Thursday, July 28, 2011

Classroom Must-Haves

I go back to work on Monday, and my students' first day of school is August 11th. That is really soon, so to say that I've been kicking it into high gear is an understatement. I did make a promise to myself that I would stay away from my classroom this week and enjoy my last week at home...which means that I've been plastered to my computer, creating and planning like crazy. Hopefully I'll have some things to share soon.
As I've been preparing for the 2011-2012 school year, I've been thinking about my classroom must-haves--those things that I typically use on a daily basis. Some of these things are probably a necessity for all of us, some things you may use a different version of or a different system, and some things may surprise you. Here are some of my must-haves:

1} Flair pens (by Papermate) in a rainbow of colors.
When I taught Pre-K and Kinder, I used these for my monthly assessments--a different color for each month. I could tell which skill they mastered in which month with a quick glance at the paper. Now with the upper grades, I mostly just use them for grading papers. I don't know about you all, but I get a bit of a twitch when I go after a student's paper with a red pen. I like to use different colors, and if I'm going to spend time grading papers, they may as well be pretty when I'm done! I also use these with the Teacher Organizer, pictured below.

2} Clipboards (of the monogrammed persuasion)
I will say, I have tons of those brown ones from the dollar store that my kids use. But for my personal use, I have two different monogrammed clipboards. I like them because they stand out a bit more, and again--they're just cute! I also have one that opens up so that I can keep things inside it (it's not monogrammed--it came from Target {of course}). It's wonderful if I'm walking and talking and need to be able to hand things out (like stickers for kids who are on-task or a certain supply that they will need at a certain point in a project).

3} A cute teacher notebook
I am a notorious list-maker. You know, one of those pesky people whose lists have lists? Yes, that's me. I used to keep a plain 'ole spiral until an assistant principal gave me a teacher-themed composition notebook a year or so ago for teacher appreciation week. I carry that thing with me EVERYWHERE! It's always open on my desk in my classroom. I carry it with me to faculty meetings and department meetings. And basically, it's just a constantly evolving to-do list. I make something we needed for Social Studies, I cross it off. My principal asks me to fill out some paperwork for a grant, it goes on the list. My department head reminds me that quarterly grades are due to the office by Wednesday, it goes on the list. I need to email a parent about their child, it goes on the list. You get the picture. Sometimes I rewrite the list to make it pretty, but as a general rule, that notebook stays like it is. I typically date when something goes on the list, but I try to move through it pretty methodically.

4} The Teacher Organizer
I think I should be a spokesperson for Clutter Free Classroom. :o) I purchased this recently and placed it in a huge binder. In addition to this info, each child in my classroom has a tab where I keep info about him/her. My classroom phone log is in this binder. Basically any piece of paper that I need to know where it is at all times goes into this binder. It is wonderful, and I use it everyday. If I need to discuss a student with an administrator, call a parent, confab with a co-worker--everything is in this notebook. Fabulous investment!

5} Coke Zero
Clearly, this has no organizational/instructional/nutritional value whatsoever. But it's the caffeine jolt that gets me through the day. Seriously. Just inject me with this stuff intraveneously please. If my co-workers want a Coke Zero, they know to come see me. I've had students bring me cases from home. I drink "one" (I'm so lying right now) every day. It is my lifeline. :o)

What about you? What are some things that you have to have in your classroom? 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Target Treasures!

First of all, if you visited the Vistaprint post from Monday and couldn't see the pictures, I've fixed the problem. Click here to check it out again! I don't know what the problem was. I could see the pictures, but I had several others comment that they couldn't. I wound up just taking my own photos. Sorry about the confusion!

I popped in to Target for "a few minutes" (yeah, right!) today, and walked out with some new goodies for my classroom (and a few new items for my fall teacher wardrobe, but I'm saving those for another post). I know many of us have said it, but I'll say it again--I L.O.V.E. the Target Dollar Spot all the time...but especially at back to school time! Here's what I walked away with today:

