Friday, January 6, 2017

Snow Sensory Tub

I am so excited to be typing this blog post from my couch in front of the cozy fire--it's an Alabama SNOW DAY!  Which basically means, they shut the whole state down and you can't find bread or milk in ANY store, anywhere.  P.S. It's around 10 a.m. and I still haven't seen a snowflake.  (I'm not complaining.  Although this Southern girl sure would love to see a little bit of snow!)

Well, since we hardly ever get real snow here, I wanted to bring a little bit of "snow" into the classroom in a creative way--by using a sensory tub!  I added a sensory tub to my classroom last year, and the kids LOVE it.  I bought my tub at Target (just a large storage bin with a snap on lid)--and I added two bags of cotton balls, some snowman erasers, and a few clear pebbles for the "ice".  

I created 5 literacy and 5 math activities that can be used with the snow tub, or even WITHOUT the tub!  You can check it out by clicking the picture below--it will be on SALE today to celebrate my little snow day away from school!  :)

I added the snow sensory tub to our "Reading Restaurant" station.   This past week, my students worked on rhyming skills with the rhyming snowballs, and next week they will work on sight words by playing a game using the animal and snowman cards inside the tub.   

For math, I plan on using the activities in my Snow Sensory Tub packet without the tub--I wanted to place them in separate bins, so they can rotate through the activities:  

Sort & Tally

We are working on tallying, so I made a mini snow tub using a small shoebox bin.  I added craft sticks, ribbon, cotton balls, buttons, and paper carrots.  

Chilly Cover Up

This is a basic addition dice game.  I added itty bitty dice to make it a little more special!  You could play with cotton balls, but I used snowman erasers.  I may also change this game up a little bit by playing with snap cubes for a game of "bump".  

Even and Odd Snowballs

Players choose whether they will be the even bucket or the odd.  They flip a card to reveal a number, and if the number is one that goes with their bucket choice (they are the odd bucket and flip a 1) then they get to grab a snowball to add to their bucket.  The first player to fill their bucket first is the winner.

Snowball Measurement

We are beginning our nonstandard measurement unit next week!  This is a fun little activity to measure with "snowballs" (or cotton balls).  

Hoping for snow real snow today! Wait, I think it might actually be sleeting right now.  I gotta go--I have two excited little kiddos here!  :)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Magic Bracelets--a Magical First Day Activity!

One of my absolute FAVORITE activities for the first day of school is making MAGIC bracelets. The kids faces are always PRICELESS when they discover what these bracelets can do!  I give everyone a bag of clear beads and a pipe cleaner, and tell them that even though the bracelets look a little plain, they are actually magical.  Immediately they get to talking with their table friends about what they think will happen... this year, some thought they might glow in the dark.  Others thought they might be able to make them fly!  Some wondered if they might change color.  One friend hoped it would grant wishes.  I loved seeing that spark of curiosity on the first day–and it is my hope to keep the kids curiosity for learning all year long!  I told them we would be taking a walk outside, and by the time our walk was finished, they would know why those bracelets are special.  You see, if you are going to have an amazing first grade year, something will happen to that clear, plain looking bracelet….

The kids were absolutely amazed when they stepped outside–those plain, clear beads became bright & multi-colored!  I was so impressed, because they immediately started questioning why it happened.  Which became a lesson about scientific thinking–because scientists do exactly what they just did–predict, question, and wonder!  The kids shared so many smart ideas–a few kids wondered if the bracelet changed color because of the change in temperature–going from the cold air conditioning to the heat outside.  Some kids wondered if it had to do with LIGHT.  (*YES!  These are UV beads, and they change colors in the sunlight.*)  The link to the ones I used are below:

I absolutely love this new tradition with my classes.  
The bracelets always make it a super exciting first day!  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why I am Bringing the Play Kitchen Back to First Grade!

This is my 9th year teaching first grade.  When I went to school to become a teacher, I had a certain picture in my mind of what my classroom would look like.   In my mind, I saw a little kitchen, an art center, a block area, sand and water table, and a light table.  I saw a cozy library,  soft lighting, and a busy hum of children engaged in learning.   I also remember having to write my own personal philosophy of education, and I made sure that it was based heavily on the importance of play in the classroom.  

There are times when I see the classroom I pictured—sure, I have a cozy room with a library of wonderful books and fun furnishings, but none of those centers I imagined are actually in the picture.  No art easel, sand table, block center, or light table.   I have literacy and math stations, but I struggle with the pressure of meeting standards, while also wanting the classroom I pictured so long ago.  Why does it have to be  like this?  How can I find balance?

