My 5 Favorite Back To School TPT Resources

Don't be overwhelmed by Back to School. Let these resources help you get the year started off right.
Had a teacher recently ask me what my favorite Back to School resources from my store were. "You have so much in your store, and there's so much on TPT, I get overwhelmed." Well, teachers don't need any additional stress. After some thought, I picked these 5 resources. So here are my ideas.
Don't be overwhelmed by Back to School. Let these resources help you get the year started off right.

Classroom Organization

I couldn't teach kindergarten without keeping things organized. Kinders need organization. It provides safety and independence. This set of center signs gives to all different sizes for clear organization. The largest size is hung from the ceiling. The middle size is put on material buckets and on in a pocket chart or on a bulletin board for easy independence and directions. The smallest size is taped the shelf to make sure the material buckets are put back where they belong. There are 43 center options, so start small and have fun. Classroom Center Signs can be found by clicking the link or the picture.
Don't be overwhelmed by Back to School. Let these resources help you get the year started off right.

Who Doesn't Love Chester?

No matter what, I love reading The Kissing Hand by Don and Audrey Wood, who doesn't. We made kissing hand crafts and even made a special snack for the first day (hand shaped sugar cookie, chocolate icing, kiss in the middle). These centers are designed with Chester and with Back to School ideas in mind. Matching letters, letters to sound, numbers, colors, shapes, making sight words with the help of Chester makes this center the perfect way to start the year. Back to School Centers with Chester can be found by clicking the link or the picture.
Don't be overwhelmed by Back to School. Let these resources help you get the year started off right.

Magnet Letters Galore

More center ideas! I am a freak about magnet letters. I look at garage sales, thrift stores and catalog sales. I have buckets and buckets of them. Here are 5 centers to use with magnet letters. Having students manipulate letters by building, sorting, organizing, and sequencing letters makes this ready-to-print center a great idea for beginning centers. This Magnet Letter set can be found by clicking the link or the picture.
Don't be overwhelmed by Back to School. Let these resources help you get the year started off right.

Start them Writing, Right Away!

Once you have a few sight words (I, see, the), students can write a sentence. These 4 square writing templates for fall are a great place to start. Looking at the School Tools 4 square, students can write 4 sentences on a topic. I see the crayon. I see the pencil. I see the glue. I see the scissors. These 4 squares can also be differentiated for students by changing sentence starters, creating their own 4 squares, and building details into each square for a more complex writer. 4 Square Writing Fall can be found with link or by clicking the picture.
Don't be overwhelmed by Back to School. Let these resources help you get the year started off right.

How About COW?

Concept of Word that is. I love Concept of Word activities for making sure early readers have a very clear and firm foundation. These weekly activities allow students to build their concept of word with matching pictures to text, one-to-one word-to-voice corresponding, matching words to text, sequencing the words, discovering words in context and words in isolation. These weekly sets have it all. I also have 4 week bundles and 12 week mega-bundles. This week is found by clicking Concept of Word Week 1 or the picture.

Here are my ideas for No Stress Back to School ideas. Don't get me wrong, I could add many more to the list...hehe, but this is my starting point. I hope this helps minimize the stress. I pray each of you has the best year ever and you know you are loved!

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Decoding Fix-It Strategies and Why I Don't Use "Fishy Lips"

So, I have to confess...brace yourself...get ready... every time I'm on Pinterest or TPT, I cringe when I see reading strategies with "fishy lips" and "flippy dolphin." I just don't think we need to teach these strategies in sing-songy silly phrases. Oh my, the gasping is audible. Let me explain.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE teaching kindergarten. It's my passion, as I'm sure you've discovered if you've read any of my posts or met me in person. I think kindergartners are A.Maze.Ing. and should not be underestimated. As a matter of fact, I think we should give kindergartners tools not excuses to create successful readers and lifelong lovers of literacy. BUT, I don't think we need to make everything "cute" for kindergartners.  I don't mean the classroom, but I mean the language we use. I think when we give them alternative vocabulary we are not only creating the need to eventually give them the "big words" but we are insulting them.  Honestly, some things drive me a little crazy...here are 3.

1.  Let's Use Editing Tape

Should we talk "kindergarten-talk" to kindergartners or should we treat them like all other learners? I think we should treat them like all learners and empower them with expectations, real-world vocabulary, and lessons that will last over time. What do you think?If we are striving to create independent writers, we shouldn't be afraid of mistakes. The first thing I tell me students about writing is there are no mistakes in writing, because every mistake can be fixed. I don't want my students to be afraid of writing so I'm not sure why I would call it "boo boo" tape. Boo boo's make us cry.  I would never want students to associate writing with crying. Another argument against "boo boo" tape is wanting my kindergartners to know they are editing their work when they fix mistakes. Using this language will make them stronger writers - or at least more willing writers.

