Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday! This is my last official weekend of summer. We get kiddos at 8:30 Tuesday morning! I'm SO excited because there are only about 6 kids on my whole list that I don't know. I either had them in 2nd grade or knew them because they were in the other two classes. That is really cool. I got some of my lovely kids back and I'm SO grateful for that.

Our new principal seems to be awesome-sauce so far. I think he is going to bring a whole new level of accountability to our school--for the kids and their parents mainly. This is a very good thing. I work in the inner city and we have a lot of poverty. There are issues that go along with living in poverty in this way BUT I grew up in that very area and went to this very school (well in its former incarnation)...and I rose above that poverty and made something of myself. So I don't believe poverty is an excuse to be belligerent, rude or uncaring. Our new principal seems to very much follow that line of thinking and there were many times in our PD day that my jaw nearly hit the floor because he'd say something and I was like "oh my gosh YES, this is what we need here!" If this guy follows through on even a quarter of what he said he'd like to bring to our school, it will be a whole new (better) world. I'm really looking forward to seeing how things play out.

My room came together so well over the last couple of days I was able to put some time into my room. I'm very pleased with it. I have a few small things to finish (labels and signs here and there) but otherwise it is set for my students to join me in on Tuesday. As I have mentioned previously, we have had some massive shifts in our district this year (including reopening a school they closed 3 years ago) which is what caused the displacements this spring and the mass confusion and overhaul of staffing over the summer. We are not entirely positive which of our students will leave us to attend the reopened school (as that would be their "home school" attendance area). My tentative class list went from 37 down to 28. Five of those 28 are uncertain, however, because their attendance area is actually the reopened school. I figure anything is better than 30 kids in a split grade and I won't have that so I'm safe! :)

My guess is that a couple of those five will probably go to the other school and I'll sit somewhere around 26 students to start with and that is perfectly fine with me. Our 3rd/4th split is sitting at 26 and we plan to keep her there. I advocated that kids NOT be added to that class after the fact like they did to me last year because it's so unfair to do that to someone who has to balance two grades. (Of course the district has also said this year that teaching to the majority grade would be acceptable--which would have been nice for them to say last year!)

All in all, with a few minor tweaks on things in my classroom and preparing for some confusion and upheaval the first few days until the metaphorical dust settles, I think this year is going to be my best yet. I am excited to be teaching a grade that I love and being "home" where I belong. 

Enjoy your long weekend, friends! You deserve it (especially those of you who have been in school for a month already)!
The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I spent a good portion of today in Room 315, setting things up and getting ready for the new year. I am such an ADHD girl...I flitter around the room as things grab my attention, often times abandoning what I was doing to suddenly go work on something else. It's an annoying habit but one I can't seem to break. It must just be how I roll. :)

My room was an absolute disaster when I left yesterday. Things pretty much spread out over all of my table groups and everywhere with some boxes and totes still needing to be emptied and some things needing to go back home that are lower-grade specific. I decided last year when I was moving out of my school that I was NOT going to have every teaching item I owned in my classroom anymore. If it wasn't relevant to me in that moment, it wasn't staying! As such when I thought I was teaching first grade, I had a lot of my big kid stuff still packed away in the barn loft and have had to exchange some of it for the little kid stuff I won't be using this year after all. 

In some ways, this hasn't been a horrible thing because I have purged many things I forgot I even owned but also have found some treasures of "OH YEAH!" items that I haven't used in awhile that I know my kids will like and we can do some things with this year.
These are, by no means, "final" pictures but I kind of like seeing a progression of where I've been and where I've gone. :)

 There are few things about my building that are kind of bothersome, very few. The open shelving we have is one of them. I think it is more because even when you're super neat, its REALLY hard to make it not look messy/cluttered.  So using the red fabric I had up on the bulletin board at my 1st grade school, I cut it into smaller pieces to cover these foam boards I got at Dollar Tree. I bought 6 but have room for one more on the far end! I love that they are a "hinge" so I can easily reach behind them but they collectively will serve as a focus wall area for language arts and vocabulary.

