Five for Friday: More Christmas Fun!

Sunday, 13 December 2015
Hello again! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday to share more of the Christmas fun going on in my classroom this week.

On Monday night, my island had its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Everyone gathers at our government administration building grounds to wait for the tree to be lit and to see Santa. People from the community perform on stage as we come together to celebrate the start of the Christmas season together. This photo is terrible quality, but I wanted to have something to share on here. The tree in the photo is a fake tree; we used to have a super tall real one, but there was a major hurricane 7 years ago that destroyed it. 

Speaking of Christmas trees, I finally put a topper on our classroom tree. It was looking a little plain at the top and I found this sparkly little bow topper at a store earlier this week. I think it definitely completes the look!

Although I'm not doing elf on the shelf, I had to get it on some of the elf fun with my class this week. I recently purchased several new Christmas books to read aloud to my class this year, including The Littlest Elf by Brandi Dougherty. It was the perfect book to get my kids thinking about what they would do if they were elves. I highly recommend getting it if you don't have it! I found this adorable free elf craft on TPT from Mrs. Ricca's Kindergarten. Instead of having my students do the elf application that's included in the craft, I made an "If I were an elf..." writing prompt for them. Click here to download it for yourself! 

Although I love where I teach, one of the most frustrating things is not being able to put up student work in our hallways. All of our classrooms are accessed directly from the outside, so we have no bulletin boards out there for student work. We do have a couple of really small boards with a glass cover over the cork for protection from rain and wind, but they aren't big enough to post work up and are used for star students, school rules, and other small displays. I post as much student work in my classroom as I can, but occasionally I want the rest of the school to get a chance to see what we've been up to. I put these elves outside at the worst possible time. We had some major rain and wind in the days after I posted them and by Friday, one elf had come off and another had lost its head.  We managed to locate the missing elf, but sadly, the head of that other elf is yet to be found.  #teacherproblems

We also made First Grade Blue Skies' adorable ornament craft for our window display and Linda Kamp's "I Shine When I'm Kind" Christmas light craftivity. I love how festive they look outside our classroom!

I took photos of my kiddos wearing their choice of a Santa hat, reindeer antlers, or a red headband with a cute Christmas bow. I also had them stand in front of our classroom Christmas tree. I glued the pictures to the front of the light crafts and they added a really cute and personal touch! I'm planning to send the photos out to parents as well, so they will do double duty! :)

On the inside, they wrote about how they can be kind. They did an awesome job and the kids who pass by our classroom have really enjoyed reading all of their responses! (I got this craft up kind of late, but that's probably for the best. Colored paper fades super fast in the sun, so I'm sure it would already be faded out if we had done it two weeks ago.) It was a really easy and meaningful craftivity though and I will definitely be repeating it every year as we talk about kindness at Christmastime. How do you incorporate kindness in your classroom for Christmas? 

Thanks for staying with me until the end of this post! Don't forget to head back to Doodle Bugs Teaching to read the other Five for Friday posts. I am loving reading about all of the fun holiday activities that are happening in classrooms all over the world. :)


Five for Friday: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Sunday, 6 December 2015
Happy December and happy Saturday! I can't believe how quickly time is passing! I feel like the first day of school was yesterday and yet, here we are in December. I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the first time in a long time to share what we've been up to this week. 

We recently learned about fact families in math, so this freebie from Oceans of First Grade Fun was the perfect activity to show off our learning! I do this craft with my class every year and it always looks so cute on display! The best part about it is that it really can work for just about any concept since the templates don't have any writing already on them. Last year I used it to review place value. We wrote a two digit number on the star and on the ornaments we wrote the number of tens and ones, and then wrote the expanded form in two different ways. 

The craft fun continued with Pete the Cat! We read Pete the Cat Saves Christmas and I was shocked to find out that only a couple of my students had ever heard of Pete! He's definitely not as widely known here as he is in the U.S., but I have a feeling I've created some new fans. ;) After reading the story, we wrote about the problem and solution using this freebie and craft from School is a Happy Place. I seriously can't get over all of the amazing FREE Christmas activities available on blogs and TPT. So thankful for all the teachers out there who so generously share their creativity with us. I've actually started a Pinterest board full of free Christmas activities and ideas for K-2, so check it out if you're in need of ideas! 

Here are some close ups from a few of my kiddos.

This little sweetie has made so much progress in writing since the beginning of the year. I am so proud of him!
Problem: "Santa was sick so he couldn't give presents to the kids."
Solution: "Santa called Pete the Cat. Christmas was saved by Pete the Cat."

Can you tell this student loves to draw? Love the illustrations he added to match his sentences!

