Monday, September 17, 2018

Back to School with Kwik Stix

I love finding great materials for my classroom!  Especially those that my kids love just as much as I do!  For several years now, Kwik Stix have been a staple in my first grade classroom.  If you are not familiar with them, here's a little info:  Kwik Stix are Tempera Paint Sticks.  They allow little ones to paint without the huge mess and involvement of cups, smocks, brushes, or water.  To use, just uncap the stick, twist, and paint.  Kwik Stix have a wonderful, fast-drying formula that allows them to dry in just 90 seconds!!  They can be used on paper, cardboard, wood, or canvas.

Kwik Stix have been a part of my inside recess activitie for the past two years.  However, recently, I decided to incorporate them into our literacy center time.  I wanted a new activity for my students to do during centers that reviewed the sight words they learned in kindergarten.  Reviewing the previous year's words at the start of the year is a great review for kids!  I created some word booklets with a chunky font that would allow the kids to paint their words with Kwik Stix!  Let's just say that this activity has been a HIT!  I attest it all to the incorporation of the paint sticks!  I know that I will be using Kwik Stix many more times in my center rotation as the year continues!

If you'd like to enter to win a set of Kwik Stix for your classroom, simply enter the Rafflecopter below!  Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Don't want to wait to see if you've won?  Grab Kwik Stix below on Amazon (affiliate link)!


Disclosure: I received compensation and/or products in exchange for writing this review.  However all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Scholastic Books--A Great Idea for You!

Earlier this summer, I saw a fabulous post by someone on Facebook about Scholastic Books.  I can't credit where it came from because I saw it multiple places.  I modified the post a bit and posted it on my own Facebook wall.  This is what my post said:

"Tomorrow I meet my kids! School begins on Wednesday. 📚 I don’t know about you, but I remember bringing home Scholastic book orders and being so excited to pick out a book or even several books! As a teacher, I still love looking through them. Also, seeing my students excited about reading and picking out books is awesome. However, the majority of my students can’t afford to purchase these books to take home and call their own. I saw an idea from a friend that I thought sounded cool. Would you be willing to sponsor a child in my room so they can get a new book of their own every month? Scholastic offers a different book each month for $1. I’d love to order every student in my class a new book for the next 10 months. If you are interested, you can write a check to Scholastic Book Clubs and mail/PayPal/give it to me. I would love to have the opportunity to do this for my students!! Thank you so much for your support. I know each of my students will be so excited and truly appreciate your kindness! ❤️"

When I saw this idea, I knew it was something I wanted to do!  I teach in a high-poverty, TITLE I school.  One of my biggest if not my number one goal as an elementary teacher is to help my students develop a love for reading.  I do this through allocating time for multiple read-alouds every day, a dedicated "Self-Selected Reading" time for 25-30 minutes every day, setting up a listening center that the kids all visit 1x per week, and through providing my students a beautiful classroom library to peruse.  In addition, I send home a Scholastic Books order form each month.

Although I send home book orders every month, most months I only have 1 or 2 orders, which usually each total under $10.  I remember as a kid LOVING the Scholastic book orders!  I had it real good, because my mom was a 4th grade teacher and always let me pick books out.  I have always wanted to share the joy that is Scholastic Books with my students, but never knew how.  As soon as I posted the above words on my FB wall, so many people began commenting that they wanted to donate!  I was so happy and surprised!  I actually got more than I was even hoping for!  For those who sent me checks, I simply deposited all of the money into my Scholastic Books account.  I divided my grand total up by 10 (for 10 months of school) and that told me how much I can spend each month.  Each month, I will continue to send orders home with families.  In addition, I will place an order myself, where I select 18 books that are between $1-$2.  Then, every month, ALL of my kids will get a FREE book...regardless of whether their families ordered for them!!!  Isn't that fabulous!?  Also, a family member reminded me of the bonus points I will earn each month on top of this!  More free books for the kids!  Hooray!  

I placed my first order in August and here are all the $1-$2 books I got!  I'll be distributing them next week!  

I had to share this idea with you in case you want to try it.  I bet if you do, you'll be amazed at how many generous friends/family members donate!  


