Wednesday, June 24, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge - Dare to Dream

It's Week 2 of the TPT Seller Challenge hosted by Third in Hollywood, Teach Create Motivate, Sparkling in Second, and Peppy Zesty Teacherista. This week's challenge is Dare to Dream.


I've been creating and selling products on Teachers Pay Teachers® since 2012. First Grade Schoolhouse has continued to grow each year. The best part is that my love for creating educational products has also continued to grow. Creating materials that teachers find useful and helpful is so gratifying to me. My goal is to continue to learn and improve in every aspect of the business to create better products and a bigger store.


I already feel so blessed to have surpassed some of my dreams. 

Financial security is the first thing on my list. My "DREAM BIG" goal in this area is to be debt free - even having my house paid off - a hopeful thought.

Being more financially secure has given me more choices in my life. Choices that I may not have had without TPT. I dream about an earlier retirement and being able to travel more. 

I've been able to give back to some local charities. Not just with time and help, but also financially. I want to be able to do that on a grander scale.

Find out what other TPT sellers "DARE TO DREAM." Check them out HERE

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge - Makeover Madness

I'm participating in the TPT Summer Challenge sponsored by Third in Hollywood, Sparkling in Second, Peppy Zesty Teacherista, and Teach Create Motivate. It's a four week challenge and this is week one: Makeover Madness.



I went back to the first products I created. The ones I'm redoing were some of my best sellers at the time. I started on TPT in 2012. A lot has changed since then - so many more fonts, graphics, more practice, and experience. My style has changed.


The "before" name was Reading to Learn About Community Helpers. I simplified the cover and changed the name. It's now called Writing About Community Helpers. The before title was too confusing.  I made the fonts and graphics bolder. I want buyers to know what the packet's about at a glance. 

I used different clip artists for the community helper graphics in the "before" packet (had to use graphics from different clip artists to find all I needed). I was able to use just Melonheadz for the community helpers graphics on the new one. It makes it more consistent and unified. I love that we have so many more choices for clip art now. 

I also added posters and student word lists to make the product more complete.

Head on over to see more of the makeovers HERE.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Giveaway!

Hi everyone! It's that time of year when I begin to wonder if I will get everything done that still needs to be completed by the end of the school year. We only have about 30 school days left. It's the same feeling I have at the beginning of each school year - so much to do and so little time. It becomes somewhat of a whirlwind. Do you feel the same way this time of the year?

It's the perfect time to be appreciated as a teacher. What do you think of a $100.00 Giveaway? Doesn't that sound like fun and a great way to feel appreciated?

The bloggers at iTeach First are getting together to give you an opportunity to win some much deserved gift cards to treat yourself in a big way.


Head on over to iTeach First Blog and enter the giveaway. Win 1 of 4 gift cards to some of our favorite places to shop. You can enter April 26-May 2nd. The winners will be announced on the blog and via email on Sunday, May 3rd. It's a great way to kick off Teacher Appreciation Week. Good luck!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Behavior Charts and Parent Communication

Back to school time. Four more days until school starts. I've been back in my classroom for a couple of weeks now. It wasn't originally my intention, but I went through every drawer and cupboard and sifted thru all my classroom "stuff." I tossed, cleaned, and reorganized. It feels great!

We have a giveaway area in our cafeteria where we put our discards the week before school starts. It's funny how fast other teachers pick them up to use in their classrooms. I've found some great teaching stuff on the discard tables.

So now I'm redoing and revising some back to school letters to parents, forms, and classroom activities.

I revised my behavior charts - the ones I send home to parents.

These are the charts I use in the classroom.



I got the Behavior Management Pocket Chart from Lakeshore®. It doesn't include the names yet, but it has the yellow, orange, and red cards behind the green ones. The students turn their cards if they have a behavior infraction. I can refer to the chart above it as a reminder to students of what each color means.

At the end of each week, I send home a Weekly Behavior Chart.

Each child takes one of these home each Friday. I tally how many days the children were on a specific color. It lets the parents know generally how their child's behavior is in the classroom. I also have a form that has a space for a parent signature. Sometimes I have children who are working on specific behavior issues return the form to me with a parent signature. 

This is another version of the form.

The children fill out their own form on this one. At the end of each day, they fill in the card color. 

I let the parents know that I will be sending these home each Friday. It's one way to communicate to parents how their child is behaving in the classroom. The parents comment all the time how much they appreciate getting these each week.

Click below to get a free copy of the charts to send home to parents.


Are you getting your classroom ready for back to school? Or have you started back already? I hope it's going well. I'd love to hear about some of your new school year ideas.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to School TPT Sale!

I'm not officially back to school, but I've been busy getting my classroom ready. I visited our local teaching supply store, and I'm having fun getting things rearranged and putting out all the new stuff. I like to get my classroom ready the week before we go back to school. Staff meetings, preparing materials, and planning take up all my time the week before the kids arrive.

This year's TPT Blast Off Back to School Sale is just in time for back to school preparations.


Everything in my TPT store is 20% off. Use the PROMO CODE BTS14 to get up to 28% off. 