One of the words in the book that my kids picked up on immediately was "ill" - a lot of them had never heard it before! I was excited to see several students using it in their writing, including this ambitious little guy. :)

This is another student's writing and I just had to share it! This response cracked me up because this is how people here talk. People oftentimes use the word "bad" as a replacement for "really," so instead of saying that someone is "really sick," a lot of Caymanians would say that they're "sick bad." I could almost hear this student saying that as I read it to myself so it brought a big smile to my face. 

I put this Christmas tree up in my classroom on Monday after my kids left. They were so excited to see it when they came in on Tuesday and it helped them to realize that we were finally in December and counting down to Christmas. 
Rudy the Reindeer is also helping to add some motivation in our classroom during these last few weeks of school. Each day, my students have the opportunity to earn the right to have Rudy at their table for a day. Each morning, I put him in the middle of the table of students who had the best behavior the day before. The kids at the table get to pet Rudy, but can't pick him up or move him from their table during the day. I tell them he's there to watch them work. ;) They know that if they let it become a distraction, I'll remove him and he'll go to a different table. It has really been working well so far! It's crazy how motivating a stuffed animal can be to kids and the excitement on their faces when they earn Rudy for the day is too adorable. What tricks do you use to spice up your behavior management for the holidays?

Christmas came early today when I finally got the new printer I ordered. I'm so excited to own a laser printer! Did I mention it also prints in color? It is an HP LaserJet Pro M252dw and I got it for less than half of its original price on Amazon! The price has gone up a bit since I purchased it, but it is still an awesome deal! Click here to check it out!

Be sure to head back to Doodle Bugs Teaching to read some other Five for Friday recaps! I'll be back next week with an update on the Christmas fun in our classroom! Do you have a favorite Christmas activity or craft that you do with your class? 


When teaching doesn't seem to "come naturally"

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Today I'm blogging about a topic that hits really close to home for me. Like many other teachers out there, I have always been a bit of a perfectionist and overachiever. I was the girl who erased one word ten times so she could write it better than the last time, who untied and retied the sash on her dress until the bow was perfectly symmetrical, who sharpened her pencil just a little longer so it was perfectly sharp. Doing well in school came naturally to me and although I worked hard, I usually didn't have to try too hard to excel academically. When I started college, I was certain I wanted to be a teacher. There was no other option; I knew that was what I was meant to do. I did well in my education classes and felt that I was well on my way to becoming an awesome teacher.

Flash forward to my senior year, when I got my student teaching placement in a kindergarten classroom. I had an amazing cooperating teacher and an adorable, eager group of 5-year-olds. It was exactly what I had hoped for and I couldn't wait to start teaching. Finally, the time came for me to take over as student teacher. I wrote my lesson plans (super thorough and detailed, of course), submitted them, and prepared for my lesson. But when I started teaching the lesson, things didn't exactly go according to plan. I remember thinking things like, What do I do when they all raise their hands? This isn't on my lesson plan... What I didn't realize is that I couldn't possibly anticipate how the students would react and respond to every part of my lesson. It was a major reality check for me - the idea that what seemed like the "perfect lesson" might not turn out that way after all.

Over the weeks that followed, I often questioned myself as I was teaching with thoughts like, What should I do now? How do I respond to this? I didn't have much confidence in myself and it was obvious to my cooperating teacher and - though I didn't realize it at the time - my students. There were days when I wondered if this was really what I was meant to do with my life. After all, how could I possibly have a career doing something that I'm not "naturally good at"? I remember many conversations with my cooperating teacher about my struggles where I admitted I felt inadequate and that she made it all look so easy. She always told me to have more confidence in myself, keep trying, and to remember that it would take time.

Almost three years later, I am still working at it. I have improved in many areas, but still have weaknesses and goals I am working towards. Even now, my perfectly planned lessons rarely turn out as flawless as they appear on the sheets of freshly printed paper in my lesson plan binder. And that's okay. Will teaching ever "come naturally" to me? I don't know. But what I do know is that I won't stop working on becoming the best teacher I can be. It has taken some time, but I can honestly say that I am grateful for the struggles that I once resented. They may not make my job easy, but they force me to work harder, to be patient, and to persevere daily.

In a world where teacher blogs are popping up everywhere, it is easy to get caught up in the idea of perfection and inadequacy. However, what we don't realize is that we often only see snippets of the really good days in that classroom. Every teacher has struggled or is struggling with something. I have learned in my short time as a teacher that teaching is not about perfection, but rather passion. So let's continue to be passionate and real about what we do. Let's not only share the successes in our classrooms, but the struggles too. Most importantly, let's continue to encourage and lift each other up every day.


Five for Friday with a Freebie

Saturday, 26 September 2015
How has it been almost three weeks since my last blog post?! I vowed to keep up with this blog when I created it, but this first month of school has been kicking my butt. I feel like I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things, so hopefully I will be able to start blogging more often again. Today, I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday to recap my week and share a bit of what has been happening in my classroom.

