TGIF! I forgot how exhausting the first week of school is! All those procedures and having to tell the kids how to do every single little thing! Eiy, yi, yi. My blog reader has over a hundred unread posts right now because I haven’t had a spare second to peruse my beloved blogs :( Sometimes when it gets that full I just “mark all as read” and start over, but I’m hesitant to to it because I’m sure there is lots of beginning of school ideas and reflections that I don’t want to miss. So, alas, there is no Share it Forward, because I have nothing new to share.
My goal is to write a really good back to school post sometime this weekend, we’ll see! Good intentions and all…
Yep, I’m a cowboy today for the first day of school, and I have my back-to-school front porch picture to prove it!
Please remember that 4th Grade’s theme is “Travelin’ Texas”. Just because I teach in Texas does NOT mean I dress like this everyday to school. The only thing missing from this picture is the gigantic belt buckle (like salad plate sized) that my friend lent me, it really completed the outfit.
In my family we always took first day of school pictures on the front steps:
I’ll have to ask my mom what grade this is! First, Second?
Anyway, the first day went well! I’m always a little disillusioned after the first day, all my planning and dreaming about the school year is put in perspective as I have to refocus my plans and dreams to include real live students! I was out of town all weekend at a wedding and flew in late last night. Needless to say, I was a little stressed this morning, but the day went so smoothly. Here is my classroom right before the kiddos came:
I write my kids a letter telling about myself, and then their task is to write a letter back to me.
I’ve done this activity every year, and I think it works really well. It gives the kids something simple to do while I deal with parents, school supplies and any other first day hiccups. The letters are really fun to read, and I save to look at again at the end of the year, it’s amazing to see their growth. (Some of my kids could hardly write a sentence…but I know they will get there!) The rest of the day was filled with get to know you activities and procedures, the day literally flew by! Click here to find a bunch of First Week of School Ideas!
At the end of the day, one of my sweet little girls was walking next to me, and excitedly confided: “I really didn’t want to come to school today, but now I can’t wait to come tomorrow.” That’s all a teacher can ask for!
Apparently planning the first week of school is NOT like riding a bike…I can’t remember how to get started! What do I do that first day when 23 shining faces look up at me eagerly? You know that first week really sets the tone for the school year, and it is the only time the kids ask for homework. After a year out of the regular classroom, I am overwhelmed trying to remember what I did to kick of the year. To make matters even more stressful, I’m heading out of town on Friday morning for a wedding in Minnesota, and I won’t be back until Sunday night (LATE). Yes, that’s the Sunday before school starts. So everything has to be planned and ready to go before I leave. Keep calm. Don’t panic, you can do this.
So, I’m going to crack open my trusty old “First Six Weeks of School“** book, and I’m not leaving school tomorrow until I am ready for the first day. Then, I am going to write a very detailed and lengthy blog post about my first day of school so that next year when I am panicking again I can look back and relax!
**Note: This book is amazing. If any first year (or 101st year!) teachers have stumbled upon this humble blog, go to your local book store or Amazon and buy this book immediately. The whole responsive classroom approach is fantastic.
Woot-woot! Today my blog had its 300th unique hit…I know that’s not much compared to the thousands that other bloggers have, but for me it says, “Someone is reading this.” So, thanks for reading. This blog has been a great way for me to process this summer as I got ready to go back to the classroom, I hope I’m able to continue to post consistently once school starts.
I know I’ve been posting a lot of detail-oriented pictures lately, but that’s the stage of classroom planning I’m at right now…so here are some more:
Cushion I made for the egg chair, how cute did that turn out!?
My last crop of pillows–these ones are smaller. I have a grand total of 9 pillows, now all I need is some kiddos to snuggle with them!
All the pillows in their home.
Here is another idea for your classroom maintenance:
I got these car wash mitts form the dollar store –my kids use them to clean the whiteboards and they think they are the greatest things ever!
Here is a quick update of the things I did in my room on Friday, it was a pretty unproductive day because there were too many people back to talk to and catch up with :) I guess it’s a good problem that I love my coworkers so much!
Remember when I got nail aprons FREE from Home Depot? Here is what the nail apron on the chair looks like.
Easy access for books, AND I can always see that the kids have books to read…no more excuses!
Here are the completed pillows (almost). I bought really cheap pillows at Wal-Mart and just sewed pillow cases from fabric I got at JoAnns. I wanted to be able to wash them occasionally since kids make things dirty! I am going to add some velcro to the top flap so that they stay closed. (I finished the pillow for the “egg” chair yesterday, I’ll take a pic of it, so cute!)
Finally, here the plants I bought at Home Depot last week. I think plants make any space so homey! Plus, my kids are in charge of watering them so it gives me another classroom job. (These plants sit in the BIGGEST, brightest window that literally bathes my classroom in natural light, love it.)
Teacher Workshops start tomorrow. Where did summer go! I will be teaching website and iTouch training tomorrow, and SMARTBoard training at the high school on Tuesday…trying not to be too nervous!
All my boxes are unpacked and almost all my “stuff” has found a new home, and now it’s time to decorate and put things up. Remember a while back I shared about my classroom economy? Well Monday, when I was at school, I put together my Scholar Dollar bulletin board and thought you might be interested.
This zoomed picture orients you in my classroom. See those nasty spots on the wall where they took down a bulletin board to put up the SMARTBoard? That’s where this bulletin board is going, right next to the door for easy access. Now, I actually don’t have a bulletin board for this, so I just staple everything straight into the wall with a heavy duty stapler.
