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Meredith Teasley Photography www.meredithteasley.com

Hey everyone!  Just popping in here to ask you to update your blog feeds with my new blog address: http://blog.cjayneteach.com

As you may have heard, the shop will be all new launching May 1st!  So don’t forget to come back to celebrate the launch with lots of giveaways, new products, and the 2016-17 Teacher Anchor®.  Hooray!

Sign up for the newsletter to be the first to be notified when the shop is live!

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The Kindergarten Toolkit
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I’m a mom.  I’m also a teacher (for over 10 years!).  And there is little to no training that prepares me to actually sit down and teach my own (almost) four year old those early learning skills that I know he needs to know.  He doesn’t want to listen to me, he has a hard time focusing on what we’re doing and he does not find it fun.  Well… until now!  Let me introduce you to the Kindergarten Toolkit!  This wonderful product was created by my friend Carrie, a kindergarten teacher turned teacherpreneur!

What is the Kindergarten Toolkit?

“The Kindergarten Toolkit is a teaching tool for parents, grandparents or teachers to use with children ages 2 thru 6 that fully prepares your child for Kindergarten.  It helps build a basic foundation of reading, writing and math skills as your child prepares to enter the early grades.  Start with your 2 year old with shapes and colors or start with your 6 year old the summer before Kindergarten and focus on all 10 Kindergarten goals!”

I love it so much because it includes everything that you might need including a spiral bound book of lessons that are differentiated to your child’s level.  And!  The lessons are simple and written in a way that any parent can be a “teacher” to their child – no prior education experience needed!

So, what does it include?

* The Toolkit booklet focuses on 10 main Kindergarten goals.
There are 3-4 mini lessons for each of the 10 goals. Supplemental pages in the back are designed to be copied for future assessments and lessons. You don’t want to write in the booklet so it can be used with multiple children!

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* Four sets of flashcards
– Upper and lower case letters
– Numbers 1-20
– 25 Kindergarten sight words
-10 colors and shapes

*Also included is a whiteboard and pen to use with assessments and lessons. As well as a piece of sidewalk chalk for outdoor learning!  Sidewalk chalk!  Brilliant!

I was so impressed with how well-made and thorough this toolkit is.  Even as a former kindergarten teacher myself, I forgot what all needed to be done to prepare kids for kindergarten readiness!  I also love that it includes a whiteboard and marker/chalk so the writing component is also included!  My son’s favorite are the shape cards – because it is shape week at school!  So we’re able to connect it to his school setting at home!

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Also, you have to follow @thekindergartentoolkit on Instagram!  Carrie does such an amazing job of giving you on-the-go learning activities and fun games to play everywhere from the car pickup line to the playground!  (I told you, she’s amazing!)

And this toolkit isn’t just for parents… Early childhood teachers from pre-school through first grade would find benefit in these activities to prepare their students for early kinder-readiness or to review those skills that may need practice!

Build your student’s confidence and help them be prepared to excel as they embark on their educational journey. Quality one-on-one time for at least 30 minutes a week using the Kindergarten Toolkit will help achieve that goal!

Go, go, go check it out!

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Congratulations…

…. to Vada!  You won a complete Teacher Anchor!  Please email chandra@cjayneteach.com* with your address and I’ll pop that in the mail to you this week!

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*You have until Friday at 12:00pm to claim your prize.  After that, a new winner will be chosen. 

Thanks to everyone who entered!  And for those of you who already purchased your Anchor, please see the previous post to learn how I set mine up.  Yay!

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Throwback Thursday: Classroom Library Organization 101
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Only TWO days left to enter the giveaway.  Winner will be announced on Monday!  Yay!!!

Today I thought I’d do a little throwback to a classroom library organization post I did back in the spring.  Re-organizing my classroom library was one of the first things I did before the kids were back at school.  But even if you’ve already started, this is a great post to get you focused and your library organized to where it needs to be.  I’ve updated that post from the spring and bring you a lesson in library organization 101…

I proudly owned the fact that I’m a bit OCD when it comes to organization.  My classroom library was scanned, organized, and leveled and all of my students knew how to use it.  They were able to independently select books they were interested in from a wide array of fiction, non-fiction, chapter books, and leveled readers.  As I mentioned in my all about page, I had an upwards of 2,000 books in my classroom library last year.  That’s a lot to organize.  But even if you have 20 books, your students need to easily access them and an organized library will do just that.  So let me offer you a few tips and tricks that helped me. 