 I saw this on Pinterest and wanted to try it. It's cute...but either I'm creatively challenged or the others who did this had help because it was a HUGE pain to put up and I won't be making another one.

 Last year since I had a split, my hallway area said "Fabulous 4~5's" and I was REALLY glad I just put up "4's" this time :)

 I am reusing some old organizers I found in my barn loft for behind my desk (a better picture will come soon). I have so many sticky notes, I had to made a drawer JUST for them! :)

 I love this space. It's on the "bump out" glass. My Math Workshop board is here (you can see the strips where I will write the assignment for each area) and next to it is our "ROK" Vocabulary. If you've read my blog for awhile, you've likely heard of my love affair with DDI. I have moved more away from the paper-based activities that go with it and want to focus more on the vocabulary. We will have focused vocabulary here that coincides with the vocabulary the kids are likely to encounter on their MAP tests.

 This is "in progress" clearly because it's a mess. This is in the corner by the "bump out" space (see the vocab pocket chart?). I plan to have a writing space here and my Math it Up station. (Waiting on final numbers for my class now that we have a split coming in because I can likely use a long student table instead of these small ones.) I REALLY want my kids to have lots of options for their individual choice time during math and reading workshops this year.

 This is the window ledge. I put my mailboxes here and those tubs (sorry its hard to see because of the sun) have math manipulatives inside. These are here as they will be available for the kids to use when they are working in the areas of the math workshop. See that little tree? My school nurse gave it to me last year. They named it Audrey like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors ;)

 Table groupings (so far). Each student has vocabulary folder (orange), Student Reference (math) book, Reading Street volume 1, composition notebook and a box of 16 count crayons. I need to add their pen pal pencil holders still. 

 This is my MESSY corner! In trying to get most of the other areas ready, I started piling everything over near my desk area! :)

 This is in the back of my room. My super colleague who had this room last year left that makeshift board up there (its a piece of foam!) and I need to add border. My small group area will be back here. This is a great spot for it because I will be able to see my whole room from this space.

 Far off look of the library area (big cart). Underneath that yellow bulletin board is a cart of books as well but it's covered with an organizer that I forgot to remove! :)

 Same area as the first picture but you can see my binders piled up (far right of the counter) that need to be relabeled and given to the kids for their data notebooks. I also have four crates there that say "Student Portfolios", "Walking Classroom", "Read Naturally" and "Audio Books". More on those coming soon!

My whole group area. I love that I have enough room here for my Calendar Board :)

I figure it will take about an hour to finish up the messes in my room because its really just a matter of sorting the rest and putting it where it goes (90% of which belongs in the organizers by my desk which is why they are back there). 

Tomorrow is our official staff report day and we're in meetings from 8:30-3:30 with an hour for lunch. I plan to get there a bit early and spend lunch working and maybe a little bit of time after the meetings also. Thursday we should get our specialist schedule (its late because we just added two teachers to our staff who now need to be added to the schedule) and I am hopeful to have the afternoon to plan for the first week. I know almost everything I'm doing for the first day--mostly fun stuff and getting to know you type of things (goal setting, etc) and then jumping right into curriculum on Wednesday. We have a lot to do this year and I want to be able to give my kids some extra buffer toward the end of the MP by getting started right away.
I'm really hopeful to get everything set before I go home on Thursday so I CAN relax this weekend and not do anything school related.

The Caffeinated Teacher

Monday, August 26, 2013

Whew...back to school craziness!

In an attempt to take a step back and spend some time away from "School Mode", we went up to our cabin this weekend. Well, really Saturday evening since The Husband is on Saturdays for awhile meaning his "weekend" is Sunday-Monday. It was great all day yesterday--relaxing, not giving a care about a whole lot.

Alas, the moment my eyes opened this morning (at 7:30! What?? It's still summer!), I couldn't get school stuff out of my mind. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn't stop thinking about all of the stuff I needed to do. It also looked like rain up north so we packed it in, came home and I headed into work.

