First Week of School: Activities and Ideas

Sunday, August 11, 2019 No comments
This blog post contains Amazon Affiliate links. 
 The first week of school is always a FUN time because it involves all things
team building, organization, and relationships. I like to mix in rules and procedures with
LOTS OF FUN. I want kids to be excited about the year, but I also want them to understand the expectations and rules that we have in our classroom. I also want my students to begin to build relationships with each other. I am excited to share with you some of my FAVORITE first week ideas I did for the first week of school this year! Let's get started!
Idea number 1: Morning Choice!
This is my first year to do morning choice in my classroom. The original idea comes from Adam Dovico. You can check out his blog post HERE. The goal of morning choice is to get kids excited about coming into school each day. We started morning choice DAY 1 in my classroom and I loved that it took away those "first day scaries" and kids immediately came in and started building relationships. In order to ensure this went smoothly on day one, I typed up direction cards that I stuck at each station. Station cards explained the task at hand and how many students could be at each station. You can grab these direction cards in my TPT store HERE. They are fully editable so you can make them meet the needs in your clasroom. 

In my classroom, students come in, unpack, and record their announcements and homework for the day. They may begin to play with the morning choice centers only once they are completely ready for their day. Morning choice lasts only 20 minutes - so this means students quickly come in and get ready so they can have as much time as possible at their station. 

 Idea Number 2: "Get to Know You" Jenga
In my classroom we play LOTS of games during academic instruction to keep kids engaged. I figured we might as well start day one out with a game as well. This game is SO easy, but I loved that it allowed me to begin introducing rules and procedures for games. Each group got a Jenga set and a batch of task cards. Although my Jenga sets are color coded, we didn't use the color coded aspect for this activity. I introduced our game rules: no turns/no outs, and explained that one student is to draw a task card and read it aloud to his/her group. After the question has been read, all students in the group must answer the question. After everyone has answered, the person who pulled the question card gets to also pull a Jenga block. This was so much fun and it really helped the kids get to know each other. You can grab my "Get to Know You" task cards in my TPT store HERE.
 Idea Number 3: The BEST Team Building Challenge EVER. 
I stole this idea from Dustin Ecker, a phenomenal teacher that shares awesome ideas on his Instagram. The gist of the activity is: Students work together to build a replica of a tower that has already been built in the hallway. Each student has an important role. One student is a "looker", one student is a "toucher", and the other two are "talkers". One can talk to the teacher, the other can talk to other groups. The catch? The supplies for each group were all mixed together. One group got all the paper. Some groups got no cups. What a MESS. Using their important roles, groups worked together to work through the mess in order to build the mystery tower. Fore the full directions from Dustin, you can view his Instagram post HERE. It is safe to say - this is my FAVORITE team building activity I've ever done with a class.
Idea Number 3: Book Tasting 
Starting last year, my team decided to kick off each year with a book tasting. Basically, this is a mini-transformation where students experience a restaurant where they get to "sample" different books from our classroom library. This is such a fun way to get our students exposed to new books and get them excited about our 40 book challenge for the year. The original idea is from Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching and you can grab her product HERE. It seriously has everything you need, minus the books. It is a fabulous resource.  

Idea Number 4: Self Portraits 
Each year, I have my students create self portraits and we keep them hanging in our classroom all year. They are my FAVORITE! We do a directed draw and then students color them to fit their own personalities. For our directed draw, we use a "Modigliani Self Portrait" style. Modigliani distorted his portraits, using longer necks and faces. I just love how they always turn out. I use 18 inch x 24 inch paper for this project. You can grab some for a very affordable price HERE on Amazon. After students draw their self portraits, they outline with black marker and then simply color their portrait the way they like! Once they are done, I back them with black butcher paper my school already has for FREE (woohoo) and hang them on our wall using Mavalus tape. It's legit the best tape and holds SO well. For a link on how to do this directed draw with your students, click here

Idea Number 5: Hanging Craft 
I love using this craft as an easy "time filler" for the first few days of school. I typically spread out each writing prompt over four or five days. Students complete the writing and then we take time to share about ourselves each day. I make sure to get these hung in time for parent night - a night we have at the beginning of the year where parents come back into our classrooms and we go over all things 5th grade. You can grab this craft in my TPT store here.  

As you can see, our first week was full of FUN, Team Building, and procedures! I hope this post gave you some great ideas for your first week! Do you have an awesome first week idea? I'd love to hear all about it. Leave a blog comment below! Happy School Year!

Back-to-School Mystery Gifts

Thursday, August 1, 2019 2 comments
For the past several years, I've given each of my new students a MYSTERY GIFT at
"Meet the Teacher" night for them to take home. The catch? The CANNOT open the gift until the morning of the first day of school.