2. Let's walk down the hallway quietly...

Should we talk "kindergarten-talk" to kindergartners or should we treat them like all other learners? I think we should treat them like all learners and empower them with expectations, real-world vocabulary, and lessons that will last over time. What do you think?
You know what I'm talking about. Here's my take on this:  when you tell students to "put a bubble in your mouth," you are taking control of their behavior.  You are telling them...you can't be trusted to walk in the hallway quietly, so I'm going to make it impossible for your to do so.  BUT, what if we let them know our expectations and the reasons why we have those expectations.  Before walking in the hallway, I remind my students we will walk quietly in the hallway.  I ask the students why we should walk quietly.  Some responses might be, "So we don't disturb other classes," "So we don't ruin someone else's chances at learning," "We are respectful of others who are learning," or maybe even "Because we are responsible."  This dialog with students seems to empower them, not try and take their power. I'm pretty sure as adults if we walked in to a museum, a library or a movie and some said, "Make sure you don't talk and disturb others, please put a bubble in your mouth." we would NEVER and I mean, NEVER, do it.  (On a side note, they look really silly walking in the hallway with a "bubble in their mouth.)

Should we talk "kindergarten-talk" to kindergartners or should we treat them like all other learners? I think we should treat them like all learners and empower them with expectations, real-world vocabulary, and lessons that will last over time. What do you think?3. Let's Get our Mouth Ready

When I was first learning about fix-it strategies, I was taught with the language "get your mouth ready" and "flip the vowel."  I actually hadn't heard of "fishy lips" or "eagle eye" until a first grade teacher came to me.  It was at the beginning of year and she was surprised.  "I'm surprised your students don't know their fix-it strategies." I was shocked. What do you mean?  I teach all the fix-its, we practice the strategies, and I know THEY know the strategies.  She proceeded to tell me when she told my students to "use their eagle eye" they didn't know what to do.  So I asked a painfully obvious question, "What does "use their eagle eye" mean?" It was her turn to be shocked. "It means look at the picture for clues."  So, continuing this question filled conversation, "Well, why don't you just say "look at the picture?"  After our conversation, I was stunned.  She was right, my students didn't know about fishy lips, eagle eyes, or stretchy snakes.  I had taught them "get your mouth ready," look at the picture," and "slide and sound."  Once she explained to them the strategies I had taught them were the same fix-its she was using, they understood what she was asking.  My theory...and it's only my theory...is students will use fix-its beyond the "cute" terms.  I do recommend a common language in a school...if everyone uses the same language, no matter the class, the strategies are the same. If you'd like the FRREBIE in my store, click the picture on the right or the link: Reading Decoding Fix-its
So, what are your thoughts.  I know I'm in the minority...because the majority of fix-it strategies on TPT, Pinterest, or google searches contain these "cute" titles.  I'm not saying one is right and the other is wrong, just sharing my opinion.

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You're a Teacher...Now What? Advice for New Teachers

You've got the degree and the job. You're officially a teacher...Now What? Here is some advice for new teachers.
I was so excited with my first teaching job. There was never a doubt I'd be a teacher and it was all coming true. However, my first year wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I was told the week before school started the job I thought I was going to have, wasn't going to be filled. I had to wait and see what openings would be available in that school division. I was ultimately assigned to two schools and I had to travel at lunch. I had two principals who were polar opposites of each other and were not easy to get along with. That being said, I was a teacher. Now, I'm starting year 30 of teaching and I can't imagine doing anything else. I have been a mentor to many fantastic teachers over the years, and I hope to help many more to come.

Teachers: It's time to QUIT!

Teachers: It's time to quit. Here are 5 things teachers should quit doing and LOVE their job.
Yep, Quit. One of my favorite quotes about teaching is: "If you can walk away tomorrow, then walk away today." Dr. Steve Perry said this at an International Literacy Association conference several years ago and I couldn't agree more. No one deserves a teacher who doesn't want to be in the classroom...BUT that isn't what the post is about. This post is about getting those negative thoughts out of your teaching.
Teachers: It's time to quit. Here are 5 things teachers should quit doing and LOVE their job.