1}Math games--Time Bingo and Math Bingo. I teach 4th grade, but lots of students at this age are still struggling with analog clocks and hammering out those math facts. Here's hoping this will help!
2} Presidential puzzles--I'm implementing something called Mastery Club this year in my class (click on the link for the full description). One of the questions asks students to be able to name all of the Presidents. This puzzle doesn't appear to include names, but I'm hoping that maybe it'll be a visual aid for those who (like me!) can remember things when prompted by a picture! (The math portion also asks that they be able to do math facts {by operation} in 4 minutes, so I'm hoping that Bingo games will help with this as well).
3}Pom-poms--We are bucket fillers and this is what we'll use to do it! I love how they match the colors of my buckets exactly. I'll be sure to post those when I do my classroom tour.
4} Dice--the possibilities are endless! Adding, multiplying, probability, homeworkopoly...perhaps I should have bought more!
5} Hall passes--pretty self-explanatory. My student's agendas actually have a section where I can log how often they leave the classroom and for what reason. Pretty helpful for those kiddos who tend to leave a little too often!
6} Notepads--because teachers can never have too many. They also make great gifts.
7} Star student stickers--for their star student posters that classmates will sign--and compliment stickers for excellent classwork and test papers.
8} Dry erase markers--Did you know that Styrofoam plates will work as dry erase boards? And for those of us who are environmentally conscious--they are reusable! I keep a stack on hand for whole-group response activities, and I'll add these markers to my collection for student use.
So that's my Target awesomeness for today! I'm loving all these posts filled with Target finds...keep 'em coming!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Vista Print Arrivals--Take Two

*I had a couple of people comment that they couldn't see the pictures from the original post. They were there when I published it--I even double checked, but for some reason stopped showing up. Who knows!? I played around with the post for a bit, but finally decided just to take pictures myself. Sorry about the confusion!*

I mentioned back a few posts ago that Clutter-Free Classroom had posted about some amazing deals/free shipping through Vistaprint. I loved the idea of getting my new students some goodies to celebrate the new school year, and my order arrived today! I love it all, so I thought I'd share a few of my items!

I ordered a mug for each of my students, but I'm actually saving these for Christmas gifts (that will be filled with fun stuff).
I'm giving each student a classroom t-shirt on the first day of school. They will receive them in...

...their Rock Star bags! I thought these were so cute! In addition to the t-shirt, I'm also placing a personalized pen (which you will see pictured below) and a personalized stamp in each student's bag. What's awesome about this gift is that it cost me $1.49 per student! I don't think I could do that again if I tried!
In addition to my student's goodies, I ordered a few things for myself. These three stamps:
This is the ink pen for my students. The other side is personalized with each student's name.
I also ordered this mouse pad for my classroom.

Not pictured is a set of classroom information magnets--I plan on giving them to parents at orientation.

I'm so pleased with all of my Vistaprint stuff! I received an order of fun stuff earlier this summer that I've yet to post about. I'll be back soon to show you all of those goodies!


Monday, July 18, 2011

How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation

Clutter-Free Classroom is one of my favorite blogs--she posts tons of resources for classroom purposes and lots of tips that are way useful for the classroom teacher. Just last night--thanks to a post that she did--I robbed ordered from Vista Print and got a TON of stuff for next-to-nothing. If you're not following this blog--you should be!

This week she's hosting a linky party where you can respond to different writing prompts each day. Today's topic is "How I Spent My Summer Vacation." Here's her definition of the "assignment."
{Write a paragraph titled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” I will also accept the alternative title, “How I’m Spending my Summer Vacation.” Feel free to include photographs, but they are not required.}

So. Without further ado.

How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation

I love summer because it allows me to enjoy so many of my favorite things in abundance. Here's a monthly breakdown of what I've been up to:

*I've been spending lots of time with my sweetie! Dinners, vacations, movies on {gasp!} weeknights! We've been having a lot of fun!
*Hair maintenance--I took my looooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnggggggggg, blonde hair and turned it into this!
I think of it as my summer disguise since I got it done after school let out!