Probably a good thing because between last Thursday when I left the campus and today around 12:40 when I arrived, they have added a 3rd/4th grade class and a 5th grade class! I guess our numbers really haven't gone down (we knew they wouldn't!) so they are being proactive and adding classes now rather than waiting until we have 35+ kids in our classes on the first day. (That happened two years ago when our 5th grades had 39 kids each!)

I'm SO glad *I* was not asked to move again because I probably would have died. I don't want 5th grade and I sure don't want the split (been there, done that and it didn't do me any favors). As far as I can tell, we will be spending some time on Wednesday afternoon redistributing students between our classes so that we are being smart about the 3rd/4th split (which, I am just going to say WASN'T done with my split last year) and redistribute some of these kids so that Mr. 4th grade doesn't have all of the naughtier boys in the grade. 

I will be spending the day tomorrow at school as well, trying my best to get the rest of my room set up for my class. It will be really interesting to see how our numbers eventually even out. I will be the ESL person for my grade level so chances are I will keep a good portion of the kids that I have who are second language kiddos. I can't believe that we start school next Tuesday. So much to do in such a short amount of time!

The Caffeinated Teacher

Friday, August 23, 2013

Five for Friday Linky

I'm linking up for Five for Friday! 

1. This was my super beautiful and almost done whole group corner of my 1st grade room that I spent slaving in on Monday (with no air conditioning and cackling neighbors out the window--seriously they were cackling and it was hilarious).

2. Spent Tuesday in PD going over the new units of study for this year. 

3. Spent Wednesday in the second half of Tuesday's PD and midway through got a phone call that I was going BACK where I started in 4th grade at almost Former School! (Someone quit so a spot opened up for me.) So grateful! Ready to head back home!

 4. Of course that lil switcheroo meant moving OUT of that beautifully done room in #1 and back to where I had been. I dealt with it because I am MUCH happier in 4th grade and wanted to be at my "home school"...but it was H-O-T in Michigan yesterday and I was dripping with sweat by the time I was done. GROSS!

{This is not my shirt...mine was actually MORE soaked. About an inch up the front of my thighs was the only part of me not soaked in sweat. Nasty!}

5. I took a DAY OFF today. I didn't do ANYTHING that was remotely productive and I don't care! It felt awesome after this insane week. 

{Pretty much my day...minus the beer!}

Have a great weekend!

The Caffeinated Teacher

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reasons to be Happy

Tons of people I know have been really amazed that I'm not mad/angry/venting about my multiple movements this summer. They have griped and complained on my behalf.

All of this time, while I certainly haven't been happy, I have felt it necessary to keep it real, keep a smile on my face and just deal with it. As my dear grandma used to say, no where on your birth certificate does it say life is fair. And it is just crass to complain about having a job (even if it isn't an ideal one) when your friends and colleagues have been laid off. 

I'm definitely not looking forward to taking all of my hard work down off the walls in my 1st grade room (and oh am I going to miss that real teacher desk!)...but I also know that I am going to be so happy to be back at my school, where I belong, with my 4th grade friends. I had a good chunk of these kids in 2nd grade two years ago and have wanted this position so badly. I was quite honestly startled that I wasn't given it in the first place. But politics being what they are....things have happened that shouldn't have and it's all water under the bridge now.

I find it a bit amusing because yesterday during my training, I was talking with a nice man from the creative arts school I had applied to. He said to me, "wait, you didn't get hired there?? WHY? You are really passionate and awesome." Keep in mind, I had never met him before these trainings. As we were breaking for lunch, a literacy coach in the district, who is at the 3rd grade building I was initially put in saw me and said "hey I heard you were going to be with us?" and I told her about the mix up and SHE was upset that I wasn't going to be at her school because (her words), "man what a loss for us". 

