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The fun has started! I'm loving teaching first grade for the first time in 20 years -- even though I had forgotten how TIRED those little guys get you! We've finished two weeks of school (a 3-day week and a 4-day week) and now that I've gotten a handle on things, I'll take you on a tour of my new classroom.


As we go through each part of the room, I'll share some helpful tips and ideas, as well as links to where I purchased items. Here we go!


Here's a view of pretty much my whole room. We got new tables this year. Yes, they are bright and clean. But they take up WAY more space than my other tables and I'm still getting used to them. (If you're thinking the tables look too high, you're right :-) They hadn't been adjusted yet when I too this picture.) Each table has a basket with a pencil can and community crayons. At least, they did at first. Community crayons are tough for first graders who use their crayons ALL THE TIME. Plan B was those plastic sandwich containers from The Dollar Tree.  Perfect. Until they had to open them. The lids fit so tightly most of my kiddos either couldn't get them off without help, or they pulled to hard and cracked them or sent the crayons flying around the room. Now we are using zippered pencil pouches for each person. Those work much better.... except for the crayons that keep getting left on the floor. Sigh..... And the baskets at the tables have to be that big because of the big HOLE in the middle where the tables fit together. But I digress.....


As you come in the room, there is a bookcase with some of my "teacher books." These are mentor texts we'll use for writing and reading, favorite authors, math concepts, etc. The colored bins are from Steps to Literacy and are worth every penny. They don't tip over and they fit WAY more books than I thought they would. I was going to label the bins with those label holders from Really Good Stuff, but it looked better without them.

The dismissal circles have been a life saver! Each student has a clip with a little square picture of them on it with their name. The clips stay pretty much on the same circle all the time, since most of my kids go home the same way each day. But if we have a pick up or different bus or whatever, I just have them move their clip to that circle. They check to make sure it's in the right place at the beginning of the next day. Easy, simple and perfect for a sub!



The entire back wall of my room has a counter going across it (and a HUGE HIGH empty wall... I had to be creative there!) Our lunch choice board is on the fridge (where else?!) Students clip their name on their choice for the day. The lunch ribbons are hung with these magnets from Learning Resources. They hold up to 50lbs and are soooo strong. I already ordered a second set. Or ipads are stored in a dishrack. I like the dishrack idea, but as you can see, I still haven't figured out how to deal with the cords. This charger is fantastic, though. It charges all the ipads at one time. The wooden cubbies are our mailboxes for things to go home. A friend of mine made them for me a few years ago because I got tired of the cardboard ones falling apart. These are so sturdy! Student names are velcroed on the sides. Here's a tip for using Velcro dots: alternate sticking the soft or hard side of the Velcro on whatever you're doing. That way you don't have to worry about being stuck with all soft sides and no hard when you're done!  The trays on top of the mailboxes hold papers to go home. The subway posters are from Hope King on TpT. The Sterilite drarers hold magnifying glasses, colored pencils and watercolors.


Here's a view of the room standing by the sink in the back. The whole left wall is big windows, which is great, but the view leaves a lot to be desired. (It's the side of an old metal portable classroom.) Not as much natural light as my previous room, but I'll take it!

Here's a closer few of a few things on and near the counter by the windows. We have two kids camping chairs as part of our flexible seating choices. The kids can move them around the room, but they "live" here when we clean up. Clipboards are kept in bins from Big Lots. They are the perfect size for so many things. Whiteboards, markers are erasers are here. I use face sponges from The Dollar Tree as erasers. They come 3 in a pack and I can wash them a few times a year. Completed work goes in the "finished work basket."


I think this is my favorite place in the room! The table was given up by another teacher who found it to be too big for her kindergarteners. I'm not sure how the white is going to look by the end of the year - or even by the end of the month! - but with the white stools from Ikea (spray painted teal using Rustoleum spray) and the dry erase circles, it's a great spot for small group work. The green rolling chair comes from Amazon. All the bins and baskets on the counter hold things for the day's activities, small group reading and small group math, along with a few of my teacher things. This is my main "desk" area.

This is the front of the room. Smartboard, rug area... nothing fancy. The chart stand was ordered from Amazon. I love it because it doesn't have those big storage bins on the bottom that take up so much room. (I can't find the exact one I got, but this one is pretty close.) The blue book holders on the whiteboard are magnetic. I bought them this year from Lakeshore. They are really sturdy.