Before you begin…

You will need lots of clear plastic bins in various sizes.  I like these for my fiction and non-fiction books [order in sets so you can save money], I like these for my chapter books, and these for my leveled readers.  Also I know it’s tempting to buy the colored bins because they are so cute, but stick with the clear.  It’s also cheaper.  Also make sure you have good bookshelf space all in one area.  Your students don’t want to travel to each corner of the room to find a book, so make it easy and put them all in one place.  Enlist a good teacher re-decorator friend to help you rearrange your classroom and ask teachers if they have any bookshelves they aren’t using.  I found some old ones that a teacher was planning on throwing out and re-painted them.

You also need a way to catalog your books.  There are some fantastic websites, apps, and scanners out there to help you do this.  Here are a few that I highly recommend:

Classroom Organizer: This is a free website that allows you to import all your titles for easy student check out (if that’s your main end goal). It comes with a free companion app that allows you to scan the ISBN number on the back of your books for easy information recall and cataloging.  Plus you can log on in the app or at your computer.  I find it the most classroom-friendly of the bunch.

Book Retriever App: I have this one on my phone.  I think it’s just as good as Classroom Organizer but doesn’t have a desktop piece – it’s only available on a mobile device.  When you scan the bar code with the app, information about the book shows up including title, author, cover photo, grade level, and the current price to purchase a replacement.  And if your book doesn’t have a barcode, you can make one and print it yourself.  Cost $0.99.

Delicious Library: I only like this site because you can use your computer camera as a scanner, in case you don’t have an Android, iPhone, or independent scanner.  But it does cost $35 (which is way cheaper than an independent Bluetooth scanner but not as cheap as “free“).  I’d only recommend this if you don’t have a way to get an app on a device you own.

Step 1 – Dump all your books on the floor.

Yes, you read that correctly.  You have to start from scratch when it comes to re-organizing.  You need to build a functional library from the ground up.  I promise, if you do the work on the front end, the students help do the work on the back end.  Okay, so make four piles of books – one non-fiction and one fiction.  Then make a pile of leveled readers and another pile of chapter books.

Step 2 – Start with your chapter books.

These are the easiest to organize because there are fewer categories.  I would sort out all the series I had (Cam Jansen, Magic Tree House, A-Z Mysteries, Junie B, Judy Moody, etc) and make a bin for each series.  Then whatever was left, I’d just make a few general “chapter books” bin.  If you have multiple titles by an author, such as Kate DiCamillo, you could also create an author bin.  I’d do that more with the older students so that they could find books by the same author.  As you put your books into a bin, make sure you are scanning each one to catalog it.

Step 3 – Organize your fiction.

I think it’s best to organize fiction alphabetically.  I know there are some wonderful sites out there that recommend organizing by genre or theme, but for fiction, I find this is too difficult to do.  So many fiction titles encompass multiple themes and I this can get confusing when you or your students are searching for a title.  The only exception for me was Fairy Tales and Poetry.  I thought those two categories could get their own self-explanatory bins.  I bought a set of colorful letters from an office supply store and set them in front of each bin.  I set out one bin for each letter at first.  Then I began organizing the books by title.  For example, “A Bad Case of Stripes” went in the “A” bin, “Bad Kitty” in the “B” bin and so on.  Once I had finished, I began consolidating books.  I moved all the W, X, Y, and Z books into one bin because there were so few of them.  But at the same time, I split the “M” bin into two bins because of the amount of “M” titles I had.  Just make sure no one bin is too heavy for little hands to pick up.  A heavy bin could turn into a broken bin that produces some sharp jagged plastic – yikes!  (see photo below for a visual example)  Once you have each bin with an appropriate amount of books, attach your letters to the front so that the students are able to see them easily.  And don’t forget to scan them into your catalog system.

Step 4 – Organize you non-fiction and informational text.

This is where you want to organize by theme.  Most students will choose non-fiction based on a topic they enjoy, like reptiles or the Solar System, so it’s best to have them sorted in this way.  I created an entire separate area for my “Non-Fiction Nook”.  All the bins were the same clear bins, but I printed the labels on yellow paper instead of white.  This was a helpful visual for the students to see that this area was different than the fiction section.  So sort all of your NF books into as many themes as you want.  I would use post-it notes to label my stacks so that I could condense them later if I needed to.  I did end up combining some themes into one bin because they had similar characteristics (like reptiles, amphibians, and dinosaurs for example) but you can have as many categories as you’d like.  Again, just make sure no bin is too heavy or too light.  (photo below allows you to see the way I separated my NF)  Once you’ve designated each bin with a theme, type up labels and place them on the front of the bin.  Make sure the type is large enough for your students to see.