*I attended a retirement party for two sweet teachers that I worked with last year. Since my previous school will not re-open this fall, it was nice to gather with my co-workers one last time. 
*I've been spending some time with some cute kiddos--visiting with my friend Marci and her baby boy...
...and helping out with my friend Darla's cutie-pie!
*I've been working in my yard--watering, weeding, and such, as well as trying to stay out of the way of this little guy and his friends!
*I always use my summers to tackle some projects around the house. I took about two days to clean out and re-organize my home office. It was a big job, but it looks SO much better now!
*I've been doing some baking. My grandmother got me a new mixer for Christmas, but I'm just now getting around to breaking it in!
The first thing I made were these cookies--delish!
*I've made a few visits to what will be my classroom this fall. No big changes yet, but I'm already planning ahead!
*I'm also spending copious amounts of time playing around with Vista Print--so pleased with my new creations...I'll be doing a post on those sometime soon!
*I entertained some old friends from Arkansas over the weekend. They'd never been to NOLA, so we went to lots of fun places and ate some really great food.
*I worked on a lot of blogging stuff...both on my personal blog and my teaching blog. I'm really pleased with the new look/layout of my personal blog!
*Best of all, Rhyne and I got to take a much-needed vacation. We spent some QT in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. A few of our destinations included:
}The Great Smoky Mountain National Park
}Downtown Gatlinburg
}The Titanic Museum
We also discovered an amazing used book store on our way home...we stopped at two locations: Knoxville and Chattanooga!
*I stocked up on books...both for personal and professional use!
I have about two-and-a-half weeks left of my summer vacation. I plan on reading and working on some additional school stuff as well as making sure that my house stays pretty clean and organized. It seems like summer just started! It's so hard to believe that it's drawing to a close so quickly!
How are you spending your vacation. Tell us and link up with Clutter-Free Classroom!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Things Kids Say...

Mel D. at Oh The Places We'll Go is hosting a linky party where you can share some of the cute things that kids say/do in the classroom. Some of my favorite classroom moments are the ones involving the silly and sweet things that come out of my student's mouths. Here are a few that came to mind when I started thinking back on my teaching career.

1. One of my 3rd graders last year was a part of his (male) cousin's bridal party over the summer. He was sharing his excitement about getting to be a part of the wedding when I asked him what his part was in the event. His response? "I was the mini-broom!" "The mini-broom?" I asked, trying to keep from laughing. "Yeah, the mini-broom! You know, I got to stand beside my cousin while he got married!"

2. One day while on our morning bathroom break, I had a small group of girls who apparently had just recently discovered the usefulness of having thumbs. They were trying to perform tasks such as holding pencils, turning the water fountain, etc. with only a few fingers. They were, of course, giggling over their silliness when one of their friends (who had not been participating in this experimentation) looked over at them and said quite matter-of-factly, "That's why we have opposable thumbs!" Impressed that she knew about opposable thumbs, I asked her where she learned about them. She shrugged her shoulders, looked at me, and said, "I saw it on TV!"

3. I am in my late twenties, and my husband and I have not started our family yet. No matter the grade level I have taught, my lack of children is always a topic of interest for my students. In Pre-K alone, I had the following situations happen:

A) "Mrs. Putman, do you have children?"
     "No, not yet."
     "Why not!? You're supposed to have children!"

B) "Mrs. Putman, do you have any kids?"
     "No, not yet."
     "I think you need a son!" (This one came from a mischievous male student...who, in all honesty, I would have brought home and called my own if I could have gotten away with it!)

C) This time, a little girl came up and gave me a hug around the waist. The next words out of her mouth: "It feels like you've got a baby in there!"

4. One morning during circle time, one of my four-year-olds looked at me and said, "Mrs. Putman, what's up with your hair? It looks freaky!" It's a sad day when your self-esteem is directly related to the comments you receive from a Pre-K student.

5. And perhaps one of my all time favorites...I was teaching Pre-K and it was circle time. One of my little girls was showing off her new hairbow, so I made a comment about how pretty all the little girls in the classroom were, which led to this conversation (I'm pretty much quoting, so the grammar is exactly the way the kids said it):
Me: "All of my little girls in this class are so pretty!"
Girl A: "And the boys be handsome!"
Me: "Yes, the boys are very handsome."
Girl B: "And if boys like boys, they be gay!"

I looked at my assistant with big eyes. She looked back at me with equally big eyes. We both about lost it. And then I decided it was time to move on to our morning songs without addressing that comment!

I just thought of one more story. This one actually belongs to one of my former co-workers, but it's about as funny as the last one I just shared, so I'll go ahead and post it. She was teaching kindergarten and performing some pre-testing with one of her students for the upcoming year. One of the questions addressed the student's ability to demonstrate an understanding of directional words. Keep in mind, we taught in an urban setting. My co-worker was going through the front...beside...finally, she asked him to show an example of the word "behind." He immediately puts his hands behind his back and says, "Like when you get arrested!" My co-worker said, "But nobody's getting arrested here today." He said, "No, you need handcuffs for that. My mom has handcuffs beside her bed!" Oh, it gets better though...Mom was sitting right inside the room and heard the. whole. thing.

It's so say the darndest things!
Any fun stories to share? Post and link up!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

"My Teacher Always Says..."