This picture is taken from the front of the room by the coat room. Real life, people - see the seams on the yellow fabric??!!! I cut the fabric the wrong way and didn't have enough to cover it so I had to patch it. Ugh. The good thing is once we get an anchor chart up there you won't even see it. I made the headers myself. I don't like to laminate display things too much because of the glare. The boards will hold anchor charts, objectives and student work. Down the bottom of the picture you can kind of see one of the tables. I kept it raised up and my kiddos use it for a standing desk.


This is fast becoming one of my kiddos' favorite spots in the room. The rug is from Walmart. The book display will hold our theme-related books. I also have other books on top of the cubby bins. Those will hold things like authors, series and other books related to what we're doing. (Those book bins are from The Dollar Tree.)  The colorful baskets are our "workboxes." This is where my students keep their book bags, writing folders, journals, etc. The shelving itself originally was for bins that hold math manipulatives, etc. A few years ago I replaced them with these from Really Good Stuff. Their name tags are held on with book rings. (I have no idea where the original shelving came from, but this one is pretty close.)

On the other side of our workboxes is the library area. The rug is from Target and the pillows are from Amazon. We call them "cushions" instead of pillows to remind everyone that your head does not go on them :-) I'm not going to go into the saga of the white book boxes that may or may not have caused me to shed a tear or two as I was setting things up. Suffice it to say those bins fit on the shelves and are big enough to hold lots of books. End of story. As we get into independent reading, I'll take the boxes that match my students' levels and put them ON TOP of the bookcase. That way they won't have to pull out the heavy bins everyday when they are changing out their books.

These are some of the other seating choices my students have when they are not sitting at tables. The picnic chairs are from Amazon (I really should do an affiliate link for them... :-). The Hokki stools I got from a Donors Choose project (along with two of the picnic chairs). The bath mats are from Walmart and the lapdesks I have no idea! I have another post about flexible seating HERE and I have a new one in the works for next week.

Here's one last view from the back of the room by the sink looking towards the door.

I'm loving my new space and my firsties are, too! We've already made some changes since I took these pictures to make traffic flow smoother and make a few things more accessible. I'm looking forward to a great year in first grade!








Introducing students to scientific words, tools and practices is an important part of getting them ready to think like a scientist all year long! I like to start with a little mystery box to  get the excitement going. We read books about being a scientist, make anchor charts, practice scientific ideas (like observation and measuring) and end with a simple experiment that has my kiddos ready for science throughout the year. You can read about all my ideas in my 3-part blog series about being a scientist.

Labels, a teacher's dream! I know you love labeling things as much as I do. Labels keep me organized. They let my students know where to find things (and put them back!). And they personalize student supplies. But buying all those cute labels can get expensive! A few years ago I started making my own labels - and I love it! It's easy to do and I can make the labels look however I want!


I posted a picture of some of my labels on Instagram and got a ton of requests to put them in my TpT store. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to do it and still keep the labels editable, protect the clipart and make them print clearly. So, I decided to do a little tutorial here on my blog to help you create your own. (NOTE: If after going through this tutorial you decide you don't want to spend the time creating your own, email me and we can chat about a custom label order. I've already had a few people say they just want them done and ready to print out!)


This tutorial has 2 parts: If you're somewhat familiar with Powerpoint, you can follow my step-by-step directions and you'll probably be fine. If you need a visual, I created a video that should help! (I need to say that I work on a PC. I have no idea how to do this on a Mac, so if it's really different, I can't help!)


In order to create the labels, you need to first create the image you want on the label, then insert it into a template the same size as the labels you want to use. I like to use 2x4 Avery labels. I got the template from the Avery website. I don't feel comfortable sharing the actual template here (copyright issues), so here's the link to the site and the template I use (it's the 5th one on the page).
Avery 2x4 labels templates


1. Open Powerpoint and set the size to whatever size the labels are. (Go to Design > Slide Size > Custom)
2. Add clipart and text to make the first label look the way you want.
3. Click on your label slide on the left pane and click CTRL-D. This will duplicate the slide. Now just go in and change the name! Do this to make a label for all your students. (If you want to change the clipart quickly, click on the image and right click, then select Change Picture.)
4. Once you have all the label images you want, save your file as images (jpegs or pngs seem to work best).
5. Download, save and open the label template you want to use. (My template is a Word document for the 2x4 labels.)
6. Click in the middle of the first box and insert picture. Navigate to wherever you saved your label images and double click on the one you want to add. Do the same for all the boxes on the page.
7. When you are ready to print, put the label sheet into the printer (you may have to put it in upside down so it prints on the right side!) and print.