Step 5 – Organize your leveled readers.

I saved this for last because it is the most time consuming.  Our school used the Guided Reading leveling system.  If your school doesn’t have one, I find this to be the easiest to understand.  I only leveled my readers so that students were able to put them in their book boxes to read during independent silent reading time.  I did level a few chapter books for my high readers, but not all.  Also I do not level my books by a letter, but by color.  Each book has a circular colored sticker in the corner and each bin represents a color (see photo below).  Back at my desk, I have a “key” that allows me to see the corresponding guided reading level to each color.  This is a key I made up myself using colors that were easy for me to remember a corresponding level (for example I only leveled letters A-O on the guided reading scale.  I put the circle stickers in rainbow order with the reds and pinks being the lower levels of A-D and the blues and purples being the higher levels of M-O.  But you can do whatever works best for you).  I created this color system so that students don’t know their actual level.  DO NOT TELL STUDENTS THEIR LETTERED LEVEL.  Read that again.  DO NOT TELL STUDENTS (OR THEIR PARENTS FOR THAT MATTER) THEIR LETTERED LEVEL.  Kids are smart and parents talk.  If you think they don’t understand that a level E is lower than a level J, you’re mistaken.  Never, ever, in all my years of teaching did I tell a child what letter level they were on.  Very rarely did I tell parents and every time I went against my judgement and told them their child’s level, I regretted it.  So just don’t.  You can tell parents that they’re reading above or below grade level, but don’t assign them a letter.

Ok, back to the books… once you’ve created a key for yourself, then you have to research each title to assign a level to it.  Scholastic Book Wizard is amazing because you can type in a title, choose your leveling system (Guided Reading, DRA, etc) and it will give you the level.  There are other resources that your schools literacy teacher may have available, including a subscription to the Fountas and Pinnell leveled books website.  If you can’t find a level from one of these resources, you may just have to level it yourself.  You will get better with this over time, but you just have to look at the text, words on each page, and comprehension level.  Compare it to other books that you have a confirmed level on and use your best judgment.  If you’re a level off, it’s okay.  But hopefully you won’t have to do this too often.  Once you have your titles leveled, put them in your bins and label the bin with the color on the front.  I used the exact sticker on the front so that students are not confused by different sticker shades (“blue” could be light blue vs. dark blue).  Also you’ll see in the photo below, that some bins have more than one color in them.  Due to space issues, I had to consolidate.  I would only combine titles that were within one level of each other so students sometimes could choose from the entire “bin” not just a color.  (It’s an exciting day when you say, “Okay instead of choosing only orange books, you can now choose anything you want from the orange and black bin!”)

Step 6 – Make your library space feel like home.

My classroom library was the coziest place in my room.  It was always placed in a corner and I used the bookshelves to define the space.  I made sure to have comfy chairs, bean bags, and mini-papasan type seating for the kids to read on (I always wanted to put up a hammock or hang a bubble chair from the ceiling in my library… wouldn’t that be so fun?!?)  I used colorful frames to frame photos of past classes and I’d place them on the shelves in between the book bins.  I’d also frame funny pictures that I’d taken, like a monkey with a speech bubble saying “Don’t monkey around, choose the right book!”  I’d have a few indoor plants scattered throughout the space to give it a breath of fresh air and some soft lighting from lamps and garden lights that I’d string above the shelves.  I had the students book boxes right inside the library so that they were able to conveniently choose books to read and put them inside.  I’d also have a shelf designated for books that went with a theme or unit we were working on or an author we were studying.  I was able to use book stands to entice students to grab a specific title.  And I’d put colorful rugs down for students to lay on and read.

Below you’ll find some images of my classroom library during my third year of teaching.  Click the images to enlarge them.  In my fourth and fifth years, I added another shelf and flip flopped the fiction and non-fiction sections (to keep all the non-fiction with the yellow theme).  Due to a computer crash, I lost all the photos of those libraries.  🙁  But I think the ones below represent what I’m talking about in this post.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment below.  I hope these tips help you and your students have a more efficient and cozy space for reading.  By designing a comforting space where students can enjoy a good book, you are creating a foundation to instill a lifelong love of reading that I hope will continue on throughout their lives.

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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