Puzzle Mat Word Wall Pictures & TPT Back to School

I went into my classroom yesterday and was able to get a few things done.  It’s a teeny – tiny amount when I think of the mountain loads of word to be done!  Little by little – inch by inch, right?   So, I got part of my word wall up.  Here is the before (totally blank walls – just painted)

Here it is with some of the word wall finished.  I still need to add LOTS of the word cards.  I made them with magnets on the back so the kids could take them down. 

My criteria were:

  1. Interactive- I wanted it at student level and for my firsties to be able to remove words if they needed help with spelling.  I aimed for that last year, but it wasn’t very good.   I used velcro and it was hard for me to even get it off without feeling like it was falling apart.  This time I went with magnets– hoping it is more successful!
  2. Durable – Ummm…beside the velcro fiasco, I also had problems with the laminated cardstock bending at the corners.  It started to look tattered.  I’m hoping that having the circle shape (yeah! no corners to bend!) and magnets will make a difference.
  3. Flexible – I wanted to easily change words.  I printed all the Dolch words that I will use this year (pre-primer through 2nd).  I made each list with a distinct look so that I could easily change them.  I also am creating a few theme word sets (colors, numbers, back to school, etc.).  I always like to include the student names so they don’t have to copy the name of their friend while hovering over their desk and distracting EVERYONE in the group. 

Here are the materials I used:
Foam Puzzle Mats (purchased from Walgreens last year)
Magnetic Tape Strips (small pack -1.97 at WalMart)
Printable word cards (the Dolch words that I used are a freebie in my TPT store!)

I also put up the student #’s by their backpack hooks.  These # cards are also a freebie in my TPT store.

I’ve also finished a back to school activity.  I love those “all about me” posters where the students write their “favorite” food, pet, etc.  I tried those last years and it was NOT a good beginning of school activity for my kiddos.  I tried to put lists of the most popular things on the board so they could copy it — each person had a different favorite!  I could do “guess & go” spelling, but I wanted it to be more readable.  I also had the students ask me what color their eyes are!  And, the hair color… none of them were just brown, blonde, etc.  They had long names to describe their colors and wanted to know how to spell each.  It also took them FOREVER and many never finished.  So, I wanted to do my own version.  They get to color their hair & eye color (Yeah!).  I think I’ll even have a mirror available! 🙂  Many of the choices are a multiple choice where they can circle the answer.  I also left the name off of the front cover.  They are going to keep their work “top secret” and then try to guess who each “mystery student” is.  It will be a fun “getting to know you” activity.  (Wow, I use a lot of quotation marks!).    I’ve listed this activity in my TPT store for $2.00.  If you download it, please leave feedback.  My store is just getting started so I’m anxious to get some ratings! 🙂 

Here’s my version to give you an idea of the completed project!

Enjoy your Sunday!

Thanks and thanks again!

I’ve been nominated for 2 awards!   Robin @ The Bomb-Diggity Classroom nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award.  Ashley @ Inspire, Dream & Create  and Michelle @ Mrs. G’s Kindergarten in heels nominated my blog for the Versatile Blog award.  Thanks you all!  It’s taken a while to respond to these awards and find blogs to feature that haven’t won these awards.  However, it was a labor of love.  There are so many awesome blogs out there!  Teachers are some of the most creative & sharing bloggers there are! 🙂

Don’t miss these blog inspirations!
* Deana’s Tooth Fairy Bags (darling idea – perfect for firsties!)
* Katrina’s lesson on dressing for success — as a baker!  Say what?!  What a great idea for back to school!
* Marsha’s word wall activities & listen to reading bags.   Just what I needed!
* This quote at Mrs. Corbitt’s site:

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”

~ Donald D. Quinn
Thank heavens I don’t have 40 students!  Regardless, this little quote does make you think about what a Huge job teaching is and the difficulties that come with it!  Of course, the rewards are even better! 🙂  To all of you hardworking teachers out there — enjoy the rest of your summer! 
You can find these and more great teaching blogs in the list below. 