If you need a hard copy of these directions, you can download them HERE.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2ize_mAbVGMU3VndDZoQzA4alk/view?usp=sharing


I have to tell you that I have not been able to figure out how to make a SECOND page of the template! If someone knows how to do this, please let me know! Until then, after I print a page, I go back and delete the images and then insert new ones. I can do it pretty quickly since it goes right back to the folder where the images are. But I would love to know how to make more than one page!


Now, if all those directions seem too confusing or you just want to see it in action, you can watch my video tutorial. Even if you're an experienced Powerpoint user, you may pick up a tip or two! (Or know of a better way for me to do something!)



I tried to explain how I do this the best way I could, but if you still have any questions or want to ask about a custom order, you can email me (secondgradestories@charter.net) and I'll do my best to help you out!




It's back to school time! I know many of you have already started the new year with your kiddos, and some of you (like me!) are getting close. The beginning of the year is a stressful time for teachers. We are thinking about classroom set up, classroom management, grading and so much more! I have lots of blog posts that are useful at the beginning of the year, so rather than having them all scattered everywhere, I thought it would be helpful to put them in one place.


You can click on each image to go to the post. These tips and ideas and resources (and freebies!) have helped me get a handle on the beginning of the year craziness that we all experience. Whether you're a new teacher looking for help or an experienced teachers looking for new ideas, check them out!

Classroom management is THE first thing on everyone's minds at the beginning of the year! This blog series starts with how to build a philosophy on which to base everything you do. Other posts include mistakes not to make, ideas for incentives and things to do right away for a smooth running classroom.



http://2gradestories.blogspot.com/2016/07/rock-rules-creating-and-practicing.html
Speaking of classroom management, creating rules and teaching routines and procedures is one of the MOST important things you can do at the beginning of the year. (And it doesn't hurt to review things part way through, as well!) I share books I love, games and activities we do and ways to practice the rules in a fun way.

http://2gradestories.blogspot.com/2015/01/get-your-gradebook-on-organizing-for.html
Don't let that stack of papers to be graded overtake your desk - and your life! I've discovered a few tips and tricks that make grading sooo much easier, and still let you get the most information out of what you see.

http://2gradestories.blogspot.com/2016/01/alternative-seating-my-journey-so-far.html
Have you thought about trying flexible seating? Have you already made the jump? Check out a few options I chose to try and see how they worked. There is no right way to do flexible seating. See what works for me and how I make it all fit the needs of my classroom.

http://2gradestories.blogspot.com/2016/07/morning-meeting-ideas-and-activities-to.html
Morning meeting is without a doubt my favorite time of day! I get to know my students, they learn about each other, we start the day on a positive note and even fit in some social and academic skills. This blog series is FULL of ideas for greetings, group activities, sharing and more!


I hope you find something useful in these posts that you can take back to your classroom and make your own. Even though the beginning of the year is crazy and stressful, it is a time of new beginnings! Have a great year!








It's here! It's finally here! Teachers Pay Teachers is having their back to school sale this Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 1 and 2! My wishlist is overflowing with good stuff and I'm excited to be adding to my resources for my new first graders! (Not to say that I haven't already been shopping this summer... but we won't talk about that...)





I'm joining in the back to school fun and putting my entire store on sale for 20% off - including bundles! Bundles, my teacher friends, are where the HUGE savings are during the TPT sitewide sales. Let me explain.


What exactly is a bundle? It's a group of similar products available for purchase at one time - at a cheaper price. For example. I bundled all my "Writing Workouts" for the year into one file. If you purchased all of them separately, you would spend $30.00. But if you buy the bundle (at any time, not just during the sale), you spend $24.00 - a $6 savings.  Most sellers price their bundles at a 20% discount compared to purchasing each of the items on their own.


