Friday, August 26, 2011

Freebie Friday!

It's Freebie Friday over at Blog Hoppin'!  I've been waiting for this day all week long.  Love finding new stuff!

I'm absolutely OBSESSED with sorting activities (they're totally perfect for my construction station)!  Here are a couple I've made to go along with our math series, Math in Focus. 

This one is a number bonds sort for first grade.

And here's one for second grade over standard, expanded, and word form.

Happy Friday!  I have a feeling my printer is going to be working overtime tonight...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three for Thursday!

Teacher Week continues over at Blog Hoppin' with Three for Thursday!

My favorite font:

How am I supposed to pick ONE favorite font?!?  No way, Jose!  I love all of 'em over at Kevin and Amanda!  "You Wish You Were A Shirley" is making me pretty happy at the moment, so I'm going with it!

I get the cutest scrapbooking fonts at Free Scrapbook Fonts!

My favorite blog:

OK, again...I'm extremely indecisive.  I'm going with one teacher-y blog and one non-teacher blog. 

My favorite teacher blog is the very first teacher blog I ever started reading in college, It's Not All Flowers and Sausages by Mrs.Mimi.  She is fabulously hilarious and I love her sense of humor!  She's snarky...and I like that.  She finds humor in even the most ridiculous and dark situations (and there can be several of those in our line of work!).  She wrote a book based on her blog, got her PhD, and I don't believe she teaches anymore.  I think she is doing some consulting.  But she still blogs and is still laugh out loud funny!

My favorite non-teacher blog is Whoorl.  She's been in my Google reader for years!  Her kiddos are precious and she does awesome hair and makeup tutorials!  So fun!  I get all kinds of product recommendations from her (as if I need any more products...)

My favorite online resource...

I've been loving Kelly's Kindergarten since my student teaching!  I get so many great games from her site.  Most of her games are reading, but I change them up and make them go with our math content.  The kids LOVE them and don't even realize they're learning!

Can't wait to hop over to your blogs and read about your favorite things!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where It All Goes Down...

Well, I'm 15 days into school and my classroom is a hot mess! has that nice "learned in" look.  I got in like 6 sets of new textbooks last week and I have 28 kids so there's NO EXTRA SPACE.  Seriously, if I get any more stuff, I don't know where it will go!  So I'm going to take this opportunity to share some pictures of the Project CHILD elements in my classroom.  (Project CHILD highlights...we work in "clusters" of 3 teachers, each specializing in a content area, we keep our kids for 3 years, and our kiddos work in stations daily.)  Here are a couple quick pictures of the whole shebang:
Every day, our kids go to stations.  (In the pictures above you can see the station signs hanging from the ceiling.)  They choose their station using the station assignment board:

They can go to computers, textbook (paper/pencil activities), teacher (small group instruction), challenge (a game), exploration (working with manipulatives), construction (cut and paste activities), or to the library.  Our library is free flow, so we don't have a set time each week.  They can go whenever they want!  Students choose their own stations.  They LOVE this!  The same activities are at each station for two weeks, so they usually have time to get to everything.  They record where they've been on their Passports:

I keep my station materials in tubs.  Each grade level is assigned a color and that color stays with them from kindergarten through fifth grade.  That way they always know which set of station tubs to use.  This is how I keep my tubs organized: 

Something new that we added last year is a College Station.  We work really hard to make sure all of our kids know that they WILL go to college.  Every year, all of our students go on a college tour.  Our kindergarteners go to the local community college and every year they get farther from home until they get to make the big trip to the University of Kentucky in fifth grade!  It's really exciting and so awesome to see my babies on a college campus.  But we decided to do a college station to help our kids explore more about college, the application process, campus life, etc.  Here's a picture of my college station (it's totally cramped and yes, I have a lot of STUFF!):
I'll share the activity that our kindergarteners do (because that's the one I made!).  This is based on the "road" to college.  We were supposed to tie in our content (math!), so I made it a patterning activity.

You can download it here.

I'm off to check out {and drool over} all of the other Blog Hoppers' classrooms! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teacher Talk Tuesday

Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin' continues today with Teacher Talk Tuesday: advice for new teachers!  I'm in my third year of teaching, so I'm pretty new myself.  Just warning you not to expect anything terribly profound here... 

Be flexible.  Eleventy million things can (and will) go wrong.  The PE teacher will be out sick.  Someone will throw up.  The interventionist will need to change group times just this once.  You will have three different parents show up with 30 cupcakes each on the same afternoon without checking to see if it was ok (true story).  Just take a deep breath and a swig of your caffeinated beverage of choice and go with it...  It will all work out in the end!

Become BFF with the janitors.  Make your kids pick up trash, wipe the tables, etc...anything to make the janitor's life a little easier.  They notice these things!  They tell me all the time that I have one of the cleanest rooms in the school.  And anytime I need something, they don't hesitate to help me out.  (This may just be because we have the sweetest janitorial staff EVER.  But good to them and they will be good to you!)