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Mead Laminator

I'm always on the hunt for classroom materials that can make my job a little easier!  I have owned a personal laminator for about five years now and can't imagine not having one.  I love the ease of being able to print and then laminate at my house.  There are many days when I'm exhausted and don't want to wait after school for the laminator to heat up.  Knowing I can laminate at home makes preparing materials so much less stressful.  Recently, I got to try out Mead's new line of personal laminators.

*Disclosure:  I received compensation and/or products in exchange for writing this review.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.*

I received Mead's Heat Seal Pro Thermal 12.5 inch pouch laminator and the EZ Align 3 mil thermal lamination pouches.  Upon opening the box, I noticed how slim and portable the machine was.  The laminator measures 18 1/2" x 5x3.  I live in a very small house and don't have much office space.  I typically laminate in the kitchen (hahaha!) so I'm always hauling my laminator back and forth from my office closet to the kitchen.  I love that I can easily tuck the machine away when it's not in use.

I made a few InstaStories of me trying out my new laminator (be sure to check those out by following @mrswheeler44 on Instagram) and I was blown away at how quickly the machine heated up!  It was so fast; approximately 3 minutes!  This is especially helpful for all of us busy teachers and moms who need to make every minute count!

The laminating pouches that I received were fantastic and unlike any other pouches I've ever had in the past.  The EZ Align feature allows you to line up smaller pieces in the pouch on the printed grid.  Once the pouch enters the laminator, the grid magically disappears!  I personally prefer to use the 3 mil laminating pouches because they are thick but not too thick or sharp on my first graders' fingers when the pieces are cut out.  I also like a bit of flexibility with the lamination.  However, if you prefer 5 mil, you can always use that thickness with this machine.  Simply switch the button on the back to the mil you prefer!  You can also switch the setting on the laminator between hot or cold.  This is a great feature if you are someone who laminates a lot and likes to use both settings.

The first project I tried was laminating restroom passes that I made for our cafeteria.  These get used often each day and I wanted to see if they would pass the test of time!  The laminating was quick and I was thoroughly impressed with how sturdy the passes turned out!

Look how beautifully they turned out!  High quality and the perfect thickness.

Thank you, Mead, for allowing me to try out this new laminator.  I am happy to report that it has replaced my old laminator!  Can't wait to laminate all the things!

For a chance to win a Mead HeatSeal Thermal Laminator of your own, simply enter the Rafflecopter below!  Winner announced September 12.  Good luck to you!  *PS: My friend Lori over at Teaching with Love and Laughter is also hosting a laminator giveaway!  Hooray for two chances to win!  Head to her page to enter!!!  Just click HERE to check out her post!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't wait to wait for a giveaway??  Grab your own Mead HeatSeal laminator and pouches below on Amazon or directly through Mead:



Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Starting Literacy Centers: Where to Begin

I think it's fair to say that center time is my kids' favorite time of day.  In a day full of "rigor" (I hate that word, BTW) and one-size-fits-all curriculum, center time is a time for kids to just BE KIDS.  There is no one talking at them, no one making them sit for extended periods of time, and no one "shhhishing" them.  Center time is a non-negotiable time in my classroom.  We do centers every day, no matter what.  I often receive questions about what center time looks like and how to set it up.  Tonight's post is going to answer those two questions and hopefully help get your little ones started with centers, too!  I've included links to my favorite products to use for centers.  Feel free to click them and take a look! 

Note:  This is the way that I have run centers for many years.  I have tried Daily 5 and it wasn't for me.  I have also tried having kids visit more than one center per day and it was too chaotic for me.  If those methods work for you, excellent! 

The first thing I do when planning centers is organize my groups.  I group heterogeneously.  I try to mix ability levels.  The last thing I want is for my students to struggle while completing centers; center time is intended to be fun, spiral practice, not a time to stress kids out.  I usually put one strong "leader" in each group.  This way, if the others have questions about what to do or how to get started, the leaders will take charge and give direction.  I typically make 5 groups with no more than 4 per group.  *If you have a larger class size than 20 students, I recommend making 6 groups.  The center groups are fluid...once you start, you are probably going to notice some behavior problems and want to rearrange the students in the groups.  That's perfectly fine!  I move kids around in groups every couple weeks anyways, to get them used to working with everyone in the class.  To organize my groups, I use a little pocket chart from Target.  I use clip art of the number of centers I have.  I place a coordinating number on the actual bin/container I use for centers.  Next to the numbers on the pocket chart, I place student photos and names.  (See photo below)  My kids visit just one center per day.  Center time lasts about 20 minutes. 