Somewhere along the way, play has been banished from classrooms and replaced with worksheets, teaching to the test, and continually moving forward with instruction whether the kids understand or not.  Education, along with society, is fast-paced. It gives students little time for play, little time to socialize, and to resolve conflict.  Maybe behavior referrals would be reduced if we had the time to allow our students to explore these essential skills again.
This year, I am ready, and desperately hoping for, a change.  I brought in a play kitchen for the first time EVER.  And when I did, I worried about it.  What would people say?  Do I need permission? Is it taboo to have a play kitchen in a first grade classroom?  Should I be giving this play kitchen to a Kindergarten teacher instead?  I actually felt a little guilty, and felt the need to justify my decision to people who came in and saw it sitting in the corner.  BUT WHY!?  My students are SIX YEARS OLD!  Yes, of course they still want to play!  It’s what they do, and I am going to allow them to do it!

So, here are some reasons I am bringing the play kitchen to first grade!

1.  Play is Age Appropriate
BECAUSE THEY ARE SIX!!!  They are little!  Let’s let them be little again!   Kids are forced to grow up so quickly.  When they step into my classroom, I want time to slow down just a bit. For centuries, scholars like Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Montessori, and Hill have promoted the value of play for early childhood development—including children in primary grades.  See?  SCHOLARS have said that play is OKAY. 

2.  Literacy and Writing (even math!) Integration
I have big plans for this kitchen.  I can’t wait to change it up based on classroom themes-- allowing my students to create signs, lists, recipes, and shops.  I plan to use literature to integrate author studies, phonics, and science and social studies topics.  During math, students can become shop keepers, setting prices for items and exchanging play money.  Since learning will be student directed, I know students will be engaged.

3.  Social Skill & Language Development
I have noticed that as the years go by, many of my students have difficulties interacting with new friends.  There are times when I feel that I am so bound by standards, that I have to continually move forward with instruction, and I have NO time to let students interact unless it involves a math game or buddy reading.  This is hindering them from developing relationships, empathy, and resolving conflict.  They simply need time to talk—after all, communicating feelings and ideas is essential in everyday life.  That is why “Speaking and Listening” is an ENTIRE Common Core standard strand, right?

4.  Imagination and Creativity
Let’s face it.  Technology has taken over, and while technology is amazing-- gone are the days when videos, iPad's, Kindles, and such weren’t at our fingertips every given minute. The play kitchen will allow my students  the opportunity to pretend again.  How many memories do we have with our friends playing in the home living center at school?  Dressing up and playing with baby dolls?   Developing imagination will inspire them to become creative writers and thinkers.  I think I will see a dramatic change in the writing my students produce because of the play kitchen. 

So, I am giving it a try--beginning next week.  I am so excited about it too!  If introducing a play kitchen into our learning stations goes well, then I am definitely saving my money for a light table next. :)  If you have any tips and management tricks for play kitchens in a first grade classroom (or any grade for that matter), I would LOVE to hear them!  Leave me a comment below!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Back to School Bash Giveaway Time!

Well, friends, the time has come!  It's time to HOP HOP HOP around to 24 blogs for your chance to win some major giveaways!!!  We've teamed up to bring a little fun and excitement to this crazy time of year for teachers.  Our bash baskets are sure to bring some style to your wardrobe, materials to your classroom, and a smile to your face!

Here's how it works...  You'll have a couple of days to hop around blogs and enter the giveaways using a Rafflecopter.  At the bottom of each post there will be a button that will lead you to the next giveaway!  The more blogs you enter on, the better your chances are of winning.

My bash basket is a $100 Etsy gift card!!!  If you are anything like me, you may have an Etsy wish list a mile long, because you just want ALL THE THINGS.  Jewelry, home decor, classroom decor, handmade art and signs, banners, clothing...Etsy has it all!  

To enter, use the Rafflecopter below!  You have until Tuesday!

Hop to the next bash basket at Crazy for First Grade by clicking the image below!  

Friday, August 5, 2016

Back to School Bash!

Hello friends!!  It's that time of year again...time for our BACK TO SCHOOL BASH 2016!!!  This year we have teamed up with even more bloggers so that we can bring prizes-a-plenty to you!!!  Mark your calendars for August 7th because you will NOT want to miss out!!!

Each blogger will host a Bash Basket that contains a prize valued at $100 or more!  Make sure to follow the blogs below so you don't miss a single thing!  Check back in on August 7th so you can get your hop on!

See you August 7th!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's Been Awhile...