My nominations:

One Lovely Blog
Haley @ My Silly Firsties
Judy @ Teaching Little Apples
Jo Ellyn @ The First Grade Reader
Rebecca @ First Grade Fascination
Lisa @ First Grade Bloomabilities
Kelli @ Spotted in First Grade
Mrs. Corbitt @ Tadpole Tidbits

The Versatile Blog
Deana @ First Grade Chatter
Katrina @ A Love 4 Teaching
Stefanie @ Celebrate First Grade
Keri @ Sweet Life of Teaching
Marsha @ A Differentiated Kindergarten
Stacy @ Simpson’s Superstars
Miss Kelly @ 2care2teach4kids

One of the awards asked me to list 7 random things about me.  Here is the randomness! 🙂

1. I’m 2 days older than my husband.  Yikes!  I’ll turn 40 before he does!
2. I have 2 awesome boys!  They both had medical problems at birth — one only weighted 3.6 pounds!  I’m thankful every day that they are SO healthy now!  Well…besides the fact that one was stung by a wasp today and the other had multiple mosquito bites the other day and I’ve been nursing him ever since (he has extreme reactions).  Just a typical day in the life of a mom! 🙂
3. We have 2 cats that were rescued when they were only 2 days old and had to be bottle fed.  They are a little over a year old.  Unfortunately, they are both out-of-control!  Boots loves to eat stretchy hairbands and Pirate eats clothes!  Literally — we have big holes missing out of any clothes that are left out!  Suggestions are welcome!  I’ve tried chew toys & even “dog” chicken jerky (along with his regular food).
4. I play the piano and the harp.  I’m totally an amateur and I never have time to practice any more.  I did play the harp at a few weddings back in the day.
5. I was in the Woman’s Day magazine many years ago.  It was for a makeover – hadn’t changed my look in a while.  I could use another one! 
6. There was a 13 year “break” between my student teaching and my classroom experience!  I got married right after graduation and thought I’d wait a year to start teaching.  I started doing temp. jobs and ended up going into insurance (marketing department and then sales).  Then I had kids and stayed home for a while (and started a home business — selling books)
7. I don’t care much for cake & I don’t like brownies.  My love for ice cream makes up for it!


Amazon Book & App Deals

Here are a few deals at Amazon and itunes.   If you use an ipad and/or kindle in the classroom, check these out!  Prices can change quickly.  The Kate DiCamillo book will likely only be at this price for today.
This cat in the hat app is 99 cents today.   Visit the itunes link to add it to your ipad or the Amazon link to add it to your android device.
@ Amazon you also get $1 MP3 credit when you buy this app!  It is automatically applied to your Amazon account.

Amazon download for Kindle

App Features:
  • Choose from 3 ways to read: Read to Me, Read it Myself, or Auto Play
  • Listen to professional narration and fun music and sound effects
  • Enjoy the original illustrations from the classic book
  • Read or follow along as the words are highlighted; touch words to hear them again
  • Touch images on the screen, and their words will pop up

8 and up 3 and up

What if? Why not? Could it be?
When a fortune teller’s tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchenne knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortune teller’s mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead you there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be told by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes: hope and belonging, desire and compassion–with the lightness of a magician’s touch.

Free Kindle book!  
9 and up 4 and up
I learnt that it is faith that decides whether something will happen or not.At the age of eight, Kaka already knew what it he wanted in life: to play soccer, and only soccer. He started playing in front of his friends and family, but when he suffered a crippling injury doctors told him he would never play again. Through faith and perseverance Kaka recovered, and today he plays in front of thousands of fans every year. As the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year and winner of the Ballon d’Or, this midfielder for Real Madrid has become one of the most recognized faces on the soccer field.

My classroom pet is terrorized by my cats!