Have fun!  I'll never forget...towards the end of my first year, one of my students was dead serious when he looked at me and asked, "Do you even have a job?"  It cracked me up and I took it as a compliment.  He didn't see all the work I put into every single minute of our days together.  He just saw his teacher having fun and making memories.  So find a way to make learning fun.  And take a few minutes to sing a song, do a craft, tell them a joke, let them teach you how to Dougie...  They're kids; fun is their language!   

My biggest advice to anyone, in any situation, at any point in time is this: laugh it off, learn from it, and let it go!  I tell people all the time that I laugh at myself first and foremost...and most often!  You have to find a way to laugh at yourself.  Don't ever take yourself too seriously.  (Now, our jobs are definitely serious business, but there's a difference in taking pride in your awesome work and taking yourself too seriously.)  We all make mistakes every single day and the beauty in that is the opportunity to learn from them and grow.  I don't mind to make a mistake or two (or thirty!) in front of the kids--they need to know that grown ups make mistakes and they need to see how responsible adults handle their slip-ups.  And after my mistakes have been made and I've laughed at myself and let others laugh along, I let it go!  Don't beat yourself up over every.single.little.thing.  Let it go, because it happens to everyone.

...and that's all she wrote.  I can't wait to read all of your awesome advice! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday

I'm so excited to participate in Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin'!  Today is Meet the Teacher Monday! I am!!!

Tell us a little something about you...

I'm Caitlin and I teach primary math.  I'm not married.  No kids.  Just me, myself, and I.  I like it that way; it's quiet and no one bugs me when I come home!  I do love spending lots of time with my friends and family though!  When I'm not teaching, I love to shop.  Seriously.  It might be an addiction.  I'm pretty sure I keep JCrew in business.  When I'm not teaching or shopping, I'm probably watching tv.  Love me some Chelsea Lately, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, Criminal Minds, oh I could go on and on.  My DVR gets pretty full and I love Sundays because that's my DVR clearing out time.

How long have you been teaching?

I have been teaching for three years.  I have a second grade homeroom, but teach math to kindergarten, first, and second grades.  My school is a Project CHILD school, meaning we keep our kids for three years and we are all content area specialists.  It's really a great way to teach; I get to build amazing relationships with my students and their families and I can concentrate on teaching one subject area well.  I can't imagine teaching any other way.  Outside of my elementary classroom, I have a couple of other teaching gigs: I'm teaching an introduction to education course for my local community college this semester and I recently opened an early childhood enrichment center (think: Mommy and Me, mini-camps, baby sign language).  I stay pretty busy with teaching-related stuff.  Good thing I love it!!

You might not know...

This summer I went with my family to Discovery Cove in Orlando.  And I swam with and kissed a dolphin!  I wish I could just completely and totally gush about it, but I was scared to death.  This grown, 23 year old woman was clinging to her daddy like a 3 year old!  But once I got over my fear (and got used to the freezing water), I had fun.  And I would probably do it again.  Probably.  I told my kiddos about it on the first day of school and that afternoon, one of my little friends brought me a picture she drew of me kissing a dolphin and the dolphin was saying, "I got kissed by a teacher!"  Here I was the one freaking out about kissing a dolphin; I never even considered that the dolphin could have been freaked out about kissing a teacher!

What are you looking most forward to this school year?

Getting a Smartboard!!!!!!!  Any day now, I've been told!  I'm so stinkin' excited.  I'll be at school constantly working on lessons and figuring out all kinds of cool stuff to do with it!  Can't hardly wait!

What do you need to improve?

Spending my time wisely!  I love to talk and spend most of my time before and after school in other teacher's rooms chatting it up.  I should be spending that time in my own room doing lesson plans so I'm not there until 8:00 on Friday nights.  It's just so hard to teach with your best friends!!

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?

I think I would die without my iPod!  I sing ALL.DAY.LONG. and use my iPod to make playlists so I'm not shuffling through CDs all day.  Makes my life so much easier. 

I completely and totally rely on my cutesy clipboard.  Since our kids rotate classes, we keep our behavior chart on a clipboard.  Mine is pink, polka dot, monogrammed, and adorned with grosgrain ribbon...of course!

I also need my Mr. Sketch markers, my black ballet flat house slippers (you know, for those days when my superfab shoes start killing my feet), and my Tervis tumbler to keep my Dr. Pepper cold all day long.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ooh La La! Some new-ness!

Ooh La La!  My little blog got a marvelous makeover this weekend by the wonderful Mckenna of Project 3 Designs!  She was great to work with--the process was so easy and she did a great job!

I'm also so very excited to be part of Me and My Gang!  Such a great way for teachers to collaborate and get and share new ideas for their classroom.  I've already found some awesome things over there.  If you haven't checked it out, you should go.  NOW! 

