Classroom Updates

I continue to strive to make my classroom an inviting place for little ones who enter. I pray that each time they enter, they feel at ease. And you know what, it really helps set the tone for my day, too! 🙂

A co-teacher and I recently picked up new lamps for my living room, so I was left with an extra pair at home.

Just before giving them away, I realized they could make my Math room feel a little more cozy.

IMG_4501.JPG

I’m also excited to say that with over a year of re-organizing and re-working the space, I’ve reduced the clutter in the room from 4 HUGE filing cabinets down to one. What a relief to gain some space back!

IMG_4496.JPG
A parent owns a little art studio and let me pick one out. I had to grab the robin’s nest picture.

I have enjoyed styling the top of the shelf. It’s so easy to use “kid lit” as decor because there are illustrations to match any scheme.

Below are a zillion manipulatives for easy access for the kids. I love the blue plastic shoebox containers. 🙂 An easy pop of color that’s super functional.

Usually there are files and transparencies or stray coffee mugs on the top, so I realized I’d better take a picture to make it last longer 😉

This year, I also scored some clearance fabric from Walmart and sewed some simple curtains. I didn’t bother to line them, but sewed a little fabric ribbon and some buttons on for a little kid-friendly pop.

IMG_4717.JPG
Looking back, I wish I’d taken the time to line them but there’s no going back now. 🙂

IMG_4716.JPG

I picked up this fun organizer from IKEA in MN and have enjoyed using it at the writing center to hold pencils and crayons while leaving the surface free for a Clorox wipe whenever I feel the need to sanitize (only about 50 times a day).

There’s a finite number of sneezes and coughs I can tolerate before I have to halt all activity and pass out the wipes. 😉

Froggy Fun

Today in Science, as I was rifling through an animal encyclopedia of sorts, I realized there were no amphibians to be found in my book. I could NOT find my original source to save my life… That can happen in a classroom shared with 28 children who are welcome to touch any materials they choose.

With a gaggle of first-grade children at my feet eagerly awaiting pictures and information, I muttered quietly to myself, “Oh… Please let there be some frogs in this book.”

Suddenly, a few of the children began to pray. For frogs, y’all. 🙂

And a kid yelled, “DEAR JESUS, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY GHOST LET THERE BE SOME FROGS!”
Another one said,
“Oh, Lord, pleeeaaaase let some amphibians appear!”
And a third exclaimed, “JESUS PLEASE GIVE US SOME FROGS. Amen.”

Apart from a few kindergarteners during my first year arguing about whether the trinity is comprised of three distinct persons or three in one (yes, it really happened one day in snack), today had to be my favorite kids-and-faith moment at school so far. 🙂

The great news is, The Lord answered their prayers faithfully and helped us to find frog facts after all (in another book).

I continued wordlessly as though nothing had transpired, but couldn’t help the huge grin on my lips.

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matt 18:3

It is with tears of gratitude that I give thanksgiving for this profession and opportunity to love on the sweetest children.

Fellow teachers, I pray for you. If you’re worried about whether your time with your students counts in the Kingdom, especially if you’re in the public school system and feel you have to “check your faith at the door,” I want to encourage you with this scripture:

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matt 25:40

IMG_4492.JPG

Mother’s Day in Learning Community 2

When friends ask what I like about teaching in an independent school, one of the qualities I am sure to highlight is our involved, dedicated parents. Yes, I know there are fantastic parents in every corner of the world and in all walks of life. However, caring, invested mothers and fathers is simply the “norm” around here, and I am deeply aware that our students’ success is largely due to that. For that, I am grateful!

One of my favorite events honoring our parents is our Mother’s Day celebration, held in Grades Pre-K through 2. We do our best to make a big fuss over our students’ mommas. 🙂 We recognize the value in the mothers who pull their children onto their laps to read together, who check Math homework religiously in spite of hectic days, and who communicate with us regularly.

They are our partners in education, and we hope we’re theirs in raising up their little ones to be all that they can be. The Mother’s Day Tea is a team effort involving all three team members and our students, but with our Learning Community Leader firmly at the “helm” steering the ship. 🙂 photo 2 The mothers were greeted in this area, where a line of melt-your-heart Second-Grade boys stood waiting to proudly offer, “May I escort you to your seat?” I love this tradition.

