May 2013 Archive
Fired Up Fridays: People Who Love My Kid

Yesterday was a great day.  Lincoln and I spent the day with my best mama friends doing lots of outdoor things like swinging at the playground and walking around the zoo.  It was one of those days that light my heart on fire and makes me so happy about this little life we’ve built in a city we moved to six years ago.  We moved here with no friends and no family by our side.  I thought we’d only live here for the year I was in grad school and quickly hop back up to the chilly Midwest.  We fell in love with the city first and then we made friends.  Some of them have become my very best friends.  But it wasn’t until I became a parent and I saw those friends that we love so much, love on our little guy, that my heart grew ten times bigger.  Seeing people you love, love your baby is one of the best. things. ever. 

Truth be told, I don’t have many mama friends.  To be honest, I only have three friends in Nashville that have children around Lincoln’s age.  But I love that they love Lincoln.  Seeing L interact with their sweet babies [that I’ve grown to love too] is so awesome.  When I was spending time with some of them yesterday, I thought about how happy I was to share this crazy, wild, frustrating parenting journey with them.  We may not live in Nashville forever.  The pull to move back to Ohio towards our family gets stronger every day.  But these relationships I have with these friends have been made stronger through our children.  They’ll be in our lives forever.

I found the above quote on Pinterest yesterday: Your children will become who you are.  So be who you want them to be.  I thought it was so fitting when I think about the people that I surround myself with here in Nashville – even the ones who don’t have children yet.  Our friends here are generous, kind, fun, intelligent, funny, and really really good people.  Their current children and future children are so lucky to become who their parents are and we are so lucky to have all of them in our life.

Preparing for Summertime

So school is out or nearing to a close.  If your school is like ours, they will clean over the summer and all your furniture gets pushed to one side or you have to take things down and put them away.  BUT even though you’ll have to set things back up before school starts, this is still a good time to prepare for next school year by cleaning and purging.  Here are a few things I would always do before I closed the door and went out to enjoy my summer.

Step 1 -Purge and Clear the Clutter


I had a rule in my room when it came to papers…  If it didn’t fit into two small filing cabinets, then I didn’t need it.  You can see from this photo (amidst a dance party), my two filing cabinets.  At the end of each year, I’d go through the files contained in those 4 drawers and would pitch anything that was a worksheet or dated more than 2 years ago.  The only thing I kept were original lesson plans, student data from the past two years, and blank masters.  Each lesson/unit has it’s own file that contains lesson ideas, articles, and plans.  But no worksheets.  I didn’t really use worksheets a lot anyway, but when I did, I’d create new ones each year that would fit my group of students.  The questions I’d asked the previous year or activities I’d present to one group of students would always change.  So get rid of anythings that applies to the past year – this also included memos from the front office, notes from parents about absences, and meeting agendas.  WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!

Also look around your room.  What areas were filled with constant clutter?  For me, it was ALWAYS my reading group supplies.  I had tons of activities, games, file folders, white boards, etc that were just shoved on the floor behind my table.  Ugh.  So I bought a rolling cart full of colorful drawers and organized my space.  It didn’t get done until the kids left for the summer, but I knew that I was prepared for the next school year.  Which leads me into my next to-do…

Step 2 – Re-organize


As I said, take an area that was cluttered or even an area that just needs some tending and straighten it up/reorganize.  I mentioned that your students can help you do some of this while they are still in school.  This includes making sure each library bin contains the correct books, each game has all of it’s pieces, the math manipulatives are put back in their proper bins, and all of the name labels are removed from cubbies, desks, and other supplies.  Also all broken crayons, dried markers, and dull colored pencils have been thrown away.  When you don’t have to do this at the end of your summer, you can focus on other things that are more important.

Step 3 – Reflect


Take about ten minutes to jot down things that you liked or didn’t like about this school year in terms of room design.  I would make a list that looked very similar to the one above.  On the one hand I would think about the things that I wanted to keep for the following year.  On the other had, I’d list what didn’t work for the students, therefore noting the changes that would have to take place before the next school year.  When you do this as it’s fresh in your mind, you can make the appropriate changes BEFORE the next school year begins.  For example, my reading area was right by the door during the 2009-2010 school year.  It was so distracting and the kids were more focused on what was going on outside the room than their books.  So for the 2010-2011 school year, I moved it to the cozy corner you see here.  This space was free from distractions, more conducive to the cozy feeling I was going for, and allowed for the space by the door to be open, causing the room to feel much larger.  Also by making a list, you’re holding yourself accountable to change things before the kids arrive the next year.  Tuck it into a space where you can easily find it when you return at the end of the summer.  Like, maybe the front of your Teacher Anchor???


