Monday, July 31, 2017

Back to School Book Picks

It's the season that many students dread and many parents celebrate! Back-to-School time is officially here! I've already seen teachers on social media starting their first days (super early). I have my first day in about a week and a half, so I am eating, sleeping, and thinking about school 24/7! One of the things that is on my mind is getting that first day and week going in a positive and fun way. One of my go-to's in helping me get started is carefully selected picture books. What kid doesn't like a story? (O.K, maybe you have met one or two in your lifetime, but maybe you can bring them around with one of these picks for back to school.)

I'm going to share with you my favorite back to school reads for the upcoming year. 
I'm going to count down to my all-time favorite title 'a la Casey Kasem style. 

10. Stick and Stone

We all know that sticks and stones hurt, but what happens when sticks and stones become friends? They can form a friendship that truly rocks. This books is  a great book that has an anti-bullying theme. It would be a great for anytime, but especially teaching what friends do for each other at the beginning of the year. 

9. The Worst Best Friend

I love this book for so many reasons, but mostly because I can totally relate to this one. I had this hard experience in ninth grade. This book touches on the subject of how friends can sometimes let someone come between them. But in the end of this book, true friendship wins. It is a great book to teach how to be friends, especially with someone who has stuck with you through thick and thin. I think it would also be a great time to talk about being friends with more than one person and how you can do that without hurt feelings. A great, great read!

8. Chrysanthemum

I have loved this book for many years, but when I moved to my new school, I kinda let it go. The teacher in the grade before me read it to the students every year. It was, by all intents and purposes, "her book." I just could not bring myself to read it to the students when I got them the very next year. But with that said, under different circumstances, I would definitely put this one back in my rotation. I love that this one celebrates being different, standing up for others, and being proud of who you are. 
Chrysanthemum doesn't know anything is wrong with her name. She has always loved it, but as soon as the students in her  class (her first year of school) tell her different, she starts to doubt that her name is great at all. She doesn't like it anymore. Thankfully in the end, she finds value in her name and begins to celebrate it once again with the help of her teacher.
I like how it shows that just one unkind word can really hurt someone deeply. I experienced something just like this when my own precious boy went to school. One boy told him his socks were baby socks. He was hurt deeply by that and wanted nothing to do with those socks after that. I think it is important for kids to realize that words do have power and that the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,"  is absurd. Also I would touch on not letting what someone else says, change your thoughts. Be your own person.

7. Nobody's Mother is in Second Grade

This book is just plain fun! It celebrates how I feel about school. This second grader's mother just loves hearing about all the wonderful thing her daughter gets to do in school so she decides she wants to be a part of all the learning and fun too. She decides to spend a day in the class disguised as a plant so she can get a feel for everything she thinks she is missing out on. The day goes well and since the class is studying plants, the mother fits right in. But all the children begin to become suspicious because the plant is seeming more and more like what she is, someone's mother under cover. I love that this celebrates the thrill of school. I want all my students to find school as exciting as this mother did to go to such drastic measures to be a part of it.

6. Don't Eat the Teacher

I think I discovered this one randomly in a Scholastic book order when I was teaching Kindergarten and it has been a crowd favorite ever since. A little shark is so excited about everything his first day of school, that his instinct sets in and he just about destroys the entire room in the process. It's a great book to read when discussing class rules and it's a fun one that will be sure to have your students jumping in with the line, "Don't eat the....!" at the end of each page.

5. Hooway for Wodney Wat

I think I first heard of this book at a teacher's convention. I. LOVE. IT. This book is great! This poor little rat cannot say his /r/ sound at all. Instead everything sounds like a w. So instead of introducing himself as Rodney Rat, he introduces himself as Wodney Wat. That is the beginning of being taunted and laughed at and made fun of. One day though, a new kid arrives at school and bullies her way through the playground making everyone's life miserable. Until one day, Wodney has the pleasure of being it in a game of Simon Says. The new kid becomes so confused that the playground bully disappears and never comes back, all thanks to Wodney who, of course, becomes an instant hero! 
So many lessons on bullying and being kind despite differences can be brought out by this book. It is one you'll definitely want to add to your collection. 

4. The Teacher From the Black Lagoon

It's the very first day of school and the main character is just finding out that his teacher is Mrs. Green. Instantly, his imagination runs wild, turning her into a monster that hates kids. Thankfully, his opinion of her changes the instant he snaps out of his daydreams and really gets a chance to see for himself what Mrs. Green is really like. 
This one is a must read if discussing nerves on the first day of school or jumping to a conclusion when you don't really know anyone and judging them based on something that may or may not be true. Love it!

3. First Day Jitters

Everyone knows that students are jittery on the first day of school. But in this book they will learn, in a surprising ending, that teachers are a bundle of nerves too. 

If you read this with your class, be sure to make some Jitter Juice to go with it. 

2. The Recess Queen

In this book, I just love the spunky Katie Sue. Everyone underestimates the power in someone so small. A playground bully, "The Recess Queen" takes over recess each day until a new girl, Katie Sue steps in and unexpectedly changes everything, turning the playground into a peaceful place. I love this book for teaching about how to make friends and why people bully for the simple fact that they just want a friend and don't know how to make one. This special book will help students learn how to become a friend. 

