First Week in First Grade: Expectations and Anchor Charts

The kids started on Monday which means I have officially began my 8th year teaching first grade!  Still sounds a little crazy to me to know that I a. graduated from college 8 years ago and b. that I have been so blessed to work with this age level for the past 8 years.

I say it every year but first grade really is a super fun age because of the tremendous growth students display academically as well as socially and emotionally.  The level of independence from a beginning of the year first grader to an end of the year first grader is amazing! I remind myself of that often this first week, as my little first graders come into the classroom each day!

This year, our first week consisted of modeling and teaching many of the routines students will need to know in first grade.

Goodbye Summer/Hello School

This anchor chart has been all over Pinterest and I couldn't wait to do it with my new firsties!  It is so much fun to hear about the things they did over the summer as well as to hear about the things they are excited to do this school year! 

Class Promise

This is my first year creating a class promise with students. We read the book Swimmy to start and talked about the importance of working together to accomplish a goal.

How do you go home from School

This was an important first day activity not only for the students but also for me! We did this activity at the end of the first day of school on Monday which helped me to know exactly how students were getting home.


Students began working in partners (and groups) this week.  This poster was a perfect reminder for them on the expectations of working with classmates.  Grab your free copy by clicking on the image below!

To see some of the other activities I did with my first graders this week click here! Many of my first grade activities for the beginning of the year can be found in the pack below!

I hope you too had a great week-- whether it was your first week back or you are in full routines by now!

Happy Friday!

Guided Reading Groups Organization

Let me tell you I am SO excited to be working with more grade levels for the first time in my teaching career- after starting some groups and testing students this week I just really think I'm going to love working with so many grade levels!! (Of course, I still dearly love Kindergarten and 1st Grade- just excited to explore teaching other grade levels!)

Since I'm working with Kdg-4th this year, I realized I needed to update my overall organization of materials for each group. I'm also one of those people who likes to plan and get set up for the whole week (as much as possible) so for me I like to see everything that I'll need for each day for the week in some sort of organization...otherwise I end up spending too much time each morning running around grabbing things and that just doesn't work well for me! Plus it also ensures that I'm not wasting any of my precious time with my friends when they are with me.

So, my solution for this year comes straight from the Target Dollar Spot (of course!). :) I don't even know how many of these accordion files I now own, but they truly have helped keep me so organized in my classroom from keeping all my files stored together by theme to now guided reading group organization!

 So all I'm doing is having one accordion file for each grade level with each tab labeled for M-F and then within each tab, I am storing all the materials I need for the day for each group within there. I love that it is all in one place and not spread out all over our room! The guided reading books, graphic organizers and word cards are all small enough to fit within each little tab- amazing!

Anything larger that doesn't fit within the accordion file I'm just keeping in the nearby buckets for each group/grade.

I also have my anchor charts right where I can easily write on them and all my friends can easily see them from their spots at the guided reading table so they are truly accessible for my friends and me! 

(The accordion files aren't pictured, but they sit right next to each grade level bucket.)

I also am still using these wonderful orange drawers for items that I end up using with all my guided reading groups, regardless of grade level.
Thanks to Hello Fonts by Jen Jones & i Teach What's Your Super Power for the fun fonts and graphics!

Have a great day!

Tried-It Tuesday: Donor's Choose

Donor's Choose has been on my list of things to-do all summer and I am excited to say that I can officially cross it off because I completed my application for my first ever Donor's Choose project!

Wikipedia states, "Donor's Choose is a nonprofit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects."  I had heard of Donor's Choose and thought about doing it but to be quite honest the thought of it overwhelmed me.  One of my teaching buddies got her guided reading table from Donor's Choose and another teacher got "peanut chairs" for her classroom.  It amazed me that both of these projects could get funded from random donors, and I thought about doing my own project but never got around to it until now.

How Donor's Choose Works:

Think about something that would make a positive impact for your classroom and students.  Something you need that can truly make a difference.

As Donor's Choose describes above, it really is as easy as 1-2-3!

It took me so long to complete my first application because I thought the process was overwhelming but really, truly there is no reason to be overwhelmed!   Since all of the questions are classroom related you already know the answers if you take a moment to think about them.