I believe that learning manners during childhood is an empowering practice that not only teaches respect, but also allows students to feel at ease in any situation later in life. We don’t shy away from taking our students to plays, symphony halls, or restaurants, because they are fabulous learning opportunities. When we raise our expectations, they never fail to blow us away by exceeding them.

Our mothers were graceful guests who beamed and accepted each offered elbow (in spite of having to crouch a bit to walk arm in arm). 🙂 photo 2 (1)photo 1A parent who owns an art studio, Uptown Art, invited our entire Learning Community to come in and create works of art for their moms. It was a great experience for the students, and they clearly know how to tailor their classes to young children. They were warm, friendly, and encouraging to every child.photo 1 (1)photo 5 (1) Our team leader added this thoughtful greeting. photo 3 (1) This table eventually featured “old-fashioned” root beer floats and cookies galore. We hoped to convey a sense of nostalgia for the simple moments that make childhood grand.

We spent a Math class making the batches of cookies together, and it turned out to be a perfect way to tie in our unit about measuring volume, temperature, and time! photo 4 (1) The floats featured paper straws and a cherry on top. 🙂 It was all hands on deck when our mothers sat down with their kids. Our administrators rolled up their sleeves to pour and prep floats, and I walked around with a tray of floats to offer to each table, mumbling prayers that I wouldn’t spill! photo 4 (2) Our Science room became a concert hall as each grade sang two songs to their mothers. Our Music teacher made great selections for the event. Picture adorable kids in their Sunday best, the smell of flowery perfume, children’s voices, and sniffling and crying galore.

As one dear child sang, the sight of her mother brought her to tears! The majority of us in the audience followed suit. 🙂 photo 1 (2) The Math room, all set for the “meal” of lots of sugar. Elementary School is not for the faint of heart or for people on a diet. photo 3 Isn’t my co-teacher’s Reading room precious? She worked so hard to make it inviting and cozy.photo 4photo 2 (2) The students made these pinwheels themselves! I love that this simple, kid-friendly (and CHEAP) decoration made such a big impact. They also made cards, place mats, and pouches to house the cookies they baked. photo 5 As for my team, you’ve never met two more lovely mothers than ones on either side of me. Their love for their respective daughters is unspeakably beautiful.

We are truly the three amigas. 🙂 I like the way this translation puts it:

Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (NLT)

Science Room Tour

 

Hi there, friend! I’m thankful you stopped by for a visit.

Here’s a follow-up to my Math Room Tour. This collection of photos basically serves as a way to memorialize my early teaching years. That way, when I’m old and gray, I can show my grandchildren pictures of my class and say, “See kids, there used to be these devices called ‘books.’ ” 😉

As I shared in the Math post, I teach at an independent school and have the luxury of focusing on just two subject areas: Math and Science. It should be said that I love the subjects I teach wholeheartedly and get as giddy as the kids during experiments.

IMG_1819First stop is our reading nook. The turtle was a happy Kirkland’s clearance find, and I pray it lasts through a few classes because I love him and hope to take him home when we (Lord willing) have children of our own. I haven’t named him yet, and I now realize what a disappointing fact that is. Timmy Turtle? Pokey? What works?

IMG_1820

One of the first organizing tasks I tackled was to sort the books into groups by topic, then place them into front-facing bins. I truly believe this is a helpful way to organize books for young children, rather than simply leaving the spine exposed. A classroom volunteer helped me to sort books, cut labels, and adhere them.
IMG_1821

This long set of trapezoid table serves a location for centers, and stores Big Books right beside our library.

IMG_1824

 

I keep recent newsletters on the bulletin board for students, parents, and visitors. This was our First Grade’s Science fair note.

I have a strong urge to include corny jokes and puns related to the content on each document, but sometimes I manage to resist.

IMG_1826These bookshelves contain various curriculum components, and FOSS kit drawers. Ask me how much I love FOSS kits, and you may have to fake an emergency or illness to get me to stop.

