Costume 101: Teacher Edition

No time? Limited funds? We’ve got you covered.

The thought of a school Halloween party can be with fangs and masks on a sugar high can add up to be a teacher’s worst nightmare. Still, I absolutely love this time of year both inside and outside of the classroom! There’s no better time than Halloween to show to your school (and the community!) just how on point your squad is. Costumes are always more fun in a group, and they’re a fun way to show off your creativity while relating to your students.

Are you already stressed about the month of October? Check out my no prep fall mini units featuring bones, leaves, owls, and spiders and give yourself a much needed break!

I have to brag about my team here for a minute...these girls keep me going! Whether we’re in the guided reading trenches or planning for our annual talent show, my squad keeps me motivated and laughing at all times. Here are our costumes from over the years, with some DIY tips on my particular costumes!

Candy Land

Dressing as the characters from one of the kids’ favorite games is an easy go-to costume. This idea can be stretched or shrunk depending on the size of your team. This year, I was Queen Frostine. My friend Jesica at From Bow to Toe made me this fabulous tutu adorned with tiny snowflakes. I added a coordinating long sleeve tee and some leggings for warmth, dug out a crown from my days in pageantry, and fashioned a wand out of a pointer I had in my classroom. The whole school will know just how sweet you are in these adorable costumes!

50s Chicks

We had so much fun with this fashion throwback! This photo is actually from our 50th Day of School celebration, but could easily be a cute Halloween costume. This idea can also be adapted for your favorite decade. I used this easy tutorial to fashion a felt poodle skirt. Paired with a top I already owned, cute glasses, and a silk scarf, I was ready to rock and roll!

101 Dalmatians + Cruella

Your team won’t be hard to spot in this look! Gather up a villain and 101 of your teacher friends, and you’ll have a costume the kids love. This is by far the most cost effective costume option I’m sharing with you today. We glued scraps of felt onto oversize white tees for our shirts, fashioned dog collars out of ribbon, and made ears with Dollar Store headbands and more felt. Paired with black leggings and an eyeliner nose, this look is simple and cheap! Plus, you can reuse these costumes for your 101 Day of School Celebration! Everyone will be wowing at how PAWsome your team looks in these simple costumes.

The Four Seasons

When our team whittled down to just four, the seasons were an easy solution for our Halloween needs (can you tell we are all about pairing oversized tees with leggings?!). This year, I was summer. I used puff paint to decorate my top and sewed on sunflowers from the clearance bin at Michael’s. My sunshine head piece was simply a foam visor (99 cents at the craft store) with more foam glued on. This look shows your kiddos that your team is united, no matter what the season!

Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is a timeless classic that can accommodate many group sizes. Of course, we went with the key characters of the wicked witch, the cowardly lion, the tin man, the scarecrow, and Dorothy. I took on the role Dorothy this year, and wore one of my favorite DIY costumes. Using this simple, new sew tutorial, I had my costume ready in under an hour. After making my skirt, top, and shoes, I simply added a white long sleeve top for warmth and a basket with Toto (borrowed from one of my team members). Sporting these cute looks, you'll follow the yellow brick road to all the Reece’s you can eat!

Still trying to find an idea? Let your students decide! Click here for a fun freebie. Your students will complete a writing prompt to help you decide on your Halloween costume! So cute.

What’s your favorite costume? What look are you planning for this year? Sound off in the comments below...I’m always looking for new ideas!

No "BONES" About It...We Love Science!

Pumpkins and lattes and leaves, oh my...fall is finally here! In just a few short weeks, we'll turn our calendars to glorious October, cozy up in sweaters, and dream up Halloween costumes. While I love all things pumpkin flavored (who doesn't?), I'm most excited to dive into my fall mini unit series! These four mini units cover all things fall, from spiders to skeletons and leaves to owls. Each uses a hands-on, cross-curricular approach to teach your kiddos more about these exciting themes, and is aligned to CCSS. Today, I'm sharing my best selling mini unit of all time, "All About Bones!"

Hilarious comic from BuzzFeed
I use this 21 page set over a five day span, picking and choosing my favorite activities; however, it can easily be used for a longer period of time! We start off the week with my favorite skeleton read aloud by Steve Jenkins, Bones: Skeletons and How They Work. You can find it on Amazon here. This book is chalk full of stunning illustrations and amazing facts about the human skeleton, as well as various animals' skeletal system. The kids LOVE it, and are suddenly full of great questions about bones. We record these on an anchor chart, checking off each question as we discover its answer throughout our study.

I then split my readers by level and we explore our own bone mini books. These mini books all cover the same content, but are coded by reading level to fit the needs of all students. We meet again at the carpet to discuss what we've learned, highlighting important vocabulary words. We then split back into our partner teams to complete a comprehension guide. I always love to see my students' drawing of a skeleton!