I love this latest link party! Mrs. Bainbridge's Class is hosting one where you can share some of those catch phrases that we all tend to say on a regular basis. Below is her description of the link-up, and then I've shared a few of my own catch phrases!

We've all got those "things" that we say.  What is something you always say to your students?  Maybe it's something cute that you love... or maybe it's something that you heard them start to say to each other that made you go "uh oh!"

1. When students start grumbling or complaining over something ridiculous (i.e. homework, moving on to another subject, going to a less-popular specials class), I almost always say "That's life in the big city!" 

2. "Questions? Comments?" There's no telling how many times I say this in a day. 

3. It always bothers me when kids interrupt me for (what I perceive to be) no real reason at all--usually it's to inform me that someone's playing with their corn at lunch or some other activity that I really don't need to know about. Therefore, when a student approaches me without raising a hand first I always ask, "Is this a 911 emergency?" We spend a lot of time defining what this is--vomiting, protruding bones, or gushing blood. Ironically, I did have a gushing blood incident last year...seriously, a trail of blood all the way down the hallway as I walked this child from the gym to the office. Then we got to have the "this is an example of a 911 emergency" conversation. My kids were in awe of the amount of blood that came from their classmate's nose. Always nice to have real-life examples to work with. :o)

4. When students mumble things and I cannot hear/understand what they are saying, I always say "A little louder please. Mrs. Putman is old and deaf!" They think this is hilarious.

5. My #1 pet peeve in my classroom is when a child needs something and will proceed to follow me around my classroom instead of raising their hand to get my attention. You can say to my kids: "What is Mrs. Putman's #1 pet peeve?" and they will all reply in unison: "Children following her around the room!!!!"

6. Along the same lines as #5--when kids tap me repeatedly and call my name over and over, I will often turn around and start tapping them over and over and calling their name. We both get a little laugh over it, and it helps send the message that they need to raise their hand because it is bothersome to have someone tapping you repeatedly and calling your name.

7. This isn't something I say, but apparently I have a look that one student affectionately named "The Glare" last year. Listening to him explain it to me was so funny that I wrote a blog post about it on my personal blog. Check it out here if you're interested! (After re-reading the post myself, I think I need to add "Get yourself together" as another frequently used phrase.)

What things do you find yourself saying and doing in your classroom? Share and link up with Mrs. Bainbridge!

My Favorite Books Linky Party

Runde's Room is hosting a linky party where we can each share some of our favorite books. I love this--because I love books! See my previous post and you can find out just how much I love books! If you share your favorites and link up with her blog, you'll get a copy of her 30-Day Book Challenge packet, and you're entered into a great giveaway!

Here are a few of my favorites books:

Childhood Favorites
Where to begin? The first books that I fell in love with as a very young reader were The Berenstain Bears books. My parents actually brought boxes of my childhood books to my house back in the spring, and when I opened the lid there they all were--dog-eared corners, pages falling out--old friends, waiting to greet me! I also loved The Baby-Sitters Club--I always ordered the latest one each time a new Scholastic book order came out.

Classroom Favorites
I have lots of these too. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Best School Year Ever are a few of my favorites. I love books that illicit a response from my kids while I'm reading it. I love it when they beg me to read "one more chapter" of a classroom read aloud!

Professional Favorites
I love Debbie Diller's books--her book on literacy work stations is one of my favorites. I also like The Daily 5. A couple of years ago, I read a book called What Great Teachers Do Differently--it was a great and inspiring read.

Guilty Pleasure Favorites
Here's another category where I could go on and on forever. I love Harry Potter and always will. I love mystery and suspense--Agatha Christie, John Grisham, and Mary Higgins Clark are a few of my fave authors. I also love the Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett. Jodi Picoult is another favorite author. I also love classic literature--particularly Jane Austen. I could go on and on.

What about you? What are some of your favorite books?       

Books, Books, and More Books!

Rhyne and I came home late yesterday afternoon from a week-long vacation in East Tennessee. We stayed in a cabin in the Smokies right outside of Gatlinburg. We spent our time between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and had a great time.

On our way home, we drove through Knoxville and found THE BEST used book store either one of us has ever been inside. It's called McKay's, and it is absolutely amazing. They had tons of books, but everything was so well organized. I was very impressed. My husband and I are both self-professed bibliophiles, so we were like two kids in a candy store with all of those books! Y'all, we spent three hours in this store!! We finally tore ourselves away from the shelves to check out...and discovered that they have two other stores--one in Chattanooga and one in Nashville. And wouldn't you know...we had to drive through Chattanooga to get home! So guess where we stopped an hour or so later...but this time we only stayed about an hour and a half or so!

