July 30, 2012

Setting Up the Room Part 2

Well...another 8 hours in my new classroom today, and I am still not done organizing and putting everything away! But...I am MUCH closer! I got to go through a ton of stuff, put away a ton of stuff, and throw away a ton of stuff! Part of the problem with my room is that I am the 4th teacher in 4 years to be in there. Four years ago, a teacher retired after MANY years teaching pre-k in that room. Then, we had a teacher who was there for one year, but became our instructional facilitator after that. Last year, we had a first-year teacher, who happens to be a dear friend of mine. I love her to pieces, put I told her today that her bags of random crap are making me crazy! Haha Today I had to go through several of them. When one baggie has teddy bear counters, pattern blocks, two-sided counters, Unifix cubes, AND attribute blocks...that is NOT ok!! I think it's safe to say I'm a little OCD when it comes to my classroom, and I just can't put things away without them being sorted and organized like they are supposed to be. So, this process may be taking me a bit longer than it takes the average person, but I know it will be worth it in the long run!

I did take some more pictures of my room. And, this time I actually remembered to take pictures of my WHOLE room, so you'll get to see the group area, too! It looks much better to me. So, even if it doesn't look any different to you, PLEASE don't tell me that! I've been working my but off in there and I can definitely tell a difference!

This is my technology center. Obviously, in the middle I have my student computers. On the left, I have my Leap Pads and iPads. On the right I have the listening part of the center with my audiobooks.

This is what will be part of my reading center. I brought in two whit bookshelves to help border this center. The red tub to the left of the bookshelves holds all of my puppets, and directly behind that is a flannel board for retelling. The wooden case to the right of the puppets will hold big books and song/poetry cards.

This will be my ABC center (minus the junk on the table, of course). I have a large, magnetic white board that I am still looking to mount as a part of this center, but I haven't quite figured out where to put it yet.

This will be my writing center (again, minus the crap on the table, of course). The stuffed animals will not be there permanently. They will become a part of the reading center, some way, somehow. But, the shelf and the table are there to stay!

This will be my block center. (Except, the stuff on top of the shelf will not stay there). The doll house to the left of the block shelf is a part of this center, and the back of the shelf to the right will serve a purpose as well. It is made of pegboard. So, I plan on using it to hang word rings related to building and construction, as well as books that are related.

This will be my art center. The tubs and shelf to the right of the easel will hold a variety of art supplies that they can use to make their amazing creations! The counter will serve as their workspace unless they are painting at the easel. There is also a smaller easel on the counter that they can use. The sand/water table is actually part of the math and science center, which is just to the right of the edge of this pucture.

This will be my dramatic play center. We will start out the year with the kitchen set, but it will undergo many changes as we go through the year!

And finally, this is the back of my group area. I know, I know, it's not very exciting right now. But...it will be! The book shelf will hold our thematic books, and I have a plan for the wall that I will show you later! On the left you can just barely see my teacher area. And, that's the way I like it! I actually got rid of the teacher desk that was in there. Now, I just have a small table with my computer, a small filing cabinet, and a small shelf area behind my table. 

This is the view of the front of my group area. On the right, you can see the back of the play kitchen. I'm going to turn this into a display...details coming soon! On the right side of the picture you can see my pocket chart, big book cabinet, chair, and easel. Under the easel I have a small shelf that holds everything I need when I'm doing whole-group lessons.

And...just because I want you to have a true appreciation for how much stuff was crammed into my room...
This is a snapshot of my trash from today! Can you believe it?? And, I had this much last week and in May! But, when you have two filing cabinets full of copies of worksheets that have copyright dates of 1986 (I am NOT exaggerating!!), it is necessary to fill the trash cans!!

So...even though I am not finished, I am definitely getting closer! I'm really hoping to be done in the next couple days with putting everything away. Then, I can start covering boards and getting displays ready. Although...I have a different approach to that as well, and I will be sharing that later when I get to it in my room. So, stay tuned!

July 27, 2012

Setting Up the Room, Part 1

So, I finally got into my new classroom this week and started working on getting it set up. This has not been what I would call easy at all. In fact, the first thing that comes to mind when I think about it is AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!! But...I'm slowly but surely getting a handle on it...I think...