For the rest of the week, we continue to learn about bones using amazing books from our library, as well as some free books from GetEpic! (If you haven't heard of GetEpic, sign up now! With your free account, you'll have a free digital library at your fingertips.) Each day, we complete a page or two from my mini unit set, expanding on our science knowledge using reading, writing, and math resources.

By the end of the week, my kiddos are bone experts! Many of them tell me they're now interested in become orthopedic surgeons themselves...I love expanding their horizons to new careers using science! 

On our last day of the mini unit, we create our own model skeleton to hang in our hallway. It is one of my favorite activities of the fall season! Check out their amazing work!

Each student chooses their bone to create using white paper and pencil. They use rulers to "measure" the bone on me first...which means our model turns out to be over five feet tall! Once our bones are completed, we glue together our skeleton on black butcher paper and label him. We then hang Mr. Bones up in the hallway, along with some fun facts so that other kids can check out our interactive display. 

This last project can be a bit time consuming, but is well worth the effort. My kiddos are incredibly proud of their end proud in fact that last year we kept him up until December! 

You won't find mention of "hand bones" or "head bones" in this set...I treat my students as scientists and encourage them to use the proper scientific terms for the bones in their bodies. I absolutely love to hear words like femur, phalanges, and humerus out of the mouth of babes. More than that, I've found that my firsties take incredible pride in using these "grown up" terms. I'm stunned each year with their retention from this mini unit! Well into the spring, my students will tell me they hurt their patella riding their bike, showing me a scrape on their knee and giving me a wide smile that tells me they loved being able to use such a big word.

For three days only (ending September 20, 2017 at midnight), this mini unit is on sale for 20% off in my store! Inside this set, you'll find leveled readers and a matching comprehension guide, a KWL chart, a can/have/are chart, "Name That Bone" cut and paste, skeleton labeling activity, a fact sheet, animal x-rays, report pages, an addition/subtraction activity, and bone tally math. You'll also find directions for a fun art activity and the titles and authors of my favorite skeleton read alouds! 

Looking to save even more? Check out my Fall Mini Unit bundle, covering bones, leaves, owls, and spiders HERE! You'll score all four of my October mini units for the price of just three! These no prep, print and go sets make hectic October planning a breeze! 

What are you teaching in science this fall? Drop your favorite activities in the comments below!

from September to (Mrs.) May Room Reveal 2017

It's finally done! After eight hot, sticky days spent in my classroom, I'm excited to finally share my first ever room reveal with you. I've been inspired by so many classrooms on Instagram, and hope this post offers the same to those of you still readying your room for your new batch of kiddos. I'm including links to all of the products I've used to make my classroom my new happy place. Thanks to many other teachers authors, I'm #btsreadywithtpt!

Let's start with my favorite new feature of my door!

I coated the inside of my door with two layers of black chalk paint and called upon a former student's parent for help with this adorable vinyl decal. This cheap ($15 and free shipping!) and easy update to my door is a great way to welcome students into my classroom!

My first grade squad got door makeovers by Jesica, too. Want your own? Message Jesica on Instagram or Facebook by clicking the links, and tell her I sent you!

I used my own Classroom Careers set and some cute ocean cut outs to create this "You're Hired!" board. Two years ago, I said goodbye to traditional, rotating classroom jobs and I haven't looked back since! During the first few weeks of the school year, I'll carefully watch my new batch of firsties and hire them for their very own Classroom Career, a job that they'll be trained for and then hold for the entire school year. Students are matched with a career that fits their own special skills. For example, my most creative student become the class Artist, and helps other students with their art work and keeps our art center clean! For more about Classroom Careers, check out my previous post.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that the Zen Zone was my saving grace last year. I decided to give this little space an upgrade this year using a cheap, sheer curtain to hang between two filing cabinets. I also added gorgeous (and FREE!) motivational quote posters from 3rd Grade Has It Made and this cute banner from Instruct and Inspire. Read more about how my firsties went ZEN here.

I'm excited to try out Gold Tags as a positive behavior management system this year! Read all about the Gold Tag rage here and access it on TpT here. I'm using these paint chip library card pockets to store my students' gold tags and cut yellow card stock for the tags themselves. I whipped up some simple Pinterest inspired motivational posters to complete this mini board.

I'm off to enjoy the rest of my last weekend as a stay-at-home dog mom. Stay tuned for part two of my room reveal later in the week!

TpT Back to School Sale

We interrupt your regularly scheduled relaxation, Target Dollar Spot spending, and Pinterest pinning to bring you this important announcement...the Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School sale is HERE! On August 1 and 2, you can get all your favorite back to school products for just a fraction of the cost. Just remember to enter the promo code BTS2017 at check out. Since most TpT sellers will have already marked down their stores, you'll score great resources at 25% off! Don't forget to leave reviews for all of your purchases to earn TpT's like getting paid to shop.