Last but not least, I thought I would share something I'll be sending home with my kinders tomorrow.  Several of my little friends are pretty inexperienced with writing (which wasn't the case last year--I was totally spoiled!), so I typed up our numeral song to send home for parents to keep on their fridge so they can help their child make their numerals correctly.  You can download it here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Second "First Day" of the year!

Today is my second "first day" of teaching this year... but it's a different kind of first day.  It's my first day teaching a college course!  I am so excited to teach Introduction to Education for our local community college!  But I'm also super nervous.  I'm just a few years out of college myself, so I remember the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I don't want to be bad...or ugly!  I hope that I'm giving them practical and useful assignments and that they don't view the coursework as "busy work".  I also hope I don't get overwhelmed with teaching elementary school, teaching college, starting my own early childhood enrichment center (after school and on breaks!), and oh yeah!  Blogging! 

Have any of you taught at the college level?  Any tips or tricks?  Anyone want to place a bet on who gives me more of  a run for my money: 26 adults or 26 kindergarteners?!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Making Sense of Numbers

Any Math in Focus users out there?  My district adopted the series last year and after having a year to make sense of it, I'm starting to catch on and really enjoy the series.  It took some getting used to because the Singapore strategies definitely make you think about math in a different way.  But now I have a better idea of what I need to do to give my kiddos what they need to be successful in the series.

The series is VERY heavy on number sense.  Which is great, but the beginning of the first grade series is WAY too simple for my current first graders, so I've been coming up with different ideas to teach the content but challenge them a bit.  I decided to try to play more games instead of just having them breeze through the workbook pages and call it a day.

When I teach fact families, I always play a game where I give each child a math problem and they have to go find their family.  Well, I decided to take the different representations of numbers (ten frame, standard form, word form, and number bond) and have them find the other representations of the number on their card.  They LOVED playing this and it was a great way for us to review numbers to 10 without me boring them to death!

You can download one through ten here

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

...and summer's lease hath all too short a date!

Ahh...I've made it through the first FOUR days of school.  I'm not completely convinced I'm going to make it through an entire week, you know, five days in a row.  But we shall see!  We start so stinkin' early and I have NO IDEA where my summer went.

Luckily, my friends are AHmazing.  I'm 99.9% sure this is going to be the BEST.YEAR.EVER.  Want to know the best part about teaching the way I do?  My second graders come back in after being with me for two years and it's like they never even left!  They ran in the first day to give me a big "I MISSED YOU!" hug and we got right down to business.  My first graders remembered me and my classroom from kindergarten.  So the only new ones I have to train are the kindergarteners.  And boy oh boy, do we have a lot of training to do!  They are wonderfully fabulous, don't get me wrong.  Today they all told me how beautiful my hair was, my make up was, and my dress was.  All 24 of them.  {And I didn't stop them.  I should have.  But I didn't.  Massive amounts of daily compliments from sweet little people are just a perk of my job.}  Even though they're fabulous, they are NOTHING like last year's kindergarteners.  Last year's class didn't speak unless spoken to, they always walked in a straight line, and I very rarely had to raise my voice.  These kids?  Well, let's just say they're full of character!  And I can't wait to get to know my new cast of kinderfriends better.  I have a feeling they're going to rock it tomorrow.  {fingers crossed anyway!}

Favorite moments from the past four days...

"I-I-I-I... I wasn't running.  I was speedwalking."  ...I would appreciate it if you slowwalk in the hall from now on.

Ms. Preppy: Raise your hand if you can come up here and find the number one.
KinderFriend with Beautifully Raised Hand: If I built an igloo, I would make sure to put a light in there.  That way it won't be dark.
Great idea!  And congratulations, you've earned the non sequitur award today!  Let's bring it on back...I think you should put ONE light in your ONE igloo.  Can you come circle the number ONE?!

After teaching for about ten minutes, I look over by my closet and see a lone shoe...
Ms. Preppy: Is someone missing one of their shoes?
Shoeless Wonder: Oh!!  It must have fallen off while I was walking!
...and you haven't realized by now that you're missing a shoe?!!  My kinderfriends this year LOVE to take their shoes off.  I've never seen (or smelled) anything like it. 

Finally...a proud accomplishment: only TWO little kindergarten friends colored with their glue sticks yesterday.  Progress!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Top 3 Things Linky Party

I've been finding so many wonderful blogs over the past few weeks!  Becca over at Simply 2nd Resources is encouraging everyone to share the top three things they are going to focus on this school year.  Here are mine:

1. Technology- I should be getting a SmartBoard ANY!DAY!NOW!  And I can't hardly wait.  My two math teammates both have SmartBoards, so I've been left out of all the fun for the past year.  I want to find, create, and incorporate some awesome interactive lessons with my kiddos.  I can't wait to see how a SmartBoard transforms my teaching and my students' learning. 