Practicing/Setting up Guidelines
Once groups are established, I plan my centers out.  To begin, I recommend "play" centers.  Start by placing blocks, legos, play-doh, your bins...think inside recess activities.  Establish guidelines for centers with your students prior to beginning.  Making an anchor chart that can stay up all year is a great idea.  *I let my students know that center time is a privilege and that if they can not handle centers and follow the expectations, they will not be allowed to do them the next day.  I have already had several friends sit out from centers a day after they didn't work during their center time or didn't help their teammates clean up afterward.  I will say that once a friend sits out once, they probably never will again.  Let your children practice for an entire week with the "play" centers.  Float around and intervene as needed.  Be sure to reflect with kids each day about how they felt centers went. 

 The Real Deal
Once kids are ready, plan out your centers!  I like to begin with very simple activities.  Currently, we are working on my Fundations Phonics Level 1, Unit 1 game pack.  These activities coincide with our Phonics program.  However, I have many themed center packs that would be great for this time of year.  My Back to School BBQ center pack is perfect for August/September.  My Apple center pack is great for mid-late September.  Many of the products in my store would be perfect for centers!  I love using stamping activities, magnet mats, and play-doh mats as centers.  I also enjoy these short vowel packs for centers at the beginning of the year.  I make one center the listening center.  I have many books on tape/cd that I have purchased over the years for this.  The kids know that one center will always be the listening center. 

To grab all of my centers in one large bundle and save money, click below!  Hopefully this post helps you organize your thoughts about setting up a center routine!  What additional questions do you have?


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Classroom Tour

Hello!  Today's blog post is my classroom tour!  I have been back to school two weeks now.  My room only took about a day and a half to set up.  I had my mom here to help me.  This was our 15th year to set up the room together!  She's such a life-saver and can knock out any task quickly! 

This is the front of my desk.  The buses represent the homework club.  Each kid has a bus with their name on it.  They all begin the quarter with their bus on the desk.  If they forget their homework, they get their bus removed. 

This is the carpet area.  We meet there for morning meeting, read-aloud, Math talks, and more.  The bookshelf wasn't here before this year but I'm really liking having it so far! 

The bulletin board is where I post any behavior posters/reminders.  We are a PBIS school and I make tons of visuals that I hang up. 

This white board is another spot to hang behavior posters.  It's magnetic. 

This is the computer area that my kids use for Xtra Math and ABC Mouse.  Each morning, I choose two kids to be on one of the programs when they come in.  The kids know that when it's their day to be on computer, they don't have to do their morning work papers.  Woo Hoo!  Haha! 

Now we come to my favorite area of the room: the library/word wall.  I got some new bins this year from Lakeshore Learning.  I have my books sorted by category.  You can find the library labels HERE.  The word wall was a labor of love last year.  My mom and I (well mostly my mom hahaha) put it up last year.  We used ribbon as the dividers. 

These tubs hold all of my monthly centers/art projects/games/etc...I only keep seasonal items in here.  The file boxes are from Office Depot.  I have had them for many years.  Overall they have held up but a few have cracked. 

This is my small group table.  Behind it is lots of storage!  This year, my student teacher is sitting there and using it as her "desk." 

Here is the front board.  The calendar is from Creative Teaching Press.  On the board, I have my classroom helpers, my noise level lights, a movement word of the day poster, the date, and our classroom hand signal signs. 

This is the pencil area and morning work container.  When the kids come in each day, they grab their morning work and get started.  **The kids also get one pencil per day.  They are not allowed to use the sharpener; only adults! 

This is the bookcase inside the door.  I keep my crayon sorter, Math games, kindness notes, tissues, wipes, and sanitizer. 

Here's my mailbox system.  I used binder clips to number them.  The clips/stickers have lasted many, many years!  I believe the mailbox system is from Really Good Stuff. 

This is where I keep my teacher read-aloud books.  The kids are not allowed to touch the books.  To see a list of some of my favorite read-aloud books, click HERE.   

Get ready to be jealous!  This is the sink area.  I love having a sink in my room.  I wash my hands constantly, lol.  The kids use the drinking fountain in the room. 

 Storage!  Skill boxes!

Isn't my mom so cute!?