Sometimes life throws you storms.  Just a few months ago, my hubs and I went on a much awaited date, while my mom was watching my kids.  We had just sat down to eat, when I noticed a missed call.  My mom's voice on her message didn't sound like her.  Her speech was slurred and she was trying to say she didn't feel well.  I immediately called her, and knew something was wrong, so we jumped in the car to head home and called an ambulance on the way.  Those moments were terrifying.  My sweet Emma was there (all dressed in her Doc McStuffins gear) to let in the paramedics--and they took my mom to the ER as we were driving up to the house. It was just a little while later we found out my mom had suffered a stroke.  Then the following day, as they were running tests, they left us shocked and broken-hearted when they said they found a mass.  On her lungs.

So, friends, it's been awhile since I've blogged or created.  Mainly because life has given us a storm.  I have spent everyday of the past few months worried about my mom.  Chemo has taken a toll on her, and she has been in and out of the hospital, fighting this disease with all that she has in her.  We are holding onto hope, and to God's promises.  He is faithful, even in the storms.  But it is still hard.  I love my mom.  I hate cancer.

After each round of chemo, we celebrate her being another day closer to kicking cancer--with a cupcake, of course.   

Anyway, I hope to get back to blogging very soon.  I have been finding some joy in creating again, and I can't wait to share some of the things that we have been doing in the classroom lately.

Please keep my mom in your prayers!  She is so precious to me.

Much love,

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kick off the school year with Kevin Henkes

I don't think my beginning of the school year would feel right if I didn't have my Kevin Henkes books.  Starting day one, I always share my ultimate favorite--Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse--to help  introduce our class rules.  Lilly is awesome, because she is just like that "one student".  You know the one--everyone has one...personality and spunk for days, but mischievous and quick, too.

The mouse books are ideal for our "All About Me" unit of study--because we discuss character traits and describing words for each of the characters (which all have human characteristics and feelings)! After creating all of our character trait maps (see below), I like to have the students tell me which mouse character they think they are the most like.


This year during our study, I also plan on using my newest creation, The Mouse Album!

I can. NOT. wait.  The kids will illustrate each character in the album, and then reflect by responding to comprehension questions, making inferences, using vocabulary from the books, and writing and/or doodling their text to self connections. (Click the picture below to purchase.)  
Other Fun Things I Have Found {a.ka. I Have a Shopping Problem}...

I found these stuffed animals on Amazon last year.  The kids absolutely adore reading with them.  Sometimes I will even use them as a reward.  "Whoever is working super hard today will get to have Lilly or Penny sit on their desk!"


In related news, did you know that Kevin Henkes is releasing a new book this fall???  I have already pre-ordered my copy, because...well, I just HAD to have it!

At the end of our Kevin Henkes author study, I love showing movies of the stories to make the characters really come to life!


Thursday, August 6, 2015

A "Beary" Fun Meet the Teacher!

I met all 21 of my precious littles tonight.  And it was a whirlwind, as usual.  I spent all afternoon praying over my new class, and putting together treat bags filled with gummy bears.  I only ate about one million of them.  #truth  There are so many cute treat ideas, I couldn't decide what to do. #thankspinterest ....I almost did teddy grahams, but the gummy bears are more colorful.  Plus, I like to eat them...obviously.  

If you'd like the tags, you can download them here! (Sorry, I only have first grade tags, but I love you all!  I'm just meet the teacher tired.)  

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Meet the Teacher Tips, Ideas, & Freebies

I love Meet the Teacher night, even though it STILL makes me a nervous wreck--and this will be my 10th year--HA!  (New teachers, sorry--even the first day of school still gives me butterflies.  I think it's totally normal.  Or maybe it's just me.  Don't know for sure.)  Anyway...

I love meeting my new students and their parents!  And, though I know the parents want to talk to me too, I try to focus most of my attention on my new little friends.  Those first interactions with the kids are SO important.  I want them to feel welcomed, excited, and comfortable in their new classroom.  I want to begin building trust--because, let's face it, MOST of the kids are going to be pretty nervous.  They are also probably wondering, "WHERE is my Kindergarten teacher? Who is this lady???" So I SMILE, lean down to their level, and ask them lots of questions--mostly about what they've been up to all summer.  If I am with an extremely shy little friend, I ask if they want to look around their new classroom, or I'll show them pictures of my family and my dog out of my autobiography booklet that I bought here.   (One of my most used and favorite TpT purchases ever!) I always get a smile when they see a picture of my pug, Teddy!  Basically, I just talk their little ears off, and I smile so much that my face hurts afterward.