By taking steps toward organizing and preparing for next school year now, you can have more time to enjoy your summer later.  This summer, I’ll only be blogging primarily on Monday/Wednesday/Fridays.  Mostly I’ll be giving you some professional development tips, previews of the new C. Jayne Teach shop (launching August 1st!!!) and more Fired Up Fridays.  I’ll be back with lesson plans and ideas to get your room set up for the next school year towards the end of July.  So enjoy your summer, but also stay tuned for lots of good stuff from C. Jayne Teach.  Yay!

Fired Up Fridays: The Pool

Now that it’s summertime, YOU can do more things that fire you up too!!!  What’s on your list?  What is the first thing you plan on doing for this long weekend?

In celebration of Memorial Day, this weeks Fired Up Friday is about the pool.  I was always more of a lay on the lounge chair, enjoying an umbrella drink kind of girl.  That is, until I became a mama.  Our little guy LOVES the water… bath water, pool water, water that’s spilled on the floor… you name it, he likes to splash in it.  When we recently went to the beach with my family, I was able to see a whole new kind of joy when he got to play in the pool.

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I never thought I’d be a pool girl, unless I was floating on a raft.  But seeing that sweet face splash and giggle and play for hours in the pool was just the kind of thing that lights my heart on fire.  The pool opens this weekend and although we don’t have too many plans for the holiday, we are planning on taking this little guy to the Y to experience all the splashing and fun he can handle.  Also… I purchased this AMAZING crab pool from Target.


I’ll be sure to post lots of pics of that soon.  I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing weekend with the people you love.  Enjoy the weather and an umbrella drink or two!


PS:  Have you SEEN some of the new shop products that are coming in???  Lots of sneak peeks over on Instagram @cjayneteach!

What are you going to do these last few days?!?

I’ve never been a fan of a week’s worth of “movie days” the last week of school.  I wanted my students to have fun this last week and also get excited about their upcoming summer!  Here are a few things I would do every year during the last few days of school.

Reflect on the Year

I love to reflect on my previous year with the students.  Those last few days of school, I just enjoy pulling up old photos and saying “Remember when…” and hearing them reflect on our year, both good and not so good times.  One year I had the kids make a list of their favorite memories from the school year.  Then I pulled a photos of one memory from each of their lists and created a slideshow of our year.  I emailed it out to all the parents so they could download it or burn it onto a CD.  I also showed it to the kids on the last day of school.

Another way I reflect from the previous year, is through our morning messages.  I keep the charts that I write the morning message on every single day.  I choose a handful of them from throughout the year and hang them up around the classroom one morning.  When the students come in, they marvel at their handwriting and how it’s changed, the fun projects we did throughout the year, and seeing how many things they learned.  For example, I always include the first day of schools’ morning message.  The students sign their names on it and it is drastically different from their handwriting at the end of the year.  Also the year I got engaged, I hung up the morning message from the morning that Eric proposed.  The kids giggled about how much we celebrated that day and how little learning we did that day too…. (Build a chapel out of LEGOs during math class?  Sure!  Draw wedding dresses in writers workshop?  Sure!)

And I’ve mentioned it before here on the blog, but my all time favorite thing to do is to give the students their writers workshop portfolios from the entire year.  I keep them in chronological order and lay them on their desks when they return from lunch.  The first story they ever wrote in first grade will be lying on top.  The room immediately fills with “Oh, my handwriting looks so BAD” or “I can’t even read this!”  But something amazing happens through this activity… You can see even the least confident writers fill up with complete pride at how far their writing and illustrating techniques have come.  It’s one of my happiest moments as a teacher.

Write Letters to Each Other

I always write a letter to my students before they leave first grade.  In these letters I share my favorite things about them, personality traits that I’ll miss about them, and my hopes and goals for them in the future.  I love writing these letters.  A few years I had my students write letters to each other and I compiled them into a book to give them on the last day of school.  The format was always the same for them: say something you love about your friends, something you will miss about your friend over the summer, and share a fun memory you had together.  We write a few letters a day and pretty soon, every one has a treasured book of letters to keep.

Put Them to Work

Seriously.  You have 20 or so anxious helpers that can help you do anything!  It was never mandatory, but I always looked for “special helpers” to help me clean out the room, take the tape off of posters, use Clorox wipes to dust off the shelves, re-organize the books, and (yes) even help me move classrooms!  One year each kid grabbed something small to carry to my new room and we just constantly made trip after trip until everything was moved.  They even flipped their desks over and slid them down the hallway.  It took only one day to move everything but the large furniture (and a really nice and understanding principal).

