Happy weekend!  It's Labor Day weekend, and a group of bloggers over at Who's Who have come up with a great way for you to spend some time this weekend.  We've got a blog hop going on with the perfect Labor Day theme!

We all know how important it is for students to be able to work together.  And we all know that teachers spend TONS of time at the beginning of the year starting students on the road to being able to work together - building classroom community, practicing speaking and listening skills, etc.  As you visit each of the blogs on the hop you'll read about great ideas to get your students working together, AND pick up some freebies you can use in your classroom.

This week was my first week of school (3 kid days, actually), so we spent most of the time getting to know each other.  I really think this is one of the BEST ways to help students be able to work together.  Having a strong classroom community means students feel safe and respected and are willing to take risks.  Building that community takes time, and we all need to get to know each other a little at first before we put ourselves out there.

I actually did not have this activity in my plans this week.  I kind of made it up Friday morning based on something we did the previous day.  I had a few minutes after another "tell me about yourself" activity and asked students who were done to turn their paper over and write a sentence telling me anything I should know about them.  WOW!  Not only did my kiddos love this idea, but they came up with the most creative and interesting ideas - things I never would have discovered if I had stuck to the traditional talk about your pets/family/likes/dislikes, etc.

Soooo... I decided to embrace the idea and take it one step further.  Before lunch we completed idea maps telling about ourselves.
(Sorry - no pictures of completed sheets - I got distracted by my shoe that broke and I had to hot glue it back together before recess ended!)

Then to start our writing time, I read I Like Myself, by Karen Beaumont.

We talked about the theme of the books we have been reading (it is important to be yourself) and how this book fit in.  We also discussed how everyone is different and it's what is on the INSIDE that counts.  Then - we got to work!

Each person chose 3 ideas from their brainstorming sheet to write about.  I only had them tell the one thing and then add a detail because we didn't have a lot of time, but let me tell you - these kiddos are writing wonders!  I am sooo looking forward to what they can do as writers this year!

Then we cut and pasted and colored and shared our first flap books!  Most of my darlings had no problem cutting in the right place, gluing and figuring out how it all worked.  I could hear all of them helping each other - telling friends what to do next, showing them examples and being so proud of their finished work!

This sweetie was thrilled to share what a good "cooker" she was :-)  Brownies are her specialty!

This guy decided to write about having a brother because "he's nicer to me than my sister is."

And this one wouldn't start coloring until he had listened to what his friend at the table wrote - they decided to read their ideas to each other and share them!

Not only did this activity end up giving me some great insights into my students, but it gave them the freedom to share things that were important to THEM - giving them ownership of the finished product.  Working together and building community in one fell swoop!

If you'd like to use this little activity in your own classroom, you can download it by clicking the image below.
(There are boy and girl brainstorming sheets and flap book covers, as well as a flap book page that is more structured.)

Ready for more ideas on working together in your classroom?  Click on the link below to hop on over to Ms. Lilypad's Primary Pond and see what's up in her classroom.

Enjoy the weekend!

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I love Teacher Week at Blog Hoppin'!  It is so fun getting a peek into everyone's classrooms... honestly though, I think today's topic is my favorite one.

I LOVE reading about how other  teachers run their day.  It always makes me appreciate what I have, wish for what I don't have, and maybe get a new idea on how to structure part of my day.

My schedule this year is exactly the same as last year - which pretty much NEVER happens, but it definitely made for one less thing to have to worry about!  Our day runs from 8:35  3:05.  Teachers are contracted to be there 15 minutes before the day starts and 30 minutes at the end (I think that's what it is... I'm there way before and after that so I've never really worried about it!)  Here's my day:

(The adorable graphics are from Educlips - I KNOW, I just had to have them, too!)

I'll go through each part of the day to give you an idea of what happens during that time.  (I have to warn you though - not many pictures coming up.  I am still not back at school and don't have any pictures... and I don't know why the images are all different sizes.. just pretend you don't notice, ok?)

 Our students don't all come at the same time, and some of the buses don't come until right before we start our morning meeting.  For that reason, I do not do morning work.  Too many kids were either not getting to finish it (or start it) because their bus was later, or they were having breakfast, so it was just easier to use the time for something else.  After students have signed in on the morning message put things away and shopped for books (if it is their day), they can choose from 3 or 4 activities to do to start the morning - puzzles, partner games, quiet reading... I really like to have this part of the day be a time I can talk with the kids, settle in and start the day on a positive note.

We do a morning meeting EVERY day - greeting, sharing,morning message, calendar/math and a group activity.  This quickly becomes a favorite part of the day.  I find out so much about my kiddos during this time - what they like, don't like, what they do at home, how their day started, etc.  Our morning meeting sets the tone for the day and makes sure everyone feels welcome.