What's the purpose?
I got this idea from Hope King several years ago when she hand delivered mystery gifts to her students before the first day of school. The goal is to build excitement and anticipation for the new school year. We want our kids to be COUNTING DOWN the days until the first day of school, and I have found that these mystery gifts are a way to get them doing that! I give each student that attends open house one of the gifts and they take it home with them. They stare at it for the next several days (hah!) and they are allowed to open it up as soon as they wake up on the first day of school.

What is the gift?
You can literally turn ANYTHING into a mystery gift. For several years, I gave bracelets that all matched and they represented our classroom community. For the past couple years, I've changed it up. Be creative and think about things the kiddos in your community are currently excited about. I went with bracelets several years ago because the students in my community LOVED Lokai bracelets. Come up with something fun and unique for your kids! I do try to steer away from something "educational" because I want it to be something the kids will actually ENJOY. Although new crayons are great, I doubt my kids will be SUPER pumped to receive them as a gift. ha.

What do I include with the gift?
I always put a BIG do NOT open sign on the front of the gift, and then a note inside with the item. I personally think the note should be special for your class! You can grab mine HERE.

Gift Ideas:

Other items:

All Amazon Links are affiliate links and I get a small commission if you choose to purchase your items though them. = ) 

Hangable Crafts You & Your Students will LOVE!

Monday, July 8, 2019 No comments

I struggle spending time doing "crafts" in my classroom because they take up time AND space. Whenever I do a craft or activity, I try to make sure it is something worthwhile, along with something I can actually display. Last year in my classroom, we started completing HANGING CRAFTS and you guys... my students were OBSESSED. They take a little bit more time to hang, but I absolutely love how they make our classroom look... bright and cheery and they don't take up any space!

Craft #1 - Get to Know You Hangable Craft
This one is PERFECT for the beginning of the year! I plan on introducing one prompt per day for the first four to five days of school. Students will complete the prompt and then there will be a time for sharing! Once the crafts are complete, they will be hung up for the first month of so of the year!

Click HERE to grab this "about me" craft. = ) 

Craft #2 -Be the Light Hangable Craft
This one would also be perfect for the beginning of the year - especially with older kids! I choose to use this one after we return from winter holidays and they stay hung up in our room during the January/February months.

Click HERE to grab this "be the light" craft. = ) 

Let's GLOW! A Classroom Transformation your Students will LOVE! (Part 3: The Academics)

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 No comments

Alright - Are yall ready for ALL THE DETAILS on the academic side of our GLOW DAY Transformation? If you are looking for the decor details, click here. If you are looking for the academic stuff, you are in the right place! Woohoo! You can also read my FIRST EVER Glow Day blog post HERE. It has more details about the stations. = ) 

Alright - Let's jump right in! Just like Part 2, I'm going to answer ALL of the questions you guys asked me over on Instagram. If I miss anything, shoot me a message and I'll get it added! 

Question 1: What are the stations?
For our glow day we have six stations each year. From year to year they change based on what I feel like doing or what I think my kiddos will like best. The stations I had this year are: bowling, ring toss, geo build, ping pong toss, glow targets, and Jenga. I've also done corn hole in the past! For more details about the stations, you can head over to my original blog post HERE.

Question 2: What do I need for the stations?
Alright, for this I'm just going to cover the stations I used this year. = ) Links for each of these items can be found at the bottom of this blog post. 
*Bowling - water bottles, "bowling ball"
*Jenga - Jenga set (with blacklight reactive tape)
*Geobuild - glow sticks, i-Pad
*Ping Pong Toss - cups, Ping Pong balls
*Ring Toss - Gallon Jugs (3 of them), hoops made from glow sticks
*Glow Targets - painted targets, pennies

Question 3: What academic activities do the students do at each station?
We do GLOW DAY before our standardized math test, so we always spend the entire day focusing on math skills. At each station, students focus on different math standards that have been covered, but need to be reviewed. You can grab the task cards I use in my TpT store. I have them made for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. The task cards in my store only work for FOUR stations: Jenga, Geobuild, Bowling, and Ring Toss. I chose to add a couple additional stations so that I could make my groups smaller. I just shift some of the task cards from the other stations to the two additional stations. = )
3rd Grade Pack
4th Grade Pack
5th Grade Pack
*Unfortunately at this time, I don't have time to add two additional stations to these packs (there are only four included), but I encourage you to just split up some of the task cards from other stations and put them there. Thats what I did! There are plenty of task cards. = )
Question 4: How long do students spend at each station and
how many students are in each group?
Students are at each station from 30-50 minutes. This time FLIES! I try to have groups of 4-5 if at all possible! The smaller, the better in my opinion. 