Last week, we read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes and revisited the story all week to work on comprehension skills. We ended the week by doing an awesome directed drawing from Haley O'Connor at My Silly Firsties and responding to the prompt, "Do you think it was okay for the other students to make fun of Chrysanthemum's name?" I love how each drawing turned out! The kids were so excited that they were able to draw Chrysanthemum. I will definitely be trying to incorporate more directed drawings this year - they are a great way to work on listening skills and build students' confidence! On Sunday, while I was in my classroom for a bit, I hung their work on our student work wall. It's the perfect display for the classroom library!

I also got my number posters up. Finally. I felt terrible that we had already been in school for three weeks and I still had yet to put them up. But let me tell you... Moving classrooms is tough. This is my third year of teaching and each year I have been in a different classroom. Although I have tried to have everything set up and ready for the first day of school, I have learned that it is okay if it's not and that I will get it all done eventually. The kids actually noticed these posters as soon as they walked in on Monday and have referred to them many times this week. I love that they are at eye level and are near our Math area! The past two years I had them hung up high and I was determined to find space for them lower down this year. In case you are wondering, they are from Lidia Barbosa on TpT. I love how they show various forms of each number! So many number posters just show ten frames.

We have spent the fast few weeks working on subitizing and number bonds in Math. This week, we made this awesome name in a ten frame craft from Sam Nowak at Fun With Firsties. It is one of the first freebies I used in my classroom and I've used it each year. The kids love making it and it is the perfect activity for this time of year! The file comes with circles to cut out and use as counters, but I use colored circle labels instead, which is quicker and easier for the kids. They love using the labels because they think of them as stickers. :) Can you guess this little girl's favorite color? ;)

I introduced the concept of bucket filling during the first week of school and have a bucket filling message center set up in my classroom. The kids love to write notes to one another and deliver them to their friends' buckets! I have a bucket too and found these sweet notes in it this afternoon. So precious! Their notes are the best - especially at the beginning of the year when we are still getting to know each other! I am planning to reply to these kiddos, so they will have a little note from the teacher in their buckets next week. :) (The writing paper is from Rulin' the Roost's Bucket Filling Friendship Club packet.)

I am giving weekly spelling tests for the first time this year and wanted a quick and easy way to communicate the grades to parents. I whipped these notes up last night and sent home the first batch today! Click here to download them if you think you can use them in your classroom. I am hoping they will be helpful for parents and will help me to be more consistent with communication about our spelling tests each week. Do you give weekly spelling tests? How do you communicate the grades to parents?

Be sure to head back to the link up to read some more Five for Friday recaps! I hope you have a wonderful weekend! 


Five for Friday... on a Sunday!

Sunday, 6 September 2015
Well, hello! I've neglected this little blog for the last few weeks because of all the back to school madness, but I'm one week in and hoping to get back to blogging more regularly. Today I'm linking up for Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching - a little late, but better late than never. I was really hoping to link up with Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week but it was also the first week of school, so that just did not happen. I am still putting the finishing touches on my classroom, so I'm not ready to do a full reveal yet, but this post will feature a few sneak peeks. :)

On the first day of school, we talked about lunchroom behaviour and procedures, and my class completed Teacher Idea Factory's awesome lunchbox craft. This response by one of my sweet girls really brought a smile to my face. "I will walk in the lunchroom and eat with Ms. Kristi." First day of school and she already wants to eat lunch with me! I'd say that's a good sign! :)

My first day of school was also amazing for another reason - I sold my first TPT product! And then yesterday, I got an email saying I had sold my second paid product! I uploaded both products a few weeks ago and really didn't expect them to sell so fast. Obviously, I am not making very much from this, but it still feels incredible to know that others are using my creations in their classrooms.

I am really loving my new class! The second day of school, they surprised me when they started hanging their backpacks on the hooks as soon as they walked into our classroom. I really thought I would have to remind them! They are super eager to please and are rocking and rolling with all the routines I've introduced to them so far. Could not have asked for a better start to the school year!

This week was also super crazy because we had Back to School Night on Thursday. I used Vickie Plant's wonderful all about the teacher freebie to share some information about myself with parents and used Learning in Wonderland's editable flip book as my main handout. I love how they both turned out! 

I also introduced Daily 5 this week and we are working on building our stamina for Read to Self. I have been using A Year of Many Firsts Reading Expert unit and my kids had a blast with this sorting activity from the unit! They got to act out the scenarios on each card and decide whether each kid was ready to be reading expert. This really helped to hammer in the expectations for Read to Self and made a super cute display in my reading corner!

Well, that was my first week in a nutshell! Wishing you all a wonderful week! So jealous of all the American teachers right now - I wish we had a long weekend at the beginning of the school year! Our next national holiday is in November, so I will have to wait patiently until then. :) 

Be sure to head on back to Doodle Bugs Teaching to link up and check out the other Five Friday posts!

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