whistle While You WorkChristmas season?  Let's search for Christmas carols.
Teaching a religion lesson and need a certain song to supplement the message?  Got it.
Need to settle them down after recess?  Mozart
Any time of year, and need to bribe the kids?  Frozen soundtrack.
Introducing a new phonics sound?  Teach it with a song.

Camera
All teachers need a camera in their classroom.  I'll write a post soon on all about ways teachers can use a camera in the classroom.

Common Core Standards
I have the Common Core Mastery Connect app on my phone so I can look up standards easily.  It just makes it quick and easy, especially for those times that I'm writing the standard and objective on the board for an impromptu lesson.

Weather
Obviously, I can't check the weather forecast for an absolutely definitive answer on whether or not it's going to be raining at exactly 10:20 in the morning.  But for the times when I'm asked, "Miss Bergstrom, are we going to have indoor recess today?"  I can at least check the weather to get an idea for whether or not we'll be on a rainy day schedule, and give me a little help on how to answer the kids (in addition to allowing me to mentally prepare for what might feel like a very long day).  It's also helpful when we're in the middle of our weather unit, and the kids are writing weather journals.  

Missal
Since this is a Catholic school, we attend mass as a school on occasion.  In these cases, I like to look up the mass readings ahead of time, to teach the message to the kids before we go to mass.  It's much easier looking up the readings on my Missal App instead of at my computer.  

First Grade Common Core Writing Rubric

One of the things I've been working on this year is rubrics.  By the end of the summer, I'm hoping to have written rubrics for every Common Core-based assessment or project I plan on assigning next year.  I think this will make parent conferences easier, especially when I get the question, "Why is my child getting the grade Needs Improvement in Language?"  So far, I've written rubrics for narrative writing (CCSS W.1.3) and I'm working on a rubric persuasive/opinion writing (CCSS W.1.1) which should be posted soon!


Want to Start a Blog?

Starting a blog can be scary.  Writing each post is still a little scary, even!  (What if everyone thinks my ideas are dumb?!)  It was for this reason that I thought about (and talked about) starting a blog for what seems like forever before I finally took the plunge.  In the end, it was seeing my favorite blog authors at the Southern California Kindergarten Conference that really inspired me to register a blog name and simply go for it.  Here's what I've learned so far about what's necessary for starting a blog that people will read. 

1.) Register a Domain
Choose your blog name on blogger. If I had to do it over again, I would have chosen a name that used shorter words, because they're easier to put on logos, blog buttons, and the like.  But more important than that is to choose a domain that's easy to remember, and that you like.  





2.) Design Your Page
Now it's time to design your page. I chose to pay someone to design my blog page, and in my opinion it was totally worth it.  There are plenty of free templates you can find online, but if you're not able to write code, or are familiar with pasting other people's codes into the correct places, I recommend having a professional do it, especially if you want to ultimately make money off your blog.  It's my opinion that a beautiful header can take a good blog to an amazing blog.  I'm inspired by pictures, and a blog's design is a part of that.  Inspire teachers to be creative through your branding!




I had my blog designed by The Cutest Blog on the Block, but there are tons of other people/companies who design great-looking blog pages. I would recommend looking at the footer or sidebars of blogs that appeal to you visually, and see who designed them. (This is how I choose tcbotb.) If a blogger paid someone to design their blog, the designer will have some sort of link somewhere on the page. 

3.) Get on Bloglovin
Register your blog with Bloglovin. This is just one more way to get your blog out there.  If you have social media icons on your blog page, include a link to Bloglovin in there as well.  So far I have more followers on Bloglovin than I do through my actual Blogger page. 




4.) Get on Pinterest . . .Like Yesterday
This might just be the most important thing:  if you're not on Pinterest yet, get on it. So far, I'd say roughly half of my viewers have accessed my blog through clicking a pin on Pinterest. Luckily, I've already been on Pinterest for several years now, and have built a following on the site by curating a series of teaching-related boards with a ton of great pins. So now, every time I pin a picture from my blog, it's being shared with all of my Pinterest followers.  Your Pinterest-followers are your potential blog-followers. 




5.) Photograph EVERYTHING
You need to start taking pictures of everything you do in the classroom.  Obviously, you can't photograph your students' faces and post them on your blog, but you can take pictures of their hands working, of student work samples, bulletin boards, anchor charts, etc.  Every blog post needs a picture, for several reasons. First of all, because people want to see pictures, to go along with an interesting narrative. And second of all, you need a picture to pin on Pinterest (see tip #4).

I tell you, when you start looking at your students' work through the lens of one who plans on posting it online, it forces you to step up your game as a teacher. Every writing assignment and art project needs to be Open-House-worthy.  More impressive. Better-tied to the Common Core standards.  I ask myself about every assignment I plan now: is this good enough to blog about?  I'm always trying to improve upon my lessons until they're of the same caliber as the teacher-bloggers I admire.  (This is a work in progress, and someday I'll get there... Wouldn't we all love to be as fabulous as Teacher to the Core's Katie, or Teacher Bits and Bobs' Kerri and Lindsay?)

6.) Download and Learn to Use Photo Editing Apps
Part of posting great pictures on your blog is in the presentation of those photos.  My favorite iPad app for writing text on photos is Phonto (see my post on Phonto here). Think about some of the most appealing photos you've seen on Pinterest and on your favorite blogs; many, if not most of them have captions or labels written directly over the picture.  It makes a difference. 



If you don't have an iPad to use Phonto, you can also use PowerPoint to lay text over images, and the save the slide as a .jpg or .png file. 

7.) Post regularly
As a long-time blog reader, it can be frustrating when you find a blog you love, and then there aren't any updated posts when you visit the site again!  To keep your readers coming back, give them something to come back to.  I'll admit, it's been difficult to stay disciplined with a blog-writing schedule, especially on those days when I just want to come home, put on sweatpants, and watch cheesy TV shows on Bravo.  It is so rewarding though, to press publish on a post, and then see on the stats page that you're getting page hits. 

I'm sure there is much more to blogging than I've listed here.  I'm just humbly sharing what I've learned so far in my short blogging history.  I'd like to invite all of you to share in the comments section your thoughts on what it takes to get a blog started.  I'm listening!

A Teacher's Must Have App List