Question 5: How do you check student work?
This is a BIG JOB, but I check every single group's answer before they are able to play the game. I keep the answer keys in my hands at all times and I hop from group to group checking student answers. I often ask for different students to explain their answers and always look for everyone to have the correct work. This is a busy job, but I feel like it keeps my students accountable.

Question 6: Where can I get the entry tickets you used?
They are a freebie in my TpT store! I printed and laminated mine and I have used them three years in a row. I collect them the morning of Glow Day and store them away for the next year.
Question 7: Do you keep score in the games?
Students do keep scores, but there isn't a prize or anything. They keep scores for bragging rights. It also helps motivate students to work fast so that they can beat other teams' scores. Scores are kept on a dry erase board or piece of paper. The easier, the better.
Question 8: How often do you do this transformation?
I do this transformation once a year, typically the day before our math state test. Its a fun review that really helps drive home some skills that need to be refreshed before the big test. 

Question 9: What center supplies did you buy on Amazon?

Let's GLOW! A Classroom Transformation your Students will LOVE! (Part 2:Decor Edition)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019 No comments

Guys - its been THREE years since my first ever transformation, which was GLOW DAY 2017 (you can read about the original transformation HERE.). It was the start of a WHOLE lot of transformation magic in my room and I am so thankful that I took the leap three years ago. GLOW DAY is STILL one of my absolute favorite days of the year. There is just something magical about the blue lights and the neon colors. I think it's safe to say its normally my students' favorite day too! I get SOOO many questions about all things glow day so I am going to write two blog posts for you guys. This blog post is going to be ALL about GLOW DAY DECOR. What do you need? How do you set up your room? Etc. Then, I'll work on a post to go over the stations that I do and how I've changed them up since my first year.  If you want to know the logistics of the day, you can read about that HERE.

Alright - GLOW DAY DECOR. Are yall ready? I took to Instagram to ask you guys what questions you had about the decor in my GLOW DAY transformation and you guys asked some awesome questions. I am going to use those questions on this post. If you have a question that wasn't covered, let me know and I'll add it. = )
Question #1 - What do I need to buy and where do I buy it?
I buy 99% of my supplies from Amazon because PRIME. But, you could probably buy a lot of it at Party City, Walmart, and Target. I'll break down the decor purchases in today's post, and I'll cover purchases I used in centers in the next post.
*Item #1 - Blacklights - I am linking the ones I have and they are AMAZING! I have five in my room, but I tested them out and you could definitely get by with only three. I wouldn't spend your money on five. 
*Item #2 - Disco Balls - I use two disco balls on glow day and they add some light and color. I keep these up ALL year long. They are great for celebrations and other transformations.
*Item #3 - Balloons - Blacklight balloons are the coolest! I use fishing wire to hang them from the ceiling and I love the color the add to the room. (I order a 50 pack and use for two years.)
*Item #4 - Blacklight Reactive Paint - I use this paint to paint signs and I even used it on my t-shirt! I roll the signs up and reuse year after year. (I have only bought paint once and have used multiple years and multiple coworkers have used the paint too.)
*Item #5 - Blacklight Reactive Tape - This tape is great for ALL sorts of things. I use it on station items, on the floor, etc. I would definitely grab a pack. (The tape can't be reused so I normally buy a new pack every year or two.)

Question #2 - How do I make my classroom completely dark?
Cover up ALL of your windows! Figuring out how to COMPLETELY darken my windows has been a work in progress, but I have learned that it works best to place black poster board up directly against the class so that the window is completely covered. Then, I go over the top part of the window with black butcher paper. Two layers (using the thick, black poster board), has been doing the trick for me!

Question #3 - Where should I place the black lights in my room?
I place a blacklight on each wall in my classroom. The main goal is to scatter them around. I also like to put them at different heights. I find that if I place one up hight on a bookshelf, it helps ensure that the balloons are glowing extra brightly. It is important to stick them lower as well so that the tape on the games is lit up brightly as well. With my five black lights, I have three up high on bookshelves and two lower on tables.

Question #4 - My room is darker than yours with the black lights, how do I brighten it up?
The black lights I have are SUPER bright, but if your stuck with some of the more old-school versions, try scattering some white sheets around your room on unused tables. The white reflects the black lights and it will really brighten up the space.

Question #5 - Was there anything that was a FAIL and didn't work under the black lights?
My first year I tried glow in the dark easter eggs and they were a MAJOR fail. Ha! Also, I have found that most of the blue items don't glow very well. I avoid using the blue balloons, blue tape, and blue paint.