I put up some fadeless paper and a cute butterfly border to cover up that ugly wall, then stapled up this green pocket chart.
We have a school-wide discipline plan called “Color Changes”. I know many teachers use a version of this system. Basically, the kids all start out on Green, then for any behavior issues they get “Color Changes”. Yellow is the first warning, then orange, red, and blue is an office referral. I made colored cards that fit in the pocket chart and laminated them.
Each pocket gets a stack of cards.
Now come the checkbooks! Each kiddo will get their own, and we will put their name on the pocket and on the top of the checkbook.
This serves as my attendance chart and behavior management system. The kids pick up their checkbook right when they walk in the door, when it’s time for attendance I glance at the chart, if there is a checkbook still there that kid is probably absent. Throughout the day if there are any behavioral issues I can quickly flip their color cards. And at the end of the day, the kids put their checkbooks back in the chart. If there is a color change they have to bring their checkbook up to me and we write it in their checkbook (they are fined a dollar for each color change) and then they change their color back to green and put their checkbook away. I love this system. Simple. Straightforward. Effective.
Today is my final day of summer. Tomorrow I have a workshop, Friday I have to go to school to get ready for the workshops that I will be teaching on Monday and Tuesday. So what does a nerdy teacher do with her last day of summer? She writes a To-Do list:
Then she categorizes her To Do list into two separate to do lists: To Do “Home” and To Do “Errands”
Please do not judge "Tanning" on this list. I usually do NOT tan, but I have some significant hiking tan lines and I'm in a wedding in a week and a half!
Confession: I have been known to write things on a To Do list that I have already done, just so I can cross it out. Crossing things off a list is so satisfying. So today I have been gleefully crossing things off my list! Wanna see some purchases?
This is the fabric I picked out for the pillows I’m sewing for my library! You have to see this one up closer:
How cute is that!? I try to stay very kid-friendly and gender neutral, and I’m not sure that this fabric fits that bill, but I LOVE it. I can’t wait to show you these finished pillows!
The next item I did not technically purchase!
No, I didn’t steal this box full of nail aprons. I went Home Depot to pick up a few house plants and 25 nail aprons for the backs of my chairs. You may be wondering, what the heck does she do with Nail Aprons? One of my teacher friends had this great idea last year, she ties the aprons around her student’s chairs and the pockets are the perfect size for kids to keep their chapter books! (Way cheaper than those chair pockets they sell at teacher stores!) When I went to customer service to see if I could get a teacher discount, the manager gave them to me for FREE! Woohoo! Shout out to Home Depot! Seriously, they were so great. They wanted to know all about my class, where I teach and how I’m going to us the aprons. Thanks for supporting teachers Home Depot!
My other purchases are still in the car because they will go straight to school, but I’ll make sure to take pictures of where everything ends up.
Get a bunch of 10 year olds in a room, and then try to talk over them…tell me how it goes! That’s why every teacher I know has a few “Attention Getters” in their bag o’ tricks, a little phrase or call and response that gets the kids attention. I started a list of all the ones I heard or had found. For example at our school, everyone does “Give me 3″ and the kids are supposed to hold up 3 fingers and “1. Stop, 2. Look, 3. Listen.” That’s all well and good, but it get’s worn out if you use it too much. My plan is to introduce a new “Attention Getter” every 4-6 weeks to keep my kids on their toes and because it’s fun! Here is my list so far, fell free to give me more suggestions:
- Teacher: All Set? Students: You bet!
- Teacher: Flat tire Students: Shhhhhhh
- Teacher: Shark Bait! Students: Brew ha-ha (from Finding Nemo!)
- Teacher: What’s up? Students: It’s all good! (kids love this one)
- Teacher: Hocus Pocus Student: Everybody focus! (Whoooo!)
- Teacher: Good gracious Students: Great balls of fire!
- Teacher: And a hush came over the crowd Student: Shhhhhh.
- Teacher: Mama mia Students: That’s a spicey meatball! (Of course this one must be done with an Italian accent)
- Teacher: Who ya gonna call Students: Ghost busters! (whoo)
- Teacher: Hear ye, hear ye! Students: All eyes on the queen! (I particularly like this one!)
- Teacher: Bum budda bum bum Students: Bum, bum!
- Teacher: www dot Students: zip it dot com
- Teacher: Uf-da Students: Ya, sure, you betcha! (I can’t wait to hear my little Texans sound all Minnesoootan!)
Today was day #2 of “Operation Organize Oelschlager Classroom”. On Tuesday I just made the mess messier, but today I actually made progress in de-messing the mess! Did ya get that?! I am nowhere near finished, but at least it’s starting to look like a classroom.
I’m still debating about how to set up my desks for the beginning of school, right now I’m experimenting with cluster groups. The jury is still out.
So anyway, I decided small victories is going to be the name of the game, and I worked on one small area at a time: unpack box, evaluate keep or throw, find place for item. It worked pretty well and at the end of the day I was able to put the finishing touches on my library:
This was one of my Ikea purchases last week, it is such a cute rug, I just couldn’t pass it up!
Library before finishing touches.
Library after finishing touches.
Don’t the Shoe Chair and rug look fantastic together? I wish I had enough money in my classroom setup budget to get TWO of these rugs–it is so fun– but on will have to do for now.