1. Enemy Pie

My number one favorite back to school book is ....Enemy Pie. This book has been near and dear to my heart. In fact, I introduced my boss to this book, and she shares it with others, including her sharing it with me again. Love that!
Jeremy is ready to have the best summer ever. His best friend lives close by and he's planning on just having a great time. Until....a new kid moves in to the neighborhood, stealing Jeremy's best friend and leaving him lonely, hurt, and desperate for revenge. Thankfully his dad is up for a plan of revenge. His dad tells Jeremy about an old secret recipe called Enemy Pie that is sure to get rid of his enemy once and for all. I love the twists and turns of it. I love that the family baker is the dad. 

Again, so many lessons about friendship to teach from this one great read. 

These books are great ones that you will want to add to your collection. I've included links, so you can click on them and be taken to the link on Amazon.

What back to school books are your favorites? Check out my video where I talk all about these books....

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Glitz & Glitter

The school year is upon us. Have you settled on a color scheme or theme for your room? If not, check out the themes I have available, including my Llama Llama theme in brights of pink, lime, and navy. 
My latest classroom set is up at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I'm so excited about the Glitz & Glitter set. The colors are so beautiful! Be sure to check it out. 
Calendars & Banners

Binder Cover Sets

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Beginning of the End

 The first week of school is closer than I'd like to admit. In fact, next week is my last week of vacation. And so with reality staring me in the face, I am getting motivated to get more stuff done around here to make my transition back to school even easier. This book, is the book I have used for several years to help me plan a successful first few weeks. Our school uses the Responsive Classroom model and this book has been a sanity-saving resource in setting up my classroom each fall. For those of you that may not have heard of Responsive Classroom, it is a management tool that uses lots of procedure building, explicit teaching and modeling, and logical consequences. It helps students learn to make good choices and monitor their behavior. I'm going to walk you through a small portion so you can see why I love this book so much.
 The first six weeks are literally mapped out for you. It gives a week-by-week, day-by-day, and even minute-by-minute schedule of what you can do in your classroom. This view gives examples for the very first week in a K-2 classroom. The book also has sections for grades 3-4 and 5-6, so it really covers a wide range of age groups. 
 This next section is called Flow of the Day and it is definitely my go-to. It goes step by step and has different sections that tell you about the different parts of the day and specifically what to do. You start day one with the morning meeting, which you will continue throughout the school year. The purpose of morning meeting is to build community within the classroom and each morning meeting begins with a greeting, sharing time, a group activity, and a morning message. Kids seriously look forward to this and when I skip (gasp) a day, I do hear about it! 
 Another important aspect of responsive classroom is changing your language. You want your language to be reinforcing. We should use our language to reinforce positive things we see within the classroom. Focusing more on the positives will help to change negative behaviors because let's face it, those students are dying for attention and when they see that they earn it from positive interactions, they are much more likely to display behavior that gets them noticed and puts a smile on your face too. I call that a win-win!
 There are even examples of morning messages. A lot of times it will include the question that you choose for sharing time to help get the students thinking about the question as they come to circle.
 A section about which routines to teach is particularly helpful to me. There are so many routines that students must learn from classroom to classroom. we cannot assume that because they have been in school for one year or three years or even six years that they already know exactly what we expect of them. So with this model, you use interactive modeling. We also teach students to use their school supplies appropriately by having moments of guided discovery.
We all know that there are students that will bring the crazy in pretty early...or at least try. ::
Well, there are ways to set up our year to help students learn quickly that that behavior is going to be a thing of the past. We can learn to use language that redirects quickly. 

Needless to say, there is a ton more within the nearly 300 pages of this book, but you'll have to check it out for yourself to see what a gem it is for every teacher. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ooh La Llama

Getting things geared up for the next school year starts (for me) with room decor. Getting my room decorated makes me feel like I am ready. I created this cute llama set and it goes right along with my color scheme for the year. How much fun is this? I am especially loving the bright colors. The pink, navy, and lime compliment each other nicely. Can't wait to see how it looks hanging up. 
Leave a comment below for a chance to win a free set. This contest will be open until Friday. Winners will be announced this weekend! 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

New Classroom Decor Sets

I know it's summer. I know I should be resting. I know I should be carefree and focused on not focusing on work, but... 

I know that I am going to be pressed for time when I start back to work on August first to get ready for my second graders. Because I am switching grades this year, I have a lot of things to do. I have my old classroom packed and I am waiting until I can move into my new classroom and get things settled in there. After I get settled, I will feel like I'm ready to tackle the year. In the meantime, I have been working on curriculum and prep work for starting class, even making copies. 

This year, I've been thinking about making things easier on myself and instead of doing a classroom theme, just doing a color scheme since I have to purchase a whole bunch of new things to set up my new and empty classroom. However, as all good teachers do late at night when sleep is evading them, I was thinking when suddenly the idea came to me to create a classroom decor set with llamas! I mean, can you ever go wrong with llamas? I should think not! This summer we redid my daughters room and her wall shows off a llama. (LOVE IT!)

So this morning, with my alarm set to 5:00, I got up and began working on designing a new classroom decor set around the llama theme. I am loving the colors and the artwork so much I think I may just have to fit this into my classroom decor. 

I am hoping to have it complete by the weekend and get it posted up on Teachers Pay Teachers by Sunday. I will keep you posted. But in the meantime, here's a little sneak peek. Let me know what you think.