Meet one of our first grade pets, Lizzie!  This year I went from 0 pets to many, many! (I’ve lost count!). 
It all began with Lizzie.  I had talked to another teacher about classroom pets and that I was considering getting one.  Her son had this leopard gecko that was needing attention.  I was totally up for it, but was a bit nervous about some of the details!  Feeding?  I watched YouTube videos of some of these things eating pinkies (baby mice that are only a day or two old).  Yuck!  That was definitely not something I wanted to watch. And did you know that if their tail is pulled and they are frightened  they will just “drop” their tail?  I saw videos of what they look like sans tail.  Not a pretty sight!  And my number one fear?  That I would go to pick her up and get scared and drop her or even throw her.  This was not a type of pet I was used to.  I found out she just eats crickets.  Cricket care is a whole ‘nother topic!  I also sometimes give her meal worms and just discovered she loves wax worms.  I practiced holding her after school.  I wanted to be very comfortable with her before I took her out to let the kids touch her.  They can “pet” her or gently hold her while we are sitting in a circle.  We also use hand sanitizer afterwards.

I guess our pet journey technically began before that with our obsession with praying mantis’.  The kids found a few at home or recess and we set up an aquarium.  They never lasted long.  I think they were at the end of the season.  Back to the count…

Next, we added a fish.  One of the parents has a Koi pond and a large goldfish was sucked into the filter and a bit injured.  He needed to be separated and so she asked if I wanted him for the class.  Sure!  🙂   We kept it in a large food container for a few days and then the parent went out and bought a nice aquarium for it!   The kids were absolutely loving our pets by this time.  One of the sweet boys asked if he could bring in his Betta and add it to the tank.  I looked it up and it seemed like they might do OK together.  I told him we could try, but if the big goldfish was picking on the betta we’d have to take it out.  They did fine together.  Another student added a 2nd house decoration which provided a place for the smaller fish to hide.  I then decided to add an aquatic frog — just because they’re cute.  It is only a 5 gallon tank, so we couldn’t add any more to it.  (the rule is 1 inch of fish per gallon – we were a bit over!)

When I saw a 10 gallon tank at Petco for 1/2 off, I couldn’t resist.  I realized that buying the fish would be a big expense.  I decided to turn it into a field trip! 🙂  We were able to schedule a fun field trip to Petco and afterwards buy some fish.  I had a list of fish that would work well together (mostly non-agressive schooling fish).  Each student brought $5 to the field trip.  Each team of two could choose 1 fish and then they were assigned 1 other thing (a few groups had gravel, a few had decorations and a few had plants).  It was so much fun!  They couldn’t stop “oooohing” over the beautiful aquarium when it was all setup.  The tanks are all by the door and they love to look at them when we line up.  I have a few “fake” molded plastic turtles that I had out for our pond unit.  They loved to set up the turtles so they were “watching” the aquarium.  Those turtles were moved a lot!  Many of the fish didn’t last long (I think it was because of adding a bunch of new fish to a new aquarium) so I replaced a few.  It still was really nice and the kids quickly adjusted to missing fish. 

The last pets of the year were chicks.  I decided to hatch eggs this year.  I had a parent who was a vet tech.  I probably wouldn’t have tried so many things otherwise.  She brought it the eggs and we used the small incubator that the school has.  It automatically turns the eggs.  We started with 12 eggs.  It was a learning experience for me since I didn’t realize how VERY important it is to always have water (moisture) and we had some issues with the heat.  During the last few days before the hatch, the cord came unplugged and they were without heat for several hours!  I was just sure we wouldn’t have any hatch.  In spite of all this, we had 5 chicks hatch.  One ended up having a problem with his leg and didn’t make it.  The rest were all healthy!  We did one more hatch and had about 7 out of 12 hatch.  The kids used the uber cute journals from Christie at First Grade Fever.  I bought the unit on TPT.  It was such a great experience!  The kids never saw any hatching — those eggs were sneaky!  One was ready to hatch right before school so I brought the kids in a bit early and the chick hatched in the few minutes that I was out of the room!  I did video record one of the hatches and we watched it on the projector.

I also took pictures of each kiddo holding a chick and made them into a cute photo gift for Father’s Day.

