In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Easy ?

ImageYeah, so this is now posted outside my door… I just added teamwork to the end! We will achieve through hard work, learning and collaboration!

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High Fives

This year, our school’s focus for PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) will be on four traits. They are Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, and Safe. In order to get students thinking about these behaviors and recognizing them in themselves and in their classmates, I’ve come up with “High Fives.” Students will be able to give one another “High Fives” by filling out a quick compliment form that allows them to highlight a peer for showing one of the focus traits and explaining how the action was a great representation of one of the traits. After we share them with the class weekly, the student who received the compliment will get their compliment slip and a “High Five” with their name on it will be added to the appropriate section on our High Five board. I can’t wait to see it fill up this year! I’m also hoping to give copies of the slips to our activity/specials teachers and cafeteria monitors, in hopes that they will also take a moment to recognize my students for demonstrating respect, responsibility, trustworthiness and safety!

Here’s the High Fives form!

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First Days of School – TShirt Time

One of the things on my supply list for the beginning on the year is a plain white tshirt. In the first week of school, I use old rubber bands and have my student prep their shirts to be tie-dyed. They put in the rubber bands however they would like, but first I make sure they put their initials on the tag. We vote on a color to use and then I pick it up at the store on the way home. The only thing that causes me not to have the kids vote is if my whole grade level wants to participate (which is AWESOME) and we each decide on a class color. The brightest colors, like red, purple, or green work best. The next day we soak the shirts in the dye mix and hot water for most of the day in our recess bucket. After lunch, we will wring them out and hang them over the fence to dry. The kids love it. I let them dry in the room overnight and the next day we use fabric pens to write the kids’ first names on their shirts where a name tag would go. I keep the shirts in the room throughout the year, and we put them on for field days, class trips, assemblies, etc. We look awesome and are totally easy to spot in a crowd. I don’t have to mess with name tags on trips either! We always have people compliment us on how cool we look. On the last day of the year, the kids all sign each others’ shirts and then take them home. It’s always a good idea to make sure the kids bring in a shirt that is at least one size too big and to do a few extras for kids who transfer in later in the year or grow too much. I will definitely post my pics of this year’s shirts in a few weeks when we start school!

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First Days of School – My Classroom

Robert the Reader hangs over my small group lesson area, remind students about things their brain is doing while they are reading.

My small group instruction area has a place to take notes, clipboards and dry erase boards handy, storage for student work and a place to keep group materials.

My sign in station greets students at the door. It reminds them to

“Be a STAR today!”

S – sign in

T – take time to organize for the day

A – attitude check

R – read any notes/directions on the board

My classroom library has all of our novels sorted by level and picture books sorted by topics. There is a “Book Return” box. My students help me to keep it organized by returning there so things can be re-shelved properly. I don’t have a “check out” system. We establish trust and responsibility and hope that our books get taken care of and returned in a timely manner!

I keep my desks in groups through the year, but I change my groups often. We share supplies with the buckets on each table to keep things readily accessible.





First Days of School – Student Supplies

I think every year about my school supply list. I try to be considerate of kids and their ability to tote things back and forth to school. I am very conscious of parents and the financial burden of back to school time, especially with multiple children. I also want to be sure that the things I’m asking for are true necessities. Here’s what I’ve come up with…

– 2 sturdy pocket folders (yes, I’ll use more than that, but I got 100 of them for a dollar, so I can color code those like I want. These 2 are for homework folders.)

– 5 one-subject notebooks (I believe in teaching students to be good note-takers)

– lots of wooden pencils (I don’t allow mechanical pencils in my classroom – too much fuss)

– 3 highlighters

– 2 dry erase markers

– 2 packs of loose leaf paper (I don’t use a lot of looseleaf. If I’m giving a short quiz, we use a half or a quarter of a sheet. Who needs all that paper if it’s not necessary?)

– a basic white t-shirt that is at least one size too big (I’ll explain this more later)

The following things are helpful if parents can send them in, but they are not required.