2. Small Group Instruction- My students visit math stations each day.  One of those stations is Teacher Station.  I want to make better use of this time with small groups.  In previous years, I've had one activity at the station, but this year I want to have a variety of activities to choose from so I can give each student what they need.  Stations are student-selected, so I'm not able to create leveled groups during that time (that probably would be the easiest solution, but...we like giving our students choices).  But I know I can do better at differentiating activities so everyone in my class gets the most out of teacher station.

3. Creativity!- For the past couple of years, I've been using the same resources and activities that I inherited from the previous teacher.  This year, I want to branch out a little and create new things!  We got a new math curriculum (Math in Focus) last year.  Now that I've spent a year stumbling through learning the curriculum, I know what the kids need to know and where the book is taking them.  So I'm looking forward to creating some awesome station/center activities based on the Singapore math strategies taught in Math in Focus {and sharing them with YOU!}.

Join in the fun and share your top 3 focus areas for the year!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


The past couple of years, I have been dying to use Bucket Fillers in my classroom...I just haven't been able to find a practical way to make it work with three different classes of kiddos who move around all day! 

Until the other day at a district training when I saw one of my old high school teachers and was reminded of something she did in her classroom.  She called it "Bravos".  She kept a bucket and some slips of paper in the back of the room and anytime we saw someone do something awesome, we could write them a Bravo.  This could be done anonymously or we could sign our name.  Some were serious, some were funny, but they were all full of warm fuzzies.  Each Friday before the bell rang, she would spend about five minutes reading all the Bravos for the week.  Even in high school I knew I was going to be a teacher, and I LOVED the idea.  I don't know how it ever escaped me!  (I should have written it down...)

Soooo....I spent some time today making my own Bravos buckets for each of my classes!  I made a little sign and printed it on colored cardstock that corresponds with that grade's color (we have a different color for each grade for materials management purposes).  Here's the sign:
I also made little slips of paper for my students to write their Bravos on. 
I hope the kids get into it!  I think I'm going to suggest it to our principal to use during staff meetings too!  I notice so many other teachers doing neat things that I then incorporate into my classroom, but sometimes I forget to give them proper credit or thanks!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Behave yourself!

I am lucky enough to team teach with two fabulous women.  We divide and conquer about 80 primary children each day.  I teach all of the math, and the other two each teach reading and writing.  We start out with the kids in kindergarten and get to see them grow all the way through second grade, which is my "homeroom".  I absolutely love teaching this way and can't imagine keeping the same students all day long!  (Yes, even our little kindergarten friends switch classes like middle and high schoolers! And they ROCK at it.)

When teaching this way, you have to work very closely with your teammates to ensure consistency when it comes to behavior management.  Otherwise, things get CRAZY.  FAST.  We spend a day each summer going over our procedures and expectations to make sure we are as consistent as possible within our three classrooms.  All of us use CHAMPS (am I the only one reminding strangers in the movie theater to check their conversation level?!) and have the same consequences for not following the CHAMPS chart. 

Last summer, we created behavior charts for our little friends to carry in their folder from class to class.  It lists all three classes and has a space for each teacher to note the student's behavior in that class.  Students are allowed to color in their smiley face if they are a champ during that class.  But if they receive a behavior mark for not following the CHAMPS chart, we fill out their chart and write their infraction for parents to see.  This is sent home nightly and parents are required to sign it.  This had such a positive impact on our behavior management!  Students were able to see that even though they slipped up in one class, they still had a chance to get a smiley face in the next class.  It also allowed us to conference with students as we filled out their charts.  We would encourage them to make better choices and offer suggestions for how they should behave differently next time.  We saw amazing improvements in some of our friends over the course of the year!

I don't know if any of you departmentalize, but I thought I would share what works so well for my team!  Maybe you will find it useful too!  Behavior Choices (I'm sooo new to this--there has to be a better way to post than Google docs...please tell me!!)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hello Bloggy World!

My, my, my...why am I just now stumbling upon the brilliance of edublogging?  I have spent my summer reading blog after blog and printing off idea after fabulous idea.  It's UNREAL!  And I need in on the action.  Allow me to introduce myself: I'm Ms. Preppy, and I'm a teacher blog addict. (I can hear you all now, "Hi, Ms. Preppy!").  I've been teaching primary math for three years.  And I love it.  LOVE it.  Love my little friends, my coworkers, and the fact that there's never a dull moment in any of my days.  I also have a serious obsession with all things polka dotted, monogrammed, and pink and green.  Seriously.  It's bad.  Don't hold it against me.

I can't wait to share my adventures and ideas with you.  I make no guarantees that awesomeness will ever come forth from this blog, but at the very least, you will be entertained by my many mishaps.