So clearly, despite my big mouth, tendency to tell it like it is and willingness to do what is necessary to make my kids successful, other people in my district realize that I have a TON to offer a school. After the training was done, I had to run back to my almost former school and tell the secretary. They were doing registration all day and I didn't know if she had been told. Our principal retired and we have an interim in place (the world's nicest man, seriously). They were all congratulating me and super happy, even our school community coordinator and the custodians were welcoming me back. It feels SO awesome to know that I'm wanted and needed in the exact place where *I* want to be.

There are so many reasons why this move is so good for me...
1) I can use the Common Core spiral homework I used last year that gave me great results for my kids
2) I can use the Paragraph of the Week format again
3) I can use my beloved Calendar Board
4) I have about half of my babies from 2nd grade back!
5) I know the staff, I know the school, I know the routines...I can just slip right back in

I'm SO very grateful because I know this opportunity was given to me because I was patient. I was good. I have gone with the flow, kept my chin up and just taken everything as it comes. It's a lesson I definitely need to share with my students--never give up because the right opportunity WILL present itself.

Because we have an interim principal and he's more than willing to just make his teachers happy (have I mentioned he is the world's nicest man??), I am moving down and across the hall from my former room. I think I need a change of scenery. Plus the room I'm moving into was a straight 4th grade last year so everything I need is inside of it already. It will be nice to have a bit of a change of environment.

Another reason I secretly wanted to move? You've likely heard me mention how much I despise the bump outs in our school...well my room's bump out is ALL MINE. Why? Because next door is the teacher's lounge! So while we might hear laughing and giggling while the K-3 teachers are at lunch, for most of the day, that space will be empty and thus I can use my big fat voice all I want (seriously, it IS an issue lol).

Even better? No one will be in my former room....why do I care about that? Because it means that I can steal the 3 desktop computers that were in there and have NINE available computers for my room because we also have 6 laptops in the back. Score! 

The ONLY bummer is, the 1st grade school doesn't have an I have to cart all of my boxes back to the car by hand. It will likely take me 200 years since The Husband has to work tomorrow and can't help me this time. (He, for the record, thinks I am INSANE for not keeping the first grade job since I already moved into the school....but I ♥ the other school too much to not go back there. It's home.)

Stay tuned for pictures of my deconstructed first grade room and REconstructed fourth grade room :)
The Caffeinated Teacher

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Grade Level Shuffle (Part 2)

It's not April 1st and I SWEAR I am not making this up...I'm not teaching first grade this year. I am teaching FOURTH GRADE right back at my almost Former School! :D

Today was day two of our PD training and I went in this morning all prepped to tackle the new 1st grade ELA work. I was the only 1st grade teacher in the whole group so I had the 1st grade girl all to myself which was pretty awesome. I felt REALLY good about tackling this first grade thing.

Went to lunch with my friend, M, who teaches in another school in my district. Noticed I had a voicemail. It was the HR girl who said to call her ASAP because she had an opportunity for me to go back to my old school. I was like how is this even possible?!
Sure enough....someone got hired outside of the district and quit and someone else in the building requested to take that vacated position which left the fourth grade ESL position open. The HR gal knew I really had reservations about 1st grade and said she knew she had to give me the chance at this job. So I was a 1st grade teacher before lunch and a 4th grade teacher after lunch lol

I couldn't be HAPPIER. Yes it means that I have to undo all of the fabulous stuff I did at my 1st grade school but I'm 100% okay with that because I know, in the long run, I will be SO.MUCH.HAPPIER teaching 4th grade at the school that holds my heart.

Plus after the PD, I popped over to my school to let the secretary know and got hugs, congrats and more. It is good to be home! She let me peek at my class list (37 kiddos but that will change) and I got a bunch of my 2nd grade dumplins on my class list for this year. I am truly blessed. I know that this has happened to me because I haven't been a complainer, I haven't whined and moaned about how unfair all of this stuff has been (trust me, others have complained enough for me!). God tested me and I passed.