– glue sticks

– crayons or colored pencils

– a few clean socks to use as dry erase markers

– boxes of facial tissues

– zip lock bags of any size

– disinfecting wipes

– hand sanitizer

On the first day of school, we spend a bit of time sorting the supplies into the storage totes that I have for each item. I explain to my students that we will be operating as a family throughout the year, and we start by sharing. I have a tote at each table that I keep stocked with sharpened pencils, highlighters, crayons, glue, scissors, etc. We replenish the totes from the stock of beginning of the year supplies throughout the year. Those items don’t belong to any one person and are shared. As we start to run low on a particular item, I send a quick note home and often receive plenty from parents who are able. I have found that this is the best way to keep the supplies that I need for my room, manage the items, not single out students whose parents are unable to send in items, and have students take ownership in managing their items. At first I anticipated having students who might be upset about the idea of sharing, but I’ve never had an issue. It just makes sense to them to look out for one another, and it’s a relief that they know they will have pencils, paper, etc. always available.

The day before school starts, I always print multiple labels for students to use with their names on them. I print ones for HW folders, math notebooks, weekly take home folders, etc. On the first day of school, I hand out the students’ labels and we spend a few minutes organizing the folders and notebooks they’ve brought. It’s much quicker, not to mention neater, than hand labeling everything. And, with all the zany colors and designs that are out there now, the labels are much easier to read!

As crazy as it sounds, organizing supplies on the first day of school is essential for me to get things off on the right foot. It’s a great way to establish some routines and expectations in the classroom, as well as communicate the idea that I am organized and no nonsense from day one. Chaos on the first day as items come in may not set the best tone, so have a plan. All those plastic grocery bags get overwhelming pretty fast!


First Days of School

Teacher workdays start in two weeks, and I am counting down the days. I am one of those people who is ready for school to start just a few days after we finish up for the year. I can’t help it! Over the summer, my family and i moved to the Greensboro area, so I’ve taken a few weeks off from the blog in order to get re-settled. As I see that isn’t happening any time soon, I figured it was as good of a time as any to get started again. Over the next days and weeks, I will spend some time blogging about the things I do to get ready for a new year and activities for the first days of school.

The first thing I do every summer is stock up on school supplies. I try not to spend a ton, but there are things that I just can’t resist. This year I’ve taken advantage of Walmart’s price matching, and I’m loving not having to run all over the place for the best deals. Here’s a brief run down of the things that I always get to start the year…

1. 3 prong, 2 pocket folders (about 100) – at $.01 each from Office Depot, I can’t complain!

2. 1 subject spiral notebooks (about 50) – I can usually find these for under $0.10 each at some point.

3. Elmer’s glue sticks (about 24) – you can get the cheap ones all year at Dollar Tree, but for craft projects, you can’t beat Elmer’s for $0.25 or less.

4. Pencils (oodles) – I hate mechanical pencils, so I make sure that I have plenty in the classroom.

5. Highlighters (20-30) – these are something else that is worth stocking up on when you can get the high quality ones for a low price. They don’t bleed through and last a long time.

6. Crayola crayons (15) – at $0.25 or so, they are worth the money for the quality. I always make sure to stock up on some Crayola ones because they are the brand that includes white crayons. We don’t use them much, but when we need them, they are impossible to find for a decent price!

7. White address labels (2-3 packs) – I can usually find these at Dollar Tree and stock up whenever they are there. They can be used for everything! I start by making a name label for each student and printing 5 of them. They are awesome and so convenient!

Truthfully, for under $30, I can make sure that my students have a lot of the things that we need for various learning projects throughout the year. I try to get things that are multi-functional and can be used as needs evolve. Obviously, I ask my students and their parents to help us out by sending in a lot of these materials, but I will never let a student go without something that he/she needs. It’s much less of an issue if I can just grab the item from my cabinet and let them “pay me back” when (and if) they can so that I can do the organizing that I want on day one!

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