To start with, there was summer school in my room this summer, and I wasn't the one teaching it. So, when last year was over, I had to make sure that everything was boxed up or locked in cabinets. There have been way too many cases of materials vanishing during summer school in previous years, and I made sure that did NOT happen in my room! So, the very first thing I did was pull everything out of the storage closet (aka the bathroom).

All the boxes went in the front corner...

...all the furniture in the back corner...

...and all the storage containers under the window. And, no...my kids did not spend their summer in the storage closet! But, I have had to drag them with me every day this week since both Daddy and big sister have been out of town! (Oh, and don't you just LOVE the beautiful curtains over the window?)

Now that I had everything pulled out, my progress stalled. But, it stalled for a good reason! I spent the next two hours just looking around the room. I sat in different parts of it, walked around, and just basically tried to visualize what I wanted the room to look like and how I wanted it to feel. I am VERY deliberate and calculated with everything I do in my room, so I really had to spend time just getting a feel for the room and mapping it out in my head.

Once I had a general picture in my head, I went to work! I wanted to start by getting all the furniture where it was going to go. This was still a little bit of trial and error, but actually went pretty smoothly. Well...except for the group area. I am a little extremely OCD about my classroom. Everything has to balance and fit together symmetrically or it drives me NUTS! And, symmetry is not easy to come by when your group rug is shaped like 1/4 of a circle. But, after about an hour of trying different rug arrangements, I finally got one I was happy with! (And, somehow, I didn't even get a picture of it! Sheesh!) Arranging everything else was easy peasy! And...at least, so far...I really like the way the room is taking shape!

The front corner will be home to the writing center and ABC center.

The back corner will be home to the art center, math and science center, and dramatic play center (which you can't really see). The block center will live right in front of the dramatic play center,

The other front corner will be home to the technology center (computers, iPads, Leap Pads, and listening), and reading center. The group area will also double as part of the reading center. I'll make sure I get pictures of the entire room next time!

OK...so I'm not even close to being done. But, I am headed back to work some more this morning. I am on a mission to have everything set up BEFORE we actually report back! So, I guess you could say I have already reported back! I'm pretty much going to be there everyday, but it will be SO worth it when I can have a calm and organized start to my year! Once my room starts actually looking like a classroom rather than a storage shed, I'll post more pictures so you can see what it's really going to look like! Maybe by this weekend???? I guess one can hope!

July 25, 2012


Oh my gosh! Several AWESOME bloggers have nominated me for two awards, and I am finally claiming them!! I am SO flattered!!

The first is the Versatile Blogger Award. This award has seven rules:

1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you.

The first to nominate me for this one was one of the amazing teachers from my building, Sarah @ Write On, Fourth Grade. So, my first official "Thank you!" goes to her! She is an amazing and inspiring teacher, as well as a fellow newbie blogger! You should definitely go check out her blog! (See #2) I also need to thank Jane @ Learning in the Little Apple, Jennifer @ Darling Little Learners,  and Rita @ Wild About School for nominating for this award as well!

2. Include a link to their blog.

Write On, Fourth Grade
Learning in the Little Apple
Darling Little Learners
Wild About School!
You should definitely go check out all four of these blogs!!

3. Include the award image in your post.

4. Give seven random facts about yourself.

OK...this is the hardest one for me, but here goes...
  • I am a DIE HARD sports fan! I follow the OU Sooners football team and Texas Rangers baseball team like crazy!! If I have my way, the Sooners will win a National Championship this year and the Rangers will win the World Series! The cool part is...they both have a REALLY good shot at it!! YAY!!
  • I have two celebrity crushes: Ian Kinsler (from the Texas Rangers) and Matthew McConaughey, although my real-life crush (my husband, with whom I am MADLY in love!!!) puts both of them to shame in my book!!
  • I am almost 40, and I still talk to my mom and my dad every day! My mom only lives 15 minutes away from me, but my dad is about 3 hours away. Still, I talk to him every day! And, yes...I still call him, "Daddy!"
  • I am a complete sucker for ANYTHING chocolate and peanut butter! Reese's Sticks are my favorite! They are like Kit Kats, but with peanut butter in them! Like a little piece of heaven right there in your mouth!
  • I am the one who does the grilling in my house. Yes...you heard that right! My husband has to surrender his man card every time I walk out onto the back patio with a plate of meat! I love cooking for my family, and I am pretty darn good at it!
  • I am a complete 90210 junkie! But, I don't mean the new one... I'm talking old school, 1990's 90210 with Brandon, Donna, David, Kelly, Dillon, Steve, Brenda, and Andrea. Soap Net shows reruns every day, but I am glued to them every Saturday morning!
  • The single most important random fact about me is that I am SO completely blessed to be a child of a loving and amazing God! I could do nothing without Him, and I thank Him every day for all the amazing blessing in my life!