Next we move into our whole class reading block.  This can look different each day, but usually starts with a fluency activity, then a focus on a reading skill or strategy (close reading, mini lesson, etc.), then usually a partner/small group activity and then back to whole group to finish up.  We do have a reading series, but we have really moved away from using it as the main part of our reading instruction.  Instead, each grade level has developed really strong focus units based on common core skills - using the books and stories we currently have.  We are working to fill in the gaps with needed materials each year.

At the end of our reading time is a block we call FIT" time - Focused Intervention Time.  (This is our RTI time.)  Our grade level meets together at the beginning of a FIT cycle and looks at the needs of all our students.  We place the students who need a Tier 2 or 3 in a reading area (fluency, a phonics skill, a comprehension skill, etc.) in a group first.  We are lucky to have two interns, our resource room specialist and one or two IA's who can take groups during this time.  (Our students who receive Title reading support also go at this time.)  Then we divide the rest of the students between or classes (4 this year) and run small groups, using the Daily 5 as our model.  This way, EVERY student gets whole group (reading time) and small group (FIT time) reading instruction that meets their needs.

My spelling time is actually divided into two times - before and after specials.  I used to hate it, but now I like it.  I can either do a mini lesson for the first part, then have them work on a practice activity (small group, partner, etc) when they get back from specials, or we rotate through centers.  We have developed our own way of doing spelling - and this year I am excited to use these two units:

I think they're going to really add more structure and ideas to our spelling curriculum.

Our "specials" are art, music, technology, library and PE.  This is considered our "planning time" in our contract.  It's usually filled with meetings, phone calls, emails and such.

20 minutes duty free lunch - but by the time you drop the kids off, get our lunch, settle down, go to the bathroom and go to pick them up, it's more like 5 minutes!

I love teaching writing.  Our writing program right now is a collection of ideas from Empowering Writers, Lucy Calkins and units from TpT.  We start at the beginning of the year reviewing and writing all 3 main genres (narrative, opinion and expository), then we use what we're reading about/studying to drive what we write about through the year.  Our science is incorporated throughout the year, so we do a lot of expository writing with that.

After writing we always do a brain break or two.  (I do them throughout the day, but this one is really important.)  We have a long afternoon (we chose not to have recess until later) and although it really works, my kiddos need breaks after a while.  GoNoodle is definitely our best friend!

We use EnVisions math as the basis for our math instruction.  It's ok, but we definitely add to it with games and activities.  I start math with a warm-up, then a focus lesson, then partner/small group practice, maybe an activity sheet and then we meet together to wrap up.

We have our snack after math.  A lot of times it's a kind of staggered snack, with my kiddos eating as the finish what they were doing for math.  

Math FIT runs the same way our reading intervention does.  Students are either in tiered intervention groups, or doing math centers.  We choose the math center activities based on what our students need, so it's like extra practice for everyone.

Yes, recess is at the very end of they day.  We chose to do it this way, though.  With brain breaks throughout the day, it doesn't seem so long and by the time 2:30 comes around it means the day is pretty much over!  We have recess duty 2 - 3 times each week.  Teachers rotate so there are always 2 certified staff outside, along with any IAs who are with students.  I actually like recess duty - it gives me a chance to be outside and refresh!

Once we come in from recess, it's time to "stack and pack" and head to closing circle.  I just started this last year and it has really helped us end the day on a calm and settled note.  We do a quick "how was the day" activity, do a goodbye and look forward to tomorrow.  Buses get called a few at a time, so students who are waiting to leave usually talk with friends, help me clean up the room (love those helpers!) or work on a puzzle or quick game.

That's it!  The thing I really like about our schedule is that we have extended times to be able to work without interruption, and we have those 2 intervention times which work for EVERY child.  The afternoon can be long, especially at the beginning of the year, but everyone adjusts quickly.

Make sure you check out other classroom schedules - visit Blog Hoppin' to see more!

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All right people... I need to say this before you read (and look!) any further.  My classroom is NOT ready.  Nope... not ready... not beautifully adorned, not filled with matching decor... NOT ready.  Kids don't come in until next Wednesday, so I still have time to get things in order.  (Although, judging by these pictures, I have A LOT to do!)

Bloghoppin' is running day two of Teacher Week and today's topic is WHERE.

My plan was to run into school yesterday, snap a bunch of pics of my "under construction" room, take a few of the building on the way out and be done with it.  BUT, that didn't happen.  Too many people in there working and everyone wanted to talk.  So I had to stay.  And I forgot to take pictures of the outside of the building.  And I probably should have checked to see what else was on the Teacher Week list of blog topics because I am sure I should have taken pictures of other stuff and I do NOT plan on going back.  So we'll just have to make the best of it, shall we?