When we got home, we decided that we wanted to pool all of our books together before we divided them up and took them to our offices. Here are all of our treasures:
Then we began the process of separating them. These are all of my books. I divided them into two categories: personal books (which will go in my home office) and school books (which will be labeled and relocated to my classroom).
I bought 37 new books for my classroom for a mere fraction of the cost. Some of these books cost me only 30 cents. When I got home I did the math and discovered that if I'd bought all of these books at full price, it would have cost me about $183.00. Let's just say that I didn't spend even remotely close to that!
These are all of Rhyne's books. He teaches theology and philosophy of religion at New Orleans Baptist Seminary--hence the mixture of Immanuel Kant and biblical commentaries. :o) He really got the best deals between the two of us. He bought some academic books that were worth around $100 for about $8-$10 a piece. He's also in the process of writing a dissertation, so these books are some definite "investment" pieces for us!
And here we have all of our books together. Again, I'm amazed at how much we got for so low a price. We were in book heaven!
If you live anywhere near Knoxville, Chattanooga, or Nashville, I would highly recommend checking out this store at some point. If you live close enough that you could make a day trip to visit this store, you should. Seriously. Best used book store ever.

Are there any other great book stores that I should be checking out?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Top 10 Things To Know About Me

Go Fourth! With Mrs. Owens is hosting a fun linky party--the top 10 things people should know about you. This goes along with the fun freebie she's got for the beginning of the year. Click on the link and try it out. Since I'm relatively new to the teacher blogging world, this is a great way to meet new people from lots of fun blogs!
Here are the Top 10 things that you should know about me:

10. I became a teacher through an alternative certification program. My degrees are actually in Journalism and English. I didn't decide to go into education until after I'd finished my Master's degree!

9. I read the UK's Daily Mail online every day. I love Kate Middleton, so I'm always "checking up" on her. My husband thinks it's hilarious that I read British tabloid magazines.

8. I grew up in Arkansas, but moved to New Orleans right after I got married. We moved in August 2005...2 1/2 weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit. We relocated back to Arkansas for a year, then returned to NOLA in August 2006. We've been here ever since.

7. I read books like it's going out of style. So if you've got any good suggestions, please send them my way.

6. My paycheck may as well be sent directly to Target. I buy everything there--clothes, shoes, make-up, groceries, household items, etc. I'm a firm believer that if you can't buy it at Target, you don't really need it.

5. In my four years of teaching, I've taught four different grade levels. Here's to hoping I can stay put in 4th grade for awhile!

4. I'd love to write children's books someday! I love writing, and I think teachers make great authors simply because we deal with the reading audience in the classroom each day. We have a pretty good idea as to what appeals to them.

3. I am terrified of snakes. I don't even like to look at them in pictures or in contained spaces (like at the zoo). My heart literally stops beating for about a half a second when I see one.

2. I have seen every episode of Friends at least ten times. I love that show and quote it quite often. I'm also pretty good at working lines into casual conversation at the appropriate time.

1. I love teaching. It combines lots of my favorite things (kids, creativity, school, etc.) into one totally awesome job!

Your turn!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Favorite Fall Read Alouds

Some of my favorite classroom memories from my childhood center around read-alouds. I can distinctly remember books that teachers read to me as a child--for this reason, I carefully pick out books that I think my students will love and remember for years to come. There are many books that I've read to my kids over the last few years. Here are a few of my favorites (keep in mind, I've taught Pre-K, Kinder, and 3rd)

1. Miss Nelson is Missing
I always read this one to my Pre-K/Kinder students and they LOVED it! I always did a distinct voice for Viola Swamp that they got a kick out of. Such a cute of my faves when I was a kid!

2.  The Best School Year Ever
This was the first read aloud I did with my 3rd graders last year. We all enjoyed this book--and the Herdmans--very much.

3. A Bad Case of Stripes
This is a great book to read when you want to talk to kids about being themselves. The illustrations are great, and my students have always gotten kick out of the crazy things that Camilla's skin turns into.

4. Frindle
Another great first of the year read aloud. I like this one because it appeals to boys a bit more (at least it always has in my case). I also think it encourages creative thinking in kids. It definitely sparks some interesting classroom discussions.

5. Ruby the Copycat
Another first week read aloud about being yourself.

Do you have any favorite/must do read alouds? Share them and link up with Learning With Mrs. Parker!
Happy Reading!