Below are the questions I was asked (not exact wording from the website but hopefully you get the idea:)
What do your students need?
Describe your classroom and students.
If funded, how will you use this project?
See, those questions aren't too hard?! ) The website limits you to a certain number of characters, and seeing as I love to ramble, the hardest part for me was keeping it within its limits and not going over.

Basic Steps in Submitting your Application:

1. Fill out Project Questions and Go Shopping
The questions asked are the ones I wrote above.  Nothing too difficult or time consuming.  After you fill out those you eventually get to go "shopping!" There are specific stores and places for you buy from.  I created an account with Amazon linked to my school email address to shop from.

2.  Catchy Title and Classroom Photo
There are so many projects for donors to choose from so it makes sense to choose something catchy to grab the attention of anyone who is browsing.  Also, you must have a classroom photo. I remember being told this but didn't remember and therefore my classroom picture isn't the best but will work for now.  I am not the most creative person but was able to come up with a somewhat catchy title...

3.  Waiting Game
Your project will get reviewed and should then get approved!  I was nervous for some reason mine wouldn't but I received an email saying it did and I went to the Donor's Choose website and saw these messages below!

4.  Email those you Love
You get an automated email that you can simply add names and email addresses to.  I just did my parents, my hubby's parents and our siblings (I am not too comfortable with asking friends but maybe I will become better in the future?!?!) Anyways, it is incredibly enticing because anything you get donated to you that first week gets matched up to $100!  So exciting!

So that is where I am in this Donor's Choose Project.  I am just shy of a month in and have gotten about a quarter of my project funded thus far. I recently got my first totally random donor and let me tell you, it is so exciting for someone to choose your project (out of the gazillions of projects out there,) to donate to!  This company is from a suburb of Chicago so I believe that why I got picked-but still it is exciting!

Helpful Tips and Tricks I Learned:

1. Connect it to your Facebook Account
I was hesitant to do this at first but am glad that I did because it lets me know when I got donations (without logging into Donor's Choose.) and I have had a couple of very generous friends and some of my parents' friends donate money-I didn't have to email or ask any of them for money it just showed up through their feed.

2. Be the First to Donate to your Project
If this project is important to you donate a little bit to get your project going!  If you are the first to donate you can put in the code and have your money matched!

3.  Under $400
Keep your first project under $400.  You are more likely to get your first project funded if you keep it under $400.

4.  Don't Give Up
I keep reading this whenever I read about Donor's Choose, that even if your project doesn't get funded, keep trying.  Fingers are crossed that mine does get funded but if it doesn't I will stay positive and will try a different project!

Fabulous Resources:

I found two AMAZING resources that really helped me submit my first Donor's Choose project.  The first is from Funky Fresh Firsties and it is a TPT Freebie that will walk you through all of the steps of your project. Click on the picture below to be taken directly to this freebie.

The second AMAZING resource is from a blog post by The Open Door Classroom.  Click on the picture below to see Erin's tips.

Both of these ladies helped me tremendously when starting on my first application!  Make sure to head on over to both their freebie and blog post before you get started with your first project!

For my first ever Donor's Choose application I am linking up with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper for her Tried-It Tuesday!  Don't forget to head on over to see the other projects teachers tried this week! Thanks Holly for always encouraging us to try new things!

Happy Tuesday!


Beginning of the Year Activities!

The beginning of the year is such an exciting time. It is certainly exhausting, but I always love getting to know my new friends and their abilities, interests, learning styles right from the start. I absolutely love pulling out my "beginning of the year" book bin and reading all the various stories I have in there along with doing some sort of literacy activity. Here are a few ideas as you head back to school!

For beginning kindergartners, it can be a real struggle to recognize the difference between letters and numbers.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a wonderful book to help kids learn what letters are in the alphabet. I pair this book up with a hands-on sort where each little friend comes up to choose a magnetic letter or number and put it under the right category.  This is a great early identifier of who knows their letters and who will need a little help!

 Another variation of this activity is for those who have a little better understanding...they don't have the letters and numbers already up there on the board to match it up with- they have to figure it out on their own. All you need is a bag of some sort, letters/number tiles and a board!