UPDATE: TpT has extended their sale for a special BTS Bonus Sale for today, August 22 until 11:59 PM. Just use the code BTSBONUS to get up to 25% off!

To celebrate the sale, I've compiled my list of top five TpT resources for a successful year in the primary grades! These products are all tried and true...I've used them all in my very own classroom, and fell in love with each. Make sure they find their way into your cart this week to score them at a discount!

Before we get to my favorites, check out some of these best selling from September to (Mrs.) May products, all 25% off for the Back to School Sale August 1 and 2 AND the BTS Bonus Sale August 22.

My best selling thematic unit is perfect for spring time or harvest time...learn all about agriculture with 100+ pages of no prep printables and the Barnyard Olympics! Check out the freebie first HERE.

Say goodbye to traditional classroom jobs and hello to Classroom Careers! Read all about this new program sure to benefit your kiddos HERE.

Improve your parent-teacher-admin communication and encourage positive behavior in your students by using my comprehensive guide! You can read all about it HERE.

Panicking for your meet the teacher night? Don't sweat it! This simple BTS Scavenger Hunt is the perfect way to introduce your kiddos to their new room. Grab it on sale HERE.

If you use HMH Journeys, this set is for you! Students use choice boards to create a unique product each week. Score the freebie sampler HERE.

And without further are my top five resources for a successful school year! Even though I use these in first grade, all of these products can be stretch for K-2, or have "sister products" in different grade levels!

This set is pure gold...seriously. These babies have been a staple in my classroom from my very first year, and are the perfect way to teach listening skills. Students are given a plain piece of paper and turn it into a work of art within 10 minutes just by following easy-peasy directions. My kiddos beg for directed draws and cheer when it's finally time to try a new one out. I use these heavily at the beginning of the year to encourage listening skills and attention to detail. I also am sure to do at least once a month for this super cute keepsake (check it out using the link!). If you follow me on Instagram, you'll see that I generally let the kiddos use crayon and watercolors for some additional fine motor practice, but these drawings are beautiful even just in pencil! Try out a freebie version HERE.

I just discovered this gem last year, and I wish I had known about it earlier in my career! This fast-paced math game is a complete breath of fresh air. I simply split my class in two and we're off. Students compete against one another, not realizing that they're becoming fluent with their math facts as they play. We play knockout every day at the end of math class. My kiddos even play it on their own during indoor recess! I own the bundle pictured above, but there are many other versions as well. You can try the freebie version HERE!

If you use Journeys, stop everything and buy this set! This supplement for the series is such a time and sanity saver. Time I once wasted writing my phonics, spelling, and and sight words all over my whiteboard is now dedicated to actually practicing those skills. This series has become a fun part of our daily morning meeting and is the perfect way to slide into our ELA block. Each day has a corresponding slide that is projected on the board for students to practice. My kiddos absolutely love leading these lessons and have so much fun with the daily game. Click HERE to watch a great tutorial before buying this amazing product.

Yep, another product from Beyond the Beanstalk! I just started using UnHomework last year and it was a huge hit. For my first few years of teaching, I used traditional weekly homework packets, and they flat out didn't work. The students who needed the extra practice rarely completed their packets; my students who did complete their packets every week would have been succeeding in school even without the homework. I was completely frustrated with this and luckily stumbled upon this fabulous blog post all about UnHomework. Read it, buy it, and you'll revolutionize your classroom! Students, teachers, and parents alike have much to gain from this incredible alternative to traditional homework.

Even though my reading series comes with great books for guided reading, sometimes they're just not enough. This collection of passages was exactly what I was looking for! Each grade level set has 15 informational passages and 15 fiction passages, perfect for 30 weeks of fluency practice! After organizing copies of each passage in an organized binder with page protectors, I now have the perfect resource to supplement my guided reading lessons. The comprehension questions provide a wonderful quick assessment and the progress monitoring graphs are pure genius, especially at conference time. You can try out a sample first HERE.

All of these products are sure to help you for the upcoming school year! What are your other must haves for first grade? Sound off in the comments below. Happy shopping!

Build a RTI Environment with Classroom Jobs CAREERS!

Hey, all! It's the last week of July which means there's only a month left of summer before school starts. I know, half of you are plugging your ears...but if you're here, chances
are, it means you're just like me, doing a happy back-to-school dance!

I still have a few more weeks before I can get back into my classroom to set up for my new batch of kiddos, but the wheels are already turning in my mind. What should my theme be? Should I make any changes to my classroom management system? What activities will I lead the first week? Have I spent too much money at the Target Dollar Spot? How can I make this year better? 

To answer all of these questions (and more!), I decided to wind down this last month of summer with a special Back to School series to share with you some of my favorite ideas and inspirations for the school year. First up, we'll be talking about how I manage classroom jobs...