But your students truly can help you get organized for the summer.  They would help me clean out their desks, wipe down furniture, straighten the library and math manipulatives up, make sure the indoor recess games had all of their parts, test the markers and pitch the ones that have dried out, organize the construction paper by color, and help me eat all the candy that’s left in my “brain food” jar.

Stay tuned tomorrow when I share some tips for how you can prepare for next school year by purging files, giving away unused items, and having a “yard sale” right in school!



Summer Reading Programs

This is the last week of school for most of us here in Tennessee.  Today I’m going to be highlighting some great summer reading programs to introduce to your students.  At the end of each year, I always gave my students a summer reading packet and our school librarian also did an amazing job getting kids involved in summer reading as well (check out her blog for this year’s ice cream theme!)  I read a startling statistic in the New York Times recently that said: It is estimated that school summer breaks will cause the average student to lose up to one month of instruction, with disadvantaged students being disproportionately affected (Cooper, 1996).  Researchers conclude that two-thirds of the 9th grade reading achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years, with nearly one-third of the gap present when children begin school (Alexander, Entwistle & Olsen, 2007).  The body of existing research demonstrates the critical importance that the early development of summer reading habits can play in providing the foundation for later success. 

Please read that again.  TWO THIRDS of the reading achievement gap in 9th grade can be explained with unequal summer opportunities and summer breaks can cause the average student to lose up to ONE MONTH OF INSTRUCTION.  Whoa.  Now, hold the phone a minute.  I do NOT want your students or your children in summer school, tutoring, and doing a thousand math exercises and reading hundreds of books so that this gap can be prevented.  No no no.  But I DO want to make sure that they are reading leisurely and for fun and these programs can help do just that.  Let’s look at a few of them.

1. Local Libraries and Barnes and Noble

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I’ve always loved Barnes and Noble’s summer programs.  And it’s so manageable.  Here’s how it works.  Students read 8 books and log them in the reading log that can be downloaded from their website.  When they’ve finished their log, take it to your participating B&N and choose a free book!  Easy peasy!  And the kids are only reading 8 books at a time… not 800.  Then they can start a new log and work towards another new book.  Hooray!

Your local library will also have summer reading programs set up, so make sure you check that out too.  I know the Nashville Public Library’s summer reading program has students log the books they read, then they’re entered into a drawing to win Target and Visa gift cards as well as a Kindle or a Kindle Fire!  Fun!  I have such fond memories of visiting my local library back in small town Ohio and earning stamps towards the books I would read.  I can still remember the smells and the sounds of that library in the summer and they are some of my fondest memories to date.  I think that’s why reading lights my heart on fire still to this day.

2. Summer Reading Fun at Home

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Pinterest provides a ton of resources for you to set up your own reading program right in your living room.  I love this FREE summer reading game from How Does She.  So how does it work?  Your child chooses a summer reading goal and records it on his BINGO card.  Based on the places they read throughout the summer (in the grass, in my pajamas, on a Monday…) they earn a space on their BINGO board.  When they’ve filled in the entire board, they get a coupon or a golden ticket.  You write fun things on these coupons that your children will enjoy such as an ice cream treat, new pool toy, or even a trip to the water park!  Students can even decorate a banner square with each book title and use them to decorate their room (I can see Kindergarten/First graders loving this activity).

3. Classroom Incentives


As I mentioned before, you can offer your students incentives for when they return in the fall.  This is what I created with my summer reading packet (I’ll list it on TpT soon).  The incentives can be as simple as returning their book log to you in the fall and choosing from your classroom prize box.  Plus students love coming back to visit their old teachers!  The ice cream cones above are from the Discovery Schools’ summer reading program.  Their book log is made to look like ice cream scoops to fit their theme!  When students return with a completed “cone”, they earn a free milkshake from the local Reeves-Sain store.  I always did this in combination with a local library summer reading program for maximum reading fun!

The main thing about a summer reading program is to be excited about it.  If you aren’t excited, your students won’t be.  I made a big production out of the “launching of our summertime reading challenge” – so the kids would be ready to keep practicing those good reading skills throughout the summer.  Also important?  Parent knowledge.  Inform the parents of the various programs and activities and get them just as excited about the resources for summer reading opportunities as you are.  This can be done at a parent meeting at the end of the year party or in a simple email.  Just let them know your expectations and throw in that above quote about summertime achievement gaps… that couldn’t hurt either!  Have fun!

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