Whew!  That’s a lot of pet posting!  So, what to do with animals during the summer?  I was so lucky to have a pet parent this year!  The vet tech agreed to take home anything that I needed help with.  She took all the critters home for the beginning of summer so I could go on vacation.  I took Lizzie back a few weeks ago (to give her a break!) and it hasn’t been entirely smooth.  My 2 crazy cats go bananas trying to get to the crickets.  And they are very fascinated by Lizzie.  I keep a close eye on them.  I think I will need to bring her back to the classroom soon.  I am able to go into my classroom at any time, so I can feed her there. 

I’d love to hear about your classroom pets.  Oh, and have you seen Critters in the Classroom?  It’s a blog that is just for teachers with classroom pets!  It’s fun to read about what works for others. 


Extreme Clip Makeover

So, another thing that I want to fix before school starts is my behavior clip chart.  These are the ones that are all over pinterest.  I’ve used it for a little over a year (started the middle of one year and used it all last year).  I love it!  If you don’t know about it check out newmanagement.com which has a free booklet explaining it and visit Mrs. Bainbridge who has some free printables to make your own chart!  This is what I used last year. 

Why do I love this system?  It combines consistent discipline with grace.  Students can make a mistake and they still have a chance to fix it.  Perfect!  It is so much better for me than the stoplight colors one.  With that system, I felt like I hesitated to have them move colors because it started a downward spiral.  And I would think, well, that wasn’t too bad.  I don’t want them to have change colors for that one!  It was hard for me to be firm and consistent with that one.  I also like that you can have non-verbal cues for the students to move their clips up or down (read the above mentioned booklet for more info.)

What I don’t like is putting jewels on the clips.  I love how it looks, but those jewels just do not want to stay on for me!  I’ve tried several brands.  Ugh!  As much as I love the bling, I’m tired of seeing it on the floor and even in my hair (when I wear a clip on my shirt — BTW, that part is so much fun!  Again, read the book if you don’t know about this idea or you can leave a comment to hear more).  So, I thought maybe the clip could hold a ring that they fill with beads.  BTW, I posted 2 pictures because one is blue and one is green – It doesn’t seem like you can really tell that though from the picture!  I dyed them in rit fabric dye.  We’ll see how it works.  I’ll try to remember to take a picture of the final product once I start getting my room put together.

I also am a fan of the tracking cards that Rachelle at What the Teacher Wants made.  They are adorable and a free download.  I let the kids punch their cards if they end on green or better.

Do you use the clip chart in your classroom?  How do you like it?  Do you have any other tips to share with our teacher friends?  I’ve seen all kinds of designs – guitars, etc.  So creative!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

TPT – Short Vowel Word Sort Kit

I just listed a big short vowel activity kit on TPT.  It took forever! 🙂  Hopefully I’ll get faster at this as I learn more!

You can find it here.  This one is $4.00.  I have 3 free activities there as well.

Puzzle Mat Word Wall

Last year I used puzzle mat pieces like this to make a word wall.  I put a letter on each piece.  I’d show you a picture, but all my walls had to be cleared for painting.  I used 27 pieces and made a 9×3 grid.  I love how it added so much color to my wall.  I put it at level for the kids to reach.  I made some word cards out of cardstock and laminated them.  They didn’t hold up well because the area gets high use.  Do any of you have any ideas of what I can use for words that will hold up better?  I’m doing a dot theme this year so I thought it would be cute to have the words on dots.  Most things I’ve thought of are too small (poker chips) or too large (small plates).  I thought about using jar lids and spray painting them.  My friend reminded me that it will take forever to do that!  I thought about slicing pool noodles, but I don’t want to have to write in a rainbow shape (plus, will sharpies write on noodles?).  I’m loving this blogging stuff — the more I write, the more ideas I get! 🙂  I’m thinking more foam could be an obvious choice.  The problem I was having with the cardstock was that the corners were getting bent.  I don’t think that would happen with foam.  I could use the thin fun foam.  I wonder if my Cricut baby bug would cut it?  Off to google…..looks like a crafter reported it working.  I’ll let you know if it works for me.