Monday, October 12, 2020

Free Time Bags

This year, I am back to school in a hybrid setting.  I have two classes with eight students in each.  My students are spaced out more than 6 feet.  Students are in their seats the majority of the day, and they are doing surprisingly well with staying seated.  I give them the option to stand behind their chairs at any point in the day, but most prefer to sit.  Because of the small class size, we are able to get through things quickly.  This is great, considering we have a lot of catching up to do!  Due to all of the sitting, and the heavy workload, I knew my kids would need to have some time to just be kids and play.  I've devoted 15 minutes a day to "free time bags."  This post is all about how I set up and manage these bags.

First, I purchased some reusable zipper bags from Amazon.  *affiliate link HERE*  I decided that I would make ten bags for each class (twenty bags total).  This means I only have to change the materials in the bag every ten days...ten days feels like an eternity, because I am only seeing my kids every other day.  I went with two sets of ten vs. just one, so that I can flip-flop each group's bags every ten days, thus preventing the kids from getting tired of the activities.  

Next, I went through my classroom and pulled activities that my kids could do independently.  I focused on manipulative-type things...think blocks, Mrs. Sketch markers/paper, Lincoln Logs, magnets, Legos, play-doh, etc...I tried to find as many different activities as possible.  I used what I already have.  I have only bought two new activities, because I had an Amazon gift card.  Putting things that are self-explanatory inside is key!  I filled the bags and placed each set of bags into a crate, labeled "blue" and "yellow."  

I printed four sets of these number labels and placed two sets of ten on the bags.  For a visual for my students, I used a pocket chart and labeled the top with each class (blue and yellow).  Then, I placed the other two sets of numbers onto the chart.  Finally, I added my students' names.  Each name is next to a number.

Each day, for free time bags, students sanitize their hands, check the pocket chart and grab their bag.  They can sit on the floor behind their desk, or sit in their chair if they choose.  They are given 15 minutes of play time.  During this time, I can pull kids for quick assessments or make-up work if needed.  It also gives me time to interact and play with them. After free time is up, I immediately go over to the pocket chart and rotate the number cards down.  Tip: Keep track of who started with bag #1, or mark in your calendar when you will need to change the materials inside.

The kids and I both absolutely love this time, and although it was established for this year's unique situation, I foresee doing it permanently in years to come!  

Check out some of my favorite activities for the bags by shopping my Amazon Store (specifically "Games and Puzzles" and "Math") HERE!  



Sunday, October 4, 2020

Fire Prevention Week

*This post is sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association and Sparky the Fire Dog® 

Good Morning and Happy Weekend!  Did you know that October 4-10 is Fire Prevention Week?  It's vital that we as educators teach our students about fire prevention and fire safety.  When children are informed on this topic, they know what to expect and what action to take should they ever face a real fire.  

In the past, I've shown my students videos about fire safety, had discussions and did a few activities.  I recently took some time to check out two great websites, and, both of which are loaded with Fire Prevention resources.  Sparky is a website that was created for parents and their children.  Sparky Schoolhouse was created specifically for educators.  Both sites feature content appropriate for grades k-5, but specifically focuses on grades k-2.  I'll share what I liked about both below.


The first thing I noticed about the Sparky website was the ability to filter material by grade level.  Once filtered by first grade, I checked out some fire safety videos.  I watched one on safety in the kitchen as well as one called "I Spy Fire Safety."  I found the videos to be age-appropriate, relevant, and short/to the point.  The images in the video are clear and visually appealing.

Sparky also has a large "activities" section, which contains printables such as mazes, coloring pages, bookmarks, and more.  

I checked out the "firetrucks" section of the website.  This is where kids can explore different fire trucks, as well as their parts.

There is a games/app section on the website, and a link for downloading the Sparky's Fun House app.  This app is fantastic for anytime, but is especially great during Fire Prevention Week!

Sparky Schoolhouse

Again, the ease of sorting content by grade level was fantastic.  I began with that and then checked out some of the printable lessons.  The first lesson I came across was called "Learn Not to Burn."  It's a 78-page PDF full of 6 fire safety lessons, activities, and home connections.  This is a great resource to use during Fire Prevention Week.  

If you've been around my blog for a bit, you know that I LOVE children's books!  I found a great read aloud called Sparky the Fire Dog.  I also found a printable story map to go with it.  This will be perfect, as we are currently working on story elements in class!  

There are many videos to choose from on Sparky Schoolhouse.  I like how the videos combine real people, cartoons, images, and characters in costume.  The variety keeps kids engaged.  

I am so happy that I came across both Sparky and Sparky Schoolhouse.  I will definitely be upping my Fire Prevention/Fire Safety game with some of the cool resources I found!  I hope you'll take some time to check out both sites as well.  

Stay safe!