I have a classroom blog, and I know many parents check it out before school begins.  I write a welcome note to my students on the blog, and then I try to follow it up with a few reminders about Meet the Teacher night for the parents.  Last year, I posted these informational posters on my class blog prior to the big night:

Tips to make things run smoothly!

Our class supply list with PHOTOS!  There was some confusion in years past about certain supplies we asked for--so I figured the photos would help when they are out shopping!

I also included my class wish list, which I put on display in the classroom on Meet the Teacher night, as well.  The wish list changes from year to year.  {I am so thrilled that many of these items are actually on our actual supply list this year!}

I haven't always used folders for meet the teacher--I used to just neatly lay out all the papers that needed to be filled out on each child's desk.  It got a little confusing, and parents weren't sure what should stay and what should go home with them.  I love using the folders because it makes the desks look clean and tidy.  The inside pockets of the folder are clearly labeled with items parents need to fill out and leave with me, and which items they should take home (I paper clip all the take-home items together as well).  I also ask parents to leave the folders so that I can reuse them the following year!

Inside the folder, I place a "Meet Mrs. Cooley" letter, and a sealed envelope (OH, the MYSTERY of it all!) that has a night before first grade letter/poem and a little baggie of jitter glitter!  You can download your free copies of the label and letter under my "freebies" tab!

Parents also fill out a student information form (really just home contact info.) and 
labels for transportation...which you can read more about below:

The most important information I get from the parents at Meet the Teacher is HOW their child will go home from school the first couple of days, and then the remainder of the year. The parents are responsible for filling out labels with their child's name and transportation for the first days.  I check, double check, and then triple check each child's transportation information on the first day of school. The last thing anyone wants to do on the first day is send a kid home the wrong way!  As a matter of fact, on the first day of school, I start prepping for dismissal about 35 minutes before the bell rings.  I stick the labels the parents filled out on each of the kids, check them against my list, and then do a practice line up and we talk about/model that no one should ever leave the dismissal line until Mrs. Cooley says their name, looks at their tag, and says goodbye.   I may be a little obsessive about dismissal.  It just stresses me the most out of anything!!!


Oh, how I love the school supplies!  One of the main tasks I have the parents do is help me to sort their child's supplies--it doesn't take them but a few minutes, and their help saves me oodles of time for the days when I need to be planning for the first day of school--and labeling every notebook in THE WORLD.  (Doesn't it seem like that?  Labels for days, I tell you!)  To help the sorting go smoothly, I have signs & buckets at the front of the room for community supplies, and then a PowerPoint slide showing which items should be placed inside their desks.

{Download your free copy of these supply sorting station posters here.}


And because Meet the Teacher is all about the kids, I make sure to have a little something special for my new first graders to take home.  

I gave out rock candy last year, and it was a hit!

 I matched the rock candy to the tiffany blue in my room--like the kids care--ha!  I thought it was cute, though. :)

I have seen so many amazing ideas for goodies to send home, and I can't decide what I would like to do this year--but here are a few ideas with links for you:

Mrs. Gilchrist's Class
Pop Rocks could be a little cheaper option than rock candy!  Dollar Tree usually carries them!

First Grade and Fancy Free
This is so cute.  And who doesn't love a Little Debbie cupcake!?  Yum.

Love that label!  And I bet one box of cereal would be enough to fill snack sized baggies for the whole class!

Last, but not least, I always have a few volunteer forms on display on the front board.  I keep it simple.  Basically, there are 3 main jobs parents can sign up for:

1.  Room Mom
 The last couple of years, I have been sure to add a list of some of the room mom responsibilities to the sign up page--I think some aren't sure what the job entails!  Some moms are hesitant to sign up because they have jobs or small children--so I always leave it open for several moms (or dads) to sign up to work together! 

2.  Class Party Helpers
Even if a parent isn't able to be a room mom or dad,  many are willing and able to send items for parties, or offer to help the room mom plan the class parties.  After Meet the Teacher, I just send that form home with the new room mom, and she can contact those parents when it is time to plan for the parties!  

3.  Volunteer at School
This form is for any parents who can come in one day (or even just a few hours in the week) to help laminate, cut, copy, etc.  I have only had maybe one or two years in which no one could come.  {It doesn't hurt to ask!}  Sometimes the room mom will take over this duty, as well.  These volunteers are incredible--at our school, many come in on Thursdays or Fridays and help get things ready for the following week.

Here are examples of the volunteer forms I use:


Well, that's how I tackle Meet the Teacher!  Our Meet the Teacher is this Thursday!  
I am so very excited to begin a new year, and see all their sweet little faces!  


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