It is also important to see which students can identify beginning sounds of letters already- this I generally do with my 1st graders, but would work for kindergartners too if you have some who already know all their letters. I got this container from a hardware store a few years ago and it's been in my classroom ever since! I have a basket of small pictures- my friends choose a picture card, say what it is and then open the little drawer with the correct beginning letter on the front. They love this! L, M, N, O Peas is a great book to help get students recognizing the beginning sounds of words- it lists a few words for each letter as you read through the story.

The Letters are Lost and Boom Chicka Rock are two more letters-focused books that are perfect for back to school reading! I break out the sorts/matching activities right away in my room, so here's another chance for my little friends to show me what they know when it comes to beginning letter sounds.

Who doesn't love a little hunt?? If you don't have the Alphabet Adventure, Alphabet Rescue and Alphabet Mystery books yet, I highly recommend them! My little friends love these stories because of the engaging story lines and fun graphics. These tie in well to then doing our own hunting as well...for vowels vs consonants!

Of course I also love to see who can already read basic words and who knows their sounds within words. Matching CVC words to pictures is always a big hit because my friends can practice saying their sounds and search for pictures to go with each word. What will Fat Cat sit on? has a lot of CVC words within the text so it is great for having students read along with you!

Identifying who can rhyme early on is very important to recognizing struggling readers. Not being able to rhyme is a HUGE indicator for struggling readers because it means they aren't hearing the sounds in words like the rest of us do. Even if students can't read yet, you can read the words and then have them search for a word that looks the same at the end or listen to you read words to find a match.

 I'm also so very excited to get going on Close Reading right away with my little friends this year to get us paying attention to the text we are reading/listening to right away! This will help develop their comprehension skills right from the beginning- I want my little friends to really listen to what we are reading and use specifics from the text to support their answers. I know they are going to love these poems, non fiction & fiction passages all about heading back to school!  If you haven't tried out close reading with your little friends yet, check out these posts here and here for more information and examples of how I get my students really reading closely!

Thank you to: Hello Fonts by Jen Jones &  i Teach What's Your Super Power for the amazing fonts and graphics! Click on the images below to check out more details about these packs!

Have a great day!

Word Work in First Grade

Aylin is back in school with kids and I have started my new teacher training this week but the kids do not officially start for another week.  As I sat down with one of my new teammates to plan for our first week of school we discussed jumping into Daily 5 that very first week.  

We will do a modified version of Daily 5/Cafe with our own twists to make it work best in each of our rooms.  Right away, we begin by building stamina in read to self and then will jump into building stamina on our work on writing time.  Remembering how quickly we get into each of the 5 essentials made me want to compile a list of my own of the word work ideas I have used in the past as a quick reference throughout my upcoming school year!

I am so grateful to Pinterest, which has helped me compile a "Word Work" Board with over 100 Pins specific to hands-on ways to practice spelling, sight and/or vocabulary words.  Many of my ideas below came from other bloggers and Pinterest ideas!  I continue keep pinning away because this board has been a great reference to me as I continue to build more word work ideas for my first graders.  I find that the more engaging the activities, the more they remember their words and the quieter they are so I am  constantly looking for new interactive ways for students to practice.

Hands-On Word Work Ideas

Each of the activities below are simple, hands-on ways to help students remember their words.
Students choose a flashcard, read the word to their partner and carefully place beans over each of the letters.  

Students write their word and place a dot next to (or under) each sound in the word.   
Students take out each of the vowels and place them on one side of the plate and take out each of the consonants and place them on the other side of the plate.  Then, students make their word in the bottom part of the plate.  
Student use anything magnetic and make their words with letters.  
Students use Play-Doh to roll out and make their words.  

Students use a "blob" of Play-doh and stamp their letters onto it to make their words.  
Students use Q-Tips and paint to write each of their words.  
Students using Kids Doodle on the i-Pads to practice their words.  
Simple, right?  All of these word work ideas above provide minimal prep and maximum fun for your little ones to practice their words!  I hope you were able to get at least one new, low-prep word work idea from this post!

If you have a chance, share your favorite word work station that you use in your classroom in a comment below or direct me to a similar blog post of yours so I can learn some new ones to incorporate into my classroom for the upcoming school year!


Happy Friday!


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