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Back to School 2020-2021

 Hello, friends!  Today's post is my annual "back to school" post.  It includes a few classroom photos (nothing too exciting this year, given the circumstances) as well as what I've been doing with my students during the first few weeks of school.  We are a hybrid model this year.  I have 2 groups of 8 students.  Each group alternates days.  I see kids 5 days a week.  On the kids' off days, they are doing paper/pencil spiral review as well as some optional online activities.  

Here's my hallway display!  Grab the sign by clicking below!  The banner is from Target several years ago.

This is my door.  The pencils have my kids names on them now.  The saying is one my mom, a retired 4th grade teacher, always used in her classroom.  She always helps me set up, but this year did not, due to Covid.  I put the saying up in honor of her!

Here are how the student desks are arranged.  As I mentioned above, I have two groups of eight.  Each student is spaced out and sits by themselves.  

Here is my trick word wall.  We use Fundations Phonics, so my words coincide with the program.  You can grab my Level 1 word wall by clicking the image below.

Also pictured is the classroom library.  I sort my books by theme.  The kids select six books and keep them in their baggies to read daily until they shop for new ones, which is every five days.  You can grab the library labels by clicking the image below.

Speaking of Fundations, here is my Fundations area.

Next up is the calendar bulletin board.  I don't "do calendar" anymore, and haven't for probably 15 years, but I still like to display a calendar for the kids.

These hand-washing posters are hung next to my classroom sink...yes I am lucky enough to have a sink in my room!!  You can grab the posters by clicking the image below.

This is the class birthday board.  I bought the cards from First Grade Blue Skies several years ago.  I made the board by painting a picture frame black, adding Scrabble tiles, twine, and mini clothespins.  The birthday board cards are editable so you can type your kids' birthdays into them.  I've also just written them with EXPO marker and erased them each year.  Click the image below to grab the cards.

That's all the classroom photos I have this year.  Now let's look at what the kids have been up to!

When they arrived on the first day, I had crayons and a coloring sheet ready on their desks.  I do this each year, however this year's coloring page looked different than years past!

We learned about hand-washing right away!  We even had a nurse from our Children's Hospital come and teach us proper technique.

We did lots of sorts for expected behavior vs. unexpected behavior.  These sorts covered different areas of the school...lunch room, playground, restroom, classroom, hallway, etc...Find the sorts HERE.

We created our own BINGO boards and played "School Supply BINGO."  Grab it by clicking HERE.

We worked on a "First Day of School" mini-book.  This is always a great time-filler!!  Grab it HERE.

We read tons of back to school books.  You can shop my favorite books on Amazon with my affiliate links HEREMy Mouth is a Volcano  is always a class favorite.  Several of my students struggled with shouting out the first week of school, so I implemented my volcano trick.  It's a strip of laminated squares with volcano images on it.  Each time they shout out, they have to place a volcano on my desk.  When all their volcanos are gone, they must move their clip.  The visuals work like a charm.  Eventually, I remove the strip, because they are able to demonstrate self control.  Grab the volcano images and sort HERE.

A few days in, I begin some assessments.  Shown below are cvc words, number ID, and number writing.  Grab my back to school assessment pack by clicking the image below.

In Math, we have been reviewing 20.  The kids missed out on their teen number instruction in kindergarten, so we are filling in the gaps.  We've been counting, watching counting You-Tube videos, and playing independent games to help with number ID.

Grab the spinner game FREE by clicking below.  

We have also been playing games from my "Math Games on the Fly" bundle, which you can check out below.  Almost all the games within it are zero prep!!

I created this 120 number grid over the summer.  It was a free download from A Differentiated Kindergarten.  You can grab it HERE.

I placed these number charts on my kids' desks.  They were a free download from This Reading Mama.  Grab them HERE.  *I printed multiple to a page to make them small.

Each class created their own class promise.  I typed it up, sent a copy home, and hung a laminated version in the classroom.  I took their pictures and they surround their classes' promise.

I sent home our first book order last week.  I always have the kids preview it in class.  That way, they can show their families what they saw/liked.

The classroom library was introduced the first week.  I usually wait a bit but we all know the kids haven't been reading for 6 months sooooooooooooo......

I usually start them out with a few minutes of reading time, but this year, we began with 10 minutes and it was fine.  The ask me "When is it time to read our books?" every day!!!!!!

In addition to number ID, we're working on letter ID.  I created a quick "color the room" activity for the kids to use to go on a letter hunt.  The apple cards and recording sheets comes in lowercase letters or capital letters.  You can grab this FREEBIE below!

My favorite picture book of all time is Corduroy.  We read it and made our own bears.  We also wrote about our favorite toys.  Grab the craft patterns HERE.  

I introduced the early finisher board.  I have kids staggering in to eat breakfast for about 20 minutes each morning.  I needed to have something for the kids who don't eat breakfast at school (and those who eat quickly) to do.  My teammate suggested my Early Finisher Board and it's been working really well so far!  Click below to grab it.

That's a wrap!  Thanks for sticking with me for this whole post!  If you have questions, feel free to email me at