IMG_1827

Though my Second-Grade students made these way before Christmas, I haven’t had the heart to take them down. That day, a student from each group was traced, then the group rounded up their white crayons and colored pencils to sketch their own versions of a human skeleton as we reviewed each (major) bone. IMG_1828

Safety first! I store goggles and aprons in these bins, and the students have learned to get them independently, then ask a neighbor for help in tying the aprons. 🙂 IMG_1829

The table to the right of my whiteboard holds Clorox wipes for easy clean up, board essentials, and my materials folders like the ones in the Math room (these were from Target). IMG_1830

Why is there a decorative frog, clock, and watering can on this shelf? To be cute, of course! I mean, I could loosely tie them in to our Plant and Animal Classification units, but let’s be honest. They serve absolutely no educational purpose, but sure make a big, blank wall a little happier.

IMG_1832

These are our second-grade kids’ cubbies. I make no apologies for their disheveled appearance. This is what we call “keeping it real,” guys. My sweet aunt, a reading specialist, gave me the stuffed Clifford, giraffe, and tiger with companion books during my first year of teaching.IMG_1833

This anchor chart hangs just to the right of the cubbies to try and help the students stay organized. With a picture, it’s easy for the kids to see what needs to added/removed at a glance. IMG_1835

My Science desk, which I admittedly rarely use. On the left is a rocker from my own childhood nursery. It’s another item I hope survives elementary school in one piece. 🙂 The rug was a Kroger marketplace steal and serves as a great meeting area.

20140429-161233.jpg

20140429-161256.jpg

Math Classroom Tour

Since this blog is meant to serve as a sort of record of sorts, I wanted to be sure to include a few photos of my current classroom.

I began my career with a couple of years in Kindergarten, and I’ve since moved up to First and Second grade. A [school] year later, I already regret not taking and keeping more photos of my first-ever classroom!

So as my third year draws to its close, even though it’s not the prettiest, fanciest room, I’ve decided it’s time to snap and compile some pictures.

I teach two subjects to two grades and actually have two classrooms. I get to focus exclusively on Math and Science while the rest of our team covers Reading, Phonics, Language, and Social Studies. I happen to think I ended up with the two best, and luckily for us, I think my team teachers feel the same way about their respective subjects. 🙂

Today, I’ll share my Math room.

IMG_1798

It was most important to me to create a cheerful-yet-relaxed environment. I chose a blue-and-green scheme because I love the tranquility of cool colors and think they’re rather “gender neutral.” I also have a (hopefully not in-your-face) bird theme for sentimental reasons. My family and some of my closest friends have referred to me as “Birdie” and “Bird” since my childhood, and I’ve always adored that name.

I added some hanging lanterns from World Market above the cabinets separating my classroom from the rest of our Learning Community. Our school was built in the 70s during the “Open Classroom” craze, so walls and doors are a coveted commodity. It seems the space was subsequently divided into pod-style learning communities, so many rooms are still open to others.

IMG_1801

Upon entering, I have a little welcome table. It houses a homework “drop off” area (sorted by grade, then time of day), PLENTY of hand sanitizer, bits and pieces for our morning calendar board, and a chalkboard from a sweet parent. Today, the quote reads, “Math gives us hope that every problem has a solution.”

IMG_1800

Above that is a “Fact Family” house made of simple poster board. Creating fact families is part of our daily routine, and we alternate between addition/subtraction and multiplication/division. I try to keep a seasonally-appropriate quote or picture on the left side of the board. What better time to celebrate the seasons than Calendar Time?
IMG_1802I’m in the middle of fixing up this too-busy calendar board. The truth is, they come with too many pieces.

This is a temporary fix until we order some new butcher paper. 🙂 The welcome sign was made with donated construction and scrapbook paper, and the outdoor rug was a Target clearance item I purchased at the beginning of the year. 
IMG_1803

I just created these calendar bits on Word and a precious parent volunteer spent TONS of time cutting and laminating them.

IMG_1804The little birds in the tree are labeled with each child’s name as a special welcome, while the table below always houses a hands-on manipulative of some sort (it rotates all the time) and our “Pencil Hospital.” This fantastic idea was introduced to me by my student teaching mentor teacher. Students simply drop their broken one in the green bucket, and grab a replacement from the blue bucket. There is hardly any time wasted and no disruptive pencil sharpening during class.

IMG_1806

This is our classroom Word Wall. The students choose the words that end up on the wall. The bunting banner above was made from more donated scrapbook paper.

photo 2 I inherited this amazing block feature from the previous math teacher. It draws students in like you wouldn’t believe and I adore the bright colors. IMG_1808My beloved Erin Condren lesson planner. They’re a worthy investment.
IMG_1811My personal bulletin board behind my desk is full of quotes that bring me joy and photos of people I love.