But here's where the sale can save you BIG! During the TPT site-wide sales (there are usually 4 per year), most sellers have their stores at 20% off - INCLUDING BUNDLES! So my Writing Workouts bundle that would cost $24.00 normally (still a good savings), will only be $19.20 during the sale (you've saved almost $5!). But wait! We're not done yet!


If you use the sale code, BESTYEAR, when you check out, you save another 10% on all your purchases! That brings the total cost of the bundle down to just over $17.00 - that's almost 50% off what it would cost to buy everything separately!


See? Even though a bundle may seem like an expensive investment (and who are we kidding, teachers are always thinking about how much they spend!), they are an absolute STEAL during the TPT sales. Check out your favorite sellers and do the math on those bundles. It really is worth the price!


Here are some of my bundles - all 20% off for the sale - and how much you can save with the sale and the code compared to buying each resource separately. (Don't forget to use the code! Make a sticky note somewhere! I've checked out before and forgotten to use it - ugh!!!)


How else can you save? Leave feedback! That's right. Did you know that you can earn credits by leaving feedback to be used to buy even MORE great stuff? Here's how:


Go to your "My Purchases" page in your TPT account. (Try not to look at the total number of purchases. It can be scary!) See where it says, "Provide Feedback"? Click on that and leave a rating and comment about the product. What did you like about it? How did you find it useful? Every time you leave feedback, you get credits in your account. You get one TpT Credit for every dollar you spend on TpT. Every 100 Credits is worth $5 that you can apply towards future TpT purchases. I save up all my credits and use them during the sales. Free money to spend!


Are you ready to shop the sale! Head over to Teachers Pay Teachers and clean out your wishlist! And if you need a little more help in the spending department, visit me on Instagram and check out my giveaway. You (and a friend!) could win a $10 TPT gift card and $10 to use in my store. But you've got to be quick - I'm choosing a winner at 9pm EST Monday night! Happy shopping!






Back to school means back to teaching rules, routines, procedure and more! Working with your students to create the rules and expectations for the classroom is a powerful way to start the year. Students are invested in what is going on and are more likely to work to meet your expectations. Need some ideas for how to set up rules with your students? Read through my blog post series filled with ideas, activities, books and how-to's.



I am always on the lookout for great books to use to teach everything - and science is no exception! When we are just introducing how to be a scientists, I like to choose books that are simple, but use strong vocabulary, have photos or illustrations that my students can relate to, and give students enough to think about so we can discuss and ask questions. (Come to think about it - those are the same criteria I use for pretty much every book I choose!) This post is the third in a series about introducing science to young students. You can read the other posts here:

These six books are my go-to books for science at the beginning of the year. Most are read alouds, but a couple of them can be done well with small groups. Unfortunately, not all of them are available. I'm going to share them anyway because teachers are masters at finding what we want, and you never know when a good book will show up at a tag sale or used book store.



What is a Scientist? by Barbara Lehn is a great beginning read-aloud for introducing scientific thinking. The pictures shows kids engaged in scientific activities such as observing and measuring and gives a brief explanation. This is a great jumping off point to introduce all the things a scientist does.


Being a Scientist by Natalie Lunis and Nancy White goes more in-depth into those scientific activities such as measuring,, observing, classifying etc. I like to read this book with my students, but I tend to paraphrase the text because it can be long. The photographs are bright and colorful and my kiddos enjoy answering the questions posed throughout the book.




What is Science? by Rebecca Dotlich is a very simply written and colorful book that gives a variety of answers to the question, "What is science?" I like to ask my students this the very first time we start talking about science. We group our answers into scientific topics, science tools, scientific activities, etc. It's a great way to start a conversation and find out what your students know and think about science.
I Use Science Tools is part of an emergent reader series of science books. The text is very simple, but the photographs are a great way to make sure everyone is clear about what a variety of science tools are used for. I tend to show this one under the document camera, stopping to talk about how each tool is used.


Nature Spy, by Ken Kreisler is a great book to use when discussing the importance of observation. This book tells about how children can be a "nature spy"  observing and noticing and recognizing patterns in nature. It's a very relatable book for students, which is why I keep it around.







Scientists Ask Questions, by Ginger Garrett is part of the Rookie Read-About Science series. Simple text and colorful photos make it engaging for young readers and there is just enough information for students to learn without being overwhelmed. I have 6-8 copies of this book and I like to use it in a small group. I put it out as a center after we have read it together.






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