5. Nominate other bloggers for the award.

I am so excited to nominate some amazing bloggers that are new to all of this as well! Their blogs are off to a great start, and they have some wonderful ideas to share! You should absolutely go check them out and follow them!!

Happy Literacy
K is for Kinderrific
Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Connections

6. When nominating, include a link to their blog.

(Done in #5!)

7. Let other bloggers know they've been nominated.

I'm heading to do that now!

The second award I've been nominated for is the Liebster Blog Award! Here are the rules for this one:

1. Link back to the person who gave it to you.

Again, the first blogger to nominate me for this one was my awesome colleague, Sarah @ Write On, Fourth Grade. I was also nominated by Mrs. Ziegler @ Teaching with Z and Jennifer @ Darling Little Learners. Thank you SO much for the votes of confidence, ladies!

2. Post the award to your blog.

3. Give the award to bloggers with less than 200 followers.

I want to nominate the same three awesome ladies for this award, too!

Happy Literacy
K is for Kinderrific
Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Connections

4. Let the bloggers know they have won.

Headed that way!

July 23, 2012

Poems, Poems, Poems!

So, EVERYONE uses poems in their classrooms, right? Ok...I know not everyone does, but everyone SHOULD!!! I use them like crazy! The kids love them! And, they are a perfect means for teaching all kinds of early literacy skills! Just stop and think for ten seconds about all the skills you can teach with a poem...

...tracking print, voice-print matching, letters, letter sounds, high-frequency words, word families, parts of speech, blends, digraphs...

I could go on for an hour! But...I haven't even mentioned the most important ones yet!!

At the heart and soul of a successful reader, you will find a solid foundation of phonological awareness (PA) skills. (Early childhood teachers...I'm talking to you, here!) We  should   need to  MUST teach these skills to our prekinders, kinders, and even firsties! So, that being said, let me continue with my list!

...rhyming words, beginning sounds, ending sounds, middle sounds, blending sounds, segmenting sounds, alliteration, syllables, onset/rime...

I could keep going, but I'll spare you this time! The thing to remember about all of these PA skills is that you DON'T do them with print. They are done orally. (If they can't do it without print, they can't do it with print!) So, the kiddos aren't finding two printed words that rhyme. They are listening for words that rhyme. They are clapping syllables in words. They are stretching a word out to hear each sound in that word. And, my favorite way to get them doing this is with...you guessed it! POETRY!!!

We start by reading and singing songs and poems purely for the enjoyment of it. Sometimes we use motions, puppets, or props. But, sometimes we just have fun reading! Once the kids know the poem by heart, I take away the poetry card and start asking them PA questions about words from the poem. We still use motions, puppets, and props for different PA skills whenever we can! I make a game out of it so that it is FUN!! The really cool thing is that, after we've done it for awhile, I start hearing and seeing them doing it on their own in centers with the familiar poetry cards they are using!

In the past, my poetry cards have come from files I have purchased. But, this year I am needing poems that fit a little more specifically with what I am doing in my room. So...I'm making them myself! I just finished my first poetry pack and posted it on TPT! This first one has four poems that I can plug the kids names into. I'm going to use them a ton at the beginning of the year when we are all learning our new friends' names. For each poem, I made a large version that I will make into my poetry cards, a small version for the kids to take home or put into a poetry notebook, and a pocket chart set for my kiddos that are ready to match the words and build the sentences. I'm pretty excited about it! Hop on over to TPT and check it out!

Oh...and here's the best part! I'll send a free copy to the first three fabulous teachers who comment on this post!! Happy Monday!!