IMG_1807

My desk area. The speakers on the right are essential components of our day. I love to play fast-and-silly music during speedy fact practice, soothing classical during tests, and sing-songy kid music during center time. Plus, they allow me to blast my Dr. Jean (if you don’t know who she is and you’re an Early Childhood teacher, look her up)! IMG_1812This simple set of plastic drawers from Lowe’s has been upgraded with plain old paper to house office supplies out of sight. Atop sit a framed photo of our class on a recent field trip, and two thoughtful parent notes that remind me that what I do is appreciated. I love to send them as much as I love to receive them. 🙂 If you feel the same way, you can download a free thank you note, or join me in creating student Valentine’s Day cards while you’re here.

IMG_1809These file folders are labeled to store daily materials (along with the ubiquitous coffee mug, of course).

photo 3Pictured above are my cubby stuffed full of manipulatives (I picked up the blue plastic bins at Walmart for a song) and my reading center. The Ikat pillow was from World Market. You can see a little bit of my overhead cart in the photo, too.

IMG_1818

Our little writing center (freshly wiped down, but it’s normally covered with materials). I adore my students’ paintings on the board above.

That’s it for the Math room. Hope you enjoyed the tour! I’d love hear about your classroom’s organization if you’re a fellow teacher. 🙂

 

That was the “where” part of my teaching. Now for the “why” part, you can refer to the post “Prayers for My Students,” which rather embarrassingly included a couple of typos until recently. 😉

Prayers for My Students

20140416-222500.jpgTeaching is a funny profession.

The “customers” are sort of nuts (mine are all 6, 7, and 8 after all), they sometimes hate what’s good for them, and any innocent phrase can set off uncontrollable giggles (dangers include pausing too long after the word “but,” talking about the planet Uranus with the emphasis on the u, and asking the question “under where?”). Ask me how I know.

>But the most unusual thing about our relationship with our “customers” is that we love them.

Continue reading “Prayers for My Students”

Pinwheels and Dandelions

photo 1
First Grade made these pinwheels using donated scrapbook paper, straws, bamboo skewers, and pipe cleaners.

We’re gearing up for our school’s annual Social Studies and Science Fair around these parts!  It may be cold outside, but inside, we’re all breezy, blue skies.

My First Graders have just completed a unit all about air. Students have explored concepts like air pressure, compression, air resistance, and glide. They discovered that, though invisible, it takes up space, changes shape, and can push objects.

They’re ready to present some pretty impressive experiments, but we still wanted to do a little more.

My co-teacher conceived the idea of creating dandelion artwork. Since First Grade studied plants and methods of seed dispersal during our previous 9 weeks of study, it became the perfect bridge between units.  Continue reading “Pinwheels and Dandelions”

Student Supply Caddy: How NOT to Scramble for Materials

It. Never. Fails.

It seems I have a smooth-sailing lesson planned. We’re gliding through our song/dance/desperate-look-at-me-activity attention-grabber, and we’re finally about to put paper to pencil.

Then, inevitably, I hear, “Mrs. Stewart, I don’t have a pencil/ruler/crayon/you-name-it.”

Nothing eats up time like digging around for materials. My (current) solution: Have everything right there, ready to go. Continue reading “Student Supply Caddy: How NOT to Scramble for Materials”

Organizing the Overhead

There is perhaps nothing so unappealing and utilitarian in the classroom as the overhead and its cart.

If you have a beautiful Elmo projector attached to a gorgeous Smart Board or the like, good for you, you lucky ducky!

However, this post is for those of us still kicking it old school. Continue reading “Organizing the Overhead”

Thank You Note Freebie

In my teaching team’s area, we’re passionate about saying, “thanks” to guests, volunteers, and co-workers.

photo

Rather than spending money on bundles of cards, my team teachers and I decided to make our own notes this year. I created these, pattern and all, using humble Microsoft Word. I say that to reassure you that you don’t need to splurge on a fancy program to create cute, happy documents for your classroom.

From there, it was easy to swap out colors so we’d have several options. Continue reading “Thank You Note Freebie”