I am going to share with you pictures of my classroom... the place I spend most of my waking hours most of the year.  And this is really going to be keeping it real folks, because I feel like I'm showing myself undressed.  I added some labels to the pictures so you can imagine what it will really look like.
I hope.  You may want to close your eyes and just peek through your fingers for these...

 Here we are at the door of my room, looking almost straight in.  Not too bad.  Those windows are good and bad.  They let in a TON of light, which is nice, but it also makes it hard to see the screen with the smartboard.  And it gets HOT.  VERY HOT - and no, we do not have air conditioning because we are not in Florida or California or wherever.  It will cool off soon... until then we just deal with it and I do not need you to come to my room and say "Boy, is it hot in here!"... Trust me, we know that.
Here is the view looking to the right.  You get the picture - lots to do.  And I actually cleaned up and organized already.  Just not enough.  I have 3 main tables for my kiddos to sit at.  (I have 19 kids now so I need to use the back table which will cause all sorts of issues but it's ok.  I cannot complain about having 19 kids when so many others have like 90 kids... how DO you do it?)  I do assign seats, which change every few weeks, or whenever we seem to be getting to comfortable and chatting a lot.  And my kiddos sit all around the room when they are working... table spots are really just if we all need to be together and writing something or such.

 This is my new spot for my word wall.  I am giving up trying to use the board over the sink to actually display things. I am too old to be climbing up there all the time to change it.  The only problem was the old word wall was not the same size as the new board and I really liked the word wall and I did not want to make a new one AGAIN... so that left part of the board open.  Which I hated.  Until another teacher came in and said how much she loved the way I divided the board into two parts and wasn't that a great idea!  Yes, it was... just what I planned. :-)

 This area obviously needs a lot of work.  The word wall used to be there, so now it is empty and that whiteboard is going to be mounted in that spot.  But maybe not by the beginning of school, says my principal.  But maybe yes, say the facilities guys.  I'm going with yes.  Please.

I am planning on taking all the junk art materials and moving them to plastic bins.  I'm moving the table over a little and that's where the science table will be.  I'm starting with monarch caterpillars, then I'll change it to something else as those fly off.

 (I have no idea why this picture is blurry.  Please just squint and it will look ok.)  My pocket chart calendar is missing.  I need to find it.  I do not want to go back to the old faded blue one I had and then replaced with a nice new yellow one that I cannot even FIND online if I had to replace it.  Hopefully it will show up.  My classroom library will have more books in those baskets.  And the shelf has ore containers.. somewhere...

I am looking forward to having my SitSpots this year.  I'm hoping it will help my seconds stay in their space a little better.

 I LOVE the colors of these baskets!  It makes the whole area so bright and fresh.  My old ones were cracked and faded.  I still have to put nametags on them.  I put them in alphabetical order by FIRST name.  Actually, I organize everything by student first name.  It makes no sense to me why I would use their last name.  Once my parent volunteers get used to it, they all say it is so much easier.

Since we have tables, this is where my students keep their folders, journals, etc.  This way everyone still has their own personal area, but everything stay organized.  I can call students to get their reading journal (or whatever they need) by table number or by workbox color.

On top of the workboxes are more containers of books.  These are related to themes/authors we are currently focusing on our that my kiddos are interested in.  To start the year it will be school, Froggy, insects, butterflies and being me.

 This is the area near my desk.  (I apparently forgot to take pictures of that but since I don't ever sit there it doesn't really matter.  I usually have kids sitting there instead.)  This table is great for working with a small group or just as another space for students to work.  I went with stools this year instead of chairs (spray painted black) for some variety.

 I had to take a picture of this shelf because I am so happy with how it looks and how easy it is now to find everything.  It' amazing what consistent containers and colors will do!

Here is the back of the room.  I am going to staple yellow fabric on that board area and THEN put the letters, so I think it will look much better after that.  I'm also going to make a few pompoms for the sides.  I use this area for small group work and again, as another place for students to work.

And now our tour has ended.  I obviously have lots more work to do, but I'm really liking the way it is coming out.  Last year everything was mostly yellow and black.  This year I added pops of other colors and it has really changed the look of it all.

Be sure to head back to Bloghoppin' to visit other classrooms.  Ones that I am sure are not in such disarray as mine!  I love looking at other people's classrooms and seeing what goes on.

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Ready for some fun?  This week is Back to School Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin!  You get to spend all week learning more about your favorite bloggers.  Here's the schedule:

So let's get started!