If you're looking for activities for your first weeks back to school, check out a couple of my best sellers:



Do you use centers? If so, you have to check these out. I created these as beginning of the year centers for first graders. They're great to use when first teaching your students how to work at centers.



Click on the pictures to view them. Remember to use the promo code and happy shopping!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back to School and Classroom Management

Classroom management is at the top of the list when it comes to planning for a new school year. It's a time to reflect on what has worked in the past and the things I want to change.

Each class of students is different. Each year, I change my management procedures to meet the needs of individual students and the class as a whole. Even so, I do have some classroom management ideas that I use year after year, because they're effective.

I thought I'd share some of these with you.

The ideas come from a Rick Morris workshop I attended a few years ago. One of my first grade teammates had attended one and wanted to go again. She invited me to go along. I'm so glad I did!

It's one of those workshops where you'll find yourself totally engaged and excited about all the ideas. He models his workshops to reflect effective management techniques in the classroom. I hope to get at least a few new ideas when I attend a workshop, but this was a day filled with classroom management ideas/techniques that I could readily apply in the classroom.


You can click on the picture to visit his site.

The first idea is the use of a random picker. I like to have a variety of ways to choose students randomly in the classroom (answering questions, helpers, messenger, etc.), and this is one of the kids' favorites.


This is how it works. I number all the students in the class and place those numbered tokens in the container.


I shake the container and turn it upside down. More than one number is face up, so it gives me choices. I just pick one of those numbers. The kids love it, because they think of it as a game or winning a drawing. It's fun, simple, and effective. It's called Pick-A-Number and you can find it here.

Here's another tool I use.


It looks like one of my dog's toys, and that's what it is - a Dog Squeak Toy

I love this one. It's so simple, yet so effective. When I squeeze the toy, the students know to stop what they're doing and look at me, ready to listen. I have the students practice a lot at the beginning of the school year. All it takes is one squeak. It's loud and works. I keep it on the ledge of the white board that's at the front of my room, so it's readily accessible.

A tip: When I introduce it, I pass it around the room and have each student squeeze it a few times. After that, they know they're not to squeeze or play with it. I explain that it's a way for me to get everyone's attention. The children understand and are respectful of it.

The third one is one of my favorite management tools. It's versatile and another simple idea. They're called Magnetic Tiles.

One way I use them is when I want the students to work in groups or with a partner.



The number tiles are magnetic and can be placed on butcher paper against a magnetic board or on a magnetic white board. I can form the groups ahead of time, and it's a reference for me and the children, too.


The number magnets can be placed by the word work chart or centers chart area. When students finish their word work activities, they move their magnets to the activity they choose to do next. I can tell at a glance how many students have completed their word work and what students are doing when they're finished. It prevents students from interrupting small group instruction and saying, "What do I do? I'm finished."

Rick Morris's New Management site has many more ideas for using the Magnetic Tiles. He has lots of other classroom management tips and resources on the site, as well. If you have an opportunity to attend one of his workshops, I would highly recommend it.

You can download some of the center cards I use with the Magnetic Tiles by clicking below.


I would love to hear about your classroom management ideas. Any new ones you will be using this year?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Close Reading Summer Read

As soon as the school year is over, I start thinking about the next school year - new group of students, reconfiguring the classroom, how I will make changes in my daily schedule, new centers, cleaning out files, etc. It's quite a long list, and part of the planning for next year is summer reading.

I'm especially interested in learning more about using close reading with first graders. I thought a great way to do this would be to follow along with the Close Reading Book Study with Lyndsey at A Year of Many Firsts and Tara at Little Minds at Work.


The book is Close Reading in Elementary School  by Diana Sisson and Betsy Sisson.


Chapter 3 is an overview of close reading strategies. The authors suggest that the best way to learn about and get started with close reading instruction is to learn the framework for conducting a lesson. They give ten steps to creating a close reading lesson. 

A framework is just what I needed to get started. As I read, I was particularly focused on how to do close reading with younger children. Here are a few key points that I especially found helpful:

Since most of my first graders are just beginning to read and are at different levels of reading ability, I wondered how they would all be able to access the text. The authors talk about using a progression of read alouds, shared reading, and then transitioning to small groups with primary students.

They also talk about ways to scaffold the text - start with video productions, next oral text {read aloud or audio tape}, and then move to picture books {which we use all the time in first grade}. 

Close reading can also be scaffolded with hands-on strategies. These strategies can be used as intermediate steps. One suggestion is to mark up the text. We use Wikki Stix all the time in our classroom, so the suggestion to use Wikki Stix to "circle" important words, main events, etc. caught my eye. I always mark up text as I read. It really is helpful when I go back to reread. I can see how this would be helpful for children. 

Another suggestion is to have children annotate - write down thoughts, questions, understandings, etc. in the margins. Jennifer at First Grade Blue Skies has a great idea for doing this. She places articles in plastic sleeves so students can mark on text - an idea I plan on using. 

I'm organizing as I'm learning and gathering information about close reading. 


In need of a binder cover? I created a few before deciding on this one. Click on the picture to get a Close Reading binder cover. 

If you are just beginning to learn about close reading or have even been instructing close reading lessons, I definitely recommend Close Reading in Elementary School. Read the book and join the book study here.

Hope you're enjoying your summer reading.