Quit Digging Your Heels In

I know it seems everything in education and fashion comes back around eventually, but let's not count on it. There is so much amazing research on how children learn and how we should teach...so digging your heels in to the teaching styles of 1980 isn't the best strategy for teaching children to be world ready in 2017. Organizations like the International Literacy Association is a great place to learn about the latest research in education. The days of whole group reading should be retired. Meeting students where they are can move them forward quicker and with better progress. Breathe deep and PURGE! Get rid of those materials from the 80's just like you need to get rid of your walkman or parachute pants. 

Quit Badmouthing our Profession

I am so frustrated with teachers talking bad about teaching. UGH! (Once again, I'll refer to Dr. Perry.) "Teaching isn't what it used to be." You are right...let's believe it's better. I've told you before my son is a teacher. He just finished his first year of teaching and I couldn't be prouder. I have actually had several people say, "Didn't you try and talk him out of it?" NO! I didn't. I was thrilled he wanted to be a teacher. Children deserve teachers who want to be there...they do not deserve the teacher who is "putting in time." I did a workshop for new teachers at my son's college a year or so ago talking about what to expect in teaching. One of my best pieces of advice was to stay away from the M.G.O.T. (mean, grouchy old teacher). I hate to see M.G.O.T.s talking badly about teaching to new teachers. We need new teachers with new ideas and new attitudes and we need to embrace them. Here's a secret: the new teachers might know more about updated educational best practices than you do. Listen to them.

Quit Thinking You Aren't Appreciated 

Teachers: It's time to quit. Here are 5 things teachers should quit doing and LOVE their job.You are. You are appreciated by the ones that matter...the students. You may be the only thing they have going right for them, so make the most of it. Determine the big picture outcomes you want. You want them to know how to read, write, add, subtract, observe and experiment about our world, and become good citizens of the world. I know there is more, but they also need to be loved and nurtured and taught, retaught, and taught again...that's our job...and when they get it, it's powerful. I know the pay is not optimal. I know we take work home and eat, live, and breathe "lesson plans." But we are appreciated by students and families. What we are doing is not short of amazing. Own it.

Quit Making a List of All You Do

It's a lot. I know. A colleague in another school decided to make a list of all the things we are "required" to do each day and give it to her administration. It was a long list...lesson plans in content areas, guided reading plans, intervention plans, teacher assistant plans, read aloud plans, maintain the classroom, give tests, analyze tests, record scores, take students to lunch, take students to resource, take students to recess, morning duty, bus duty, make copies, and more, more, more. Guess what, the administration agreed. Yep, that's the job. It's what we do. If you asked any profession to make a list of their duties, it would be just as long with their profession-specific details. I'm pretty sure the list is stressing you out and it will all get done, so let's stop making a list. "My plate is too full." I know...so let's look at that plate. We have to be strategic about what we put on the plate. Everything must be "plate worthy" and all things aren't. Take new directives and replace something on the plate? Be honest and make the list and the plate work for you.

Quit Thinking You Aren't a Student

Everyone in every profession should grow. Doctors don't provide medical advice based on thirty years ago. If they do, leave. Lawyers have new laws to decided all the time. Pharmacists have new medications with new benefits and new problems. Athletes use new exercises, new equipment and new goals. Teachers cannot quit learning. Take classes, read blogs, do book studies, try something new! 
Teachers: It's time to quit. Here are 5 things teachers should quit doing and LOVE their job.

Now...seriously, don't quit. We need great teachers! Just make the decision to be a great teacher: know what's new in teaching, love teaching and love what you do, love the difference you are making in the lives of your students and their futures, make a list of why you are teaching...and remember it, and learn, learn, learn. When you learn more, you can share more with  your students, your colleagues, your administration.

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Teachers: It's time to quit. Here are 5 things teachers should quit doing and LOVE their job.

Celebrating our FREEDOM on the 4th with 4 FREEBIES!

Here are 4 Freebies to celebrate FREEdom on the 4th of July.

America celebrates her birthday
on the 4th of July.
We'll pack a picnic
and watch fireworks in the sky.

Virginia's history standards for kindergarten includes teaching about Independence Day.  It's a little more difficult to teach about Independence Day when you aren't in school in July...so, this was always my last shared reading of the year.  It is completed with a student art activity showing a skyline and fireworks overhead.

Growing up, the 4th of July meant camping and a peach cobbler.  My birthday is the 2nd of July, but we always celebrated with my extended family at a campground and a peach cobbler for dessert.

Today, it means FREE things for your students.
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