We'll start with the basics.
I live in a small "city like" town in CT.  I've lived ere all my life and I love it.  I couldn't imagine being somewhere where it doesn't snow, rain, get hot or have the leaves turn colors.  Even though I complain about those things on a regular basis!  I am starting y 21st year of teaching this year, almost all of it in second grade.  I still cannot believe I am one of the most "experienced" teachers at my school.  I still look at myself as a young, new teacher... amazing.

I am very close to my two nephews and my niece.  All of them are in high school this year, and my oldest nephew will be a senior.  As in will graduate in June.  And leave.  And go to college.  I am not dealing with that very well.  I helped to raise these kids so they are very much like my own.  And while I am so proud of what a wonderful young man he has become, I still think of him as the little boy who clung to me on the playground.  Sigh...

I am a school supply addict.  Just the other day I went into Staples to get something - and came out with $50 worth of highlighters, pads, paper... and actually forgot to get what I was going in there for!  I have more post it notes - in all colors - than you can imagine.  It's my way of organizing things.

As you read on, you will see that while I have done some wonderfully fun things in my life, I really do prefer to stay close to home.  That being said, it would be so cool to see lions and zebras and giraffes and visit Africa.  But seeing as I can't travel anywhere without dealing with major motion sickness, I don't plan on doing it.  

Now that you know a little about me, here are some other fun facts:

That about does it!  I hope you've learned a little more about me and my happy little life.  Tomorrow I'll be back with Day 2 and we'll take a look at where I spend my days.  Don't forget to hop on over to Bloghoppin' and read a little more about everyone else.
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OH. MY. WORD.  I spent the last three day in my classroom and I am exhausted!  I cannot imagine what I am going to feel like when I have to really be teaching in a week... I hope all of you who are already back are reading this with your feet up n the couch... or are already in bed...

I'm linking up with Doodlebug's Five for Friday to share a sneak peek into my classroom.  I have a couple other specific classroom set up posts planned, but right now I'm just sharing a quick looksie.

Here is the before picture.  Well, not really before.  I had come in once already and started reorganizing my books and then had to stop because time got way from me... obviously no one came in and cleaned and put things away for me...  And just so you know the way my day started - it was POURING and I had a ton of stuff to haul in to school.  I parked in front, unloaded everything (in the rain) and then realized the floors were waxed and I couldn't get to my room from that end of the building... everything went BACK in the car, drove around and unloaded in the rain AGAIN (did I mention it was pouring?) and brought everything upstairs... ugh...

Yeah!  These are two areas I really like.  I purged a TON of stuff from those shelves - resource books I never used, file folders... on one hand it felt really good to throw things out, but I keep thinking I might need them someday...  I went on a labeling binge this year and stuck a label on just about anything that wasn't nailed down... and maybe a few things that weren't...  I saw a picture of a classroom where ALL the resource books and such were in those magazine bins.  Seemed like a good idea until I realized I need to be able to pull OUT the books to use them and if they're in the bins it's going to be a pain.  So I just put things I didn't us all the time in them.

The clear plastic containers are gong to hold my centers, games and activities for each math strand.  You would be able to see that, except I made the labels too big and they don't fit.  Put that on my to-do list.

The workbox area got new baskets.  The old ones were cracked and faded and really needed to be replaced.  I love the bright colors now!  The only issue is there is no way to stick on a name label.  I'm going to hole punch the labels I made and use yarn to tie them on the baskets.

Speaking of labels, I decided to use the printer to put the names on nametags this year.  (I only use them for workboxes and mailboxes.)  I did get it to work and they look great.  Just so you don't think I'm a genius, I included the picture of the one I messed up... ONE of the ones I messed up... You realy can't be multi-tasking when you do this...

Here are my finished book boxes in my "library."  I'm going to do a post on why I decided not to level them, how I organized them and why there are not a billion containers.  Suffice it to say, I do have PLENTY of books for my students to read - the books behind the curtain are series, authors, themes we do... and on top of the workboxes (and on one side display) I have books out for themes we're working on (now there are books for "school," "be yourself," "Froggy" and a couple more).  Those will change as we go through the year.  The label holders are from Really Good Stuff and they are SO worth it!  I made my own labels, but you get "labels for life" when you purchase the holders.

I was SOOOO excited t get home today and find that my new teacher tote had arrived!  It's a Vera Bradley and I am just ecstatic over the pattern - AND.. did you see??? - it is SCALLOPED on the top!  Now, I have to say, it is not a very heavy bag and I'm a little worried about it holding up with all the stuff I carry around... BUT, I m trying very hard this year to only take home what I really will look at... no more "taking my bag for a ride," as a few of us say!

Be sure to head on over to Doodlebugs to check out more happenings.  I'm going to put on my lounge pants and a sweatshirt and crash on the couch.  One week left of summer!
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