Like many of you, I'm very active on various Facebook groups geared specifically for primary teachers. Time and again, I see other teachers post the same question: "What do you do for classroom jobs?" This seemingly simple classroom staple has educators all over the globe stumped, and for good reason. What jobs are appropriate for my students? How often should I rotate? What if I keep forgetting to assign new jobs? How do I keep things fair? As a new teacher, I found myself often wondering, Is all this effort even worth it?

Of course, you all know the answer is a resounding YES! Classroom jobs build a community of learners and teach valuable traits like responsibility, leaderships, and independence. Even though I realized this, my traditional, weekly-rotating classroom jobs set up was flat out not working for me. Some jobs were too boring; there weren't enough roles for each student every week; I couldn't keep track of who held which job; and of course...I never remembered to rotate! I needed a change. In the middle of a Pat Quinn RTI seminar, it finally hit classroom didn't need jobs. It needed careers!

One of the most important things we do as teachers is prepare our students for the "real world." I'm always trying to keep this in mind as I plan my lessons, and in this case, my classroom structure. As an adult, I don't rotate to a new job each week...I chose to be a teacher because it's a career I fell in love with. More than that, I was trained (and am still being trained) to be an educator, and had the natural skills to make a pretty darn good one (if I do say so myself!). I wanted to apply this same idea to my classroom jobs. 

I've found that the key to a successful RTI classroom is establishing the proper environment from the very first day of school. Throughout the year, my students will find that their day-to-day assignments may differ from their neighbors'. Their friend may use special tools to learn, while they're completing the same task with only a pencil. I want my kiddos to understand that fair and equal are not always synonyms in my classroom. As one of my favorite professors always reminded me, "The most important thing to have in education is not equality, it's equity." Classroom Careers became a simple way to establish these ideals. Assigning students to a job they are best fit for (rather than rotating) allows students to realize that each child has specific skills and needs.

During the first few weeks of school, I keep an eye out for each of my students' "special talent" and pair it to a Classroom Career. My animal lover trains to be our Veterinarian. One of my tidy friends becomes the Custodian. The child obsessed with our computers and tablets is named our Technician. Each student is matched to a job that "fits!" Little by little, each of my students is hired for a Classroom Career. 

Upon being hired, each student is presented with a certificate at morning meeting, and their name is added to our Classroom Career bulletin board. As you can imagine, this is a Very Big Deal in Room 11. I hire the kids one, two, sometimes three at a time. This builds the anticipation! Who will be hired next? What will my job be? How can I show my teacher that I'm ready to start my career? 

Almost all jobs have job training. I use morning work time or the few minutes before dismissal to show students how to correctly complete their job each day by modeling the job myself or simply showing them where certain supplies are kept. This is a simply task that usually only needs done once or twice at the start of the year. Remember, we keep these jobs all year...after all, they reflect each child's special skill!

I've found that my students take more pride in their job knowing they were picked especially for it. They also come to rely upon themselves and each other more quickly. Instead of asking me how to draw a cat, my students consult the Artist. When we turn on our projector, the Electrician silently gets up to turn out the lights. In the chaos of a child falling and scraping their knee, my Doctor knows to quickly fetch a band-aid or ice pack from my desk. If the ringing classroom phone interrupts my lesson, my Secretary knows to answer and direct the call, allowing me to continue teaching.

With their roles established and permanent, my classroom runs more smoothly. No longer do I waste time picking an eager volunteer to run a paper across the hall, for this is the job of my Delivery Person. My standard end-of-the-day chores, like shutting the windows, emptying my desk garbage, and passing out papers are now taken care of by my Widow Specialist, Garbage Person, and Mail Distributor. These minutes saved give me more time to work one-on-one with students or plan for the next day, while also instilling a sense of responsibility in my students.

Two years ago, I said adios to traditional, rotating classroom jobs and I haven't looked back since! Interested in trying Classroom Careers for yourself? Check out my Classroom Careers set on TpT, a steal at just $4.50! In addition to learning about all 22 Classroom Careers, you'll be able to download the four sets of job cards with matching name cards and headers to make your Classroom Career bulletin board. You'll also earn access to pre-made, editable certificates for your newly hired students. The entire set is editable, and includes various sizes of print outs in color and B&W. Just click HERE to get started!

Just for you, I've also created a freebie for you to preview the set. Check out this new addition on TpT by clicking HERE. Even if you're buying the set, you'll want to check out this freebie as well! It features my brand new Classroom Career application for students to apply to their favorite careers.

What do your classroom jobs look like? Is there a career I've missed? Sound off in the comments below. I'm off to the mall for some more back to school shopping...see you next week for the second edition of my Back to School series, all about Meet the Teacher night!

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