I am beyond GRATEFUL and so happy because I can use all of my super fabulous materials from last year, my goals don't need to change and I can kick it with my favorite grade ever!

The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

PD that is Perfect

I know....nothing is really perfect, but I'm super glad I signed up for the two day training I'm doing this week. Today was day 1 and we finish up tomorrow. A TON of information but I am really glad I decided to do this PD.

For a long time, well before I started teaching, I'm sure, there has been a big disconnect in terms of curriculum in my district. When I was a student teacher, there were buildings that weren't even using the same math series. So if you went from, say the north side of the district to the south side, you might be walking into a completely different math program. My first year of teaching, they adopted Everyday Math across the district. We also have Reading Street now that is district wide. 

Science and social studies, however, are often not taught AT ALL in certain buildings. People will say they have "no time". Last year, I managed to teach a split and still get in science and social studies and didn't understand how my colleagues with only one grade could claim they didn't have "time". Um, yes you do! You FIND the time.

So this two day PD, with a half day per core subject (science/social studies/ELA/math) addresses exactly how the district expects us to move forward. We have pacing guides and UNIT PLANS already laid out. I just have to teach them! As someone who is in vastly unfamiliar territory, this is AWESOME because otherwise I'd be like a fish out of water starting in 1st grade because I'm not familiar with anything that they do.

I had science this morning and social studies this afternoon. I am really excited about the new units they have put together and the expectation that everyone WILL teach all content areas this year. Period. It's about time too! 

In Michigan, 5th and 8th graders take a standardized test in Science. I had 9 5th graders take the test last year. Not a single one of them passed it. Most of them got a 4 (which is the worst score). Its simply because science has not been taught consistently throughout their schooling from grade to grade. They are trying to rectify that (and it's about time too! *wink*). 

In K-2 we have our schedules aligned as follows: 145 minutes of ELA, 90 minutes for math and 35-40 minutes of science/social studies. This is on a daily basis (except science/social studies is only 4 days per week to account for specials). You might be thinking "wait....that means 15-20 minutes a day of science or social studies". Nope, they even outlined it that we start with science and teach our unit for 4 1/2 weeks, then we switch to the social studies unit and teach it for the last 4 1/2 weeks of the marking period. So we have one unit per marking period for science and social studies. 

I love that I'm not expected to try to get it all in since they increased our ELA time at the early grades (initially it was 120 minutes across the K-5 range). I'm really excited for the ELA PD tomorrow because I think they have really made some good changes to what they want us to do, taken out things they wanted us to do last year that didn't provide us with any real support for our kiddos and streamlined things so from Day 1, we know exactly where and what we need to be doing. 

It is definitely going to make my transition to 1st grade a million times easier!

The Caffeinated Teacher

Monday, August 19, 2013

Weekend Trip & Progress in 1st grade

Hi bloggy friends!  I had a very long weekend driving The Oldest to her school in West Virginia and then coming home by myself on Sunday. 16 hours in the car = not fun. Especially the 8 I drove home with no companionship. Totally boring!

The good news is, The Oldest started band camp yesterday and is loving the college life thus far. Her room mate isn't in a fall sport so its just her so far in her bedroom. She's in a suite-style room so there will be 8 girls total and they share a common area and bathroom. Definitely worth the extra $100/semester otherwise she'd be totally alone for two weeks in her space. 3 of her suite mates are also in band and she gets along super well with all of them so that is great. She's having fun and enjoying band camp even though it is much tougher than what she's used to from high school. The bad news is, her momma might have cried the last 30 miles home realizing that she wasn't going to be there when I got home. It's WEIRD to know her bedroom is empty and I can't just knock on her door and talk to her. Why do kids have to grow up? :)

Whilst settling The Oldest in and getting her orientation stuff done, we had a chance to chat with the provost who did my final interview via Skype for that education faculty position. She has to be the nicest woman I have ever met. She gave me a hug and was very complimentary of me. I told her I'm definitely keeping my eye on them in case they do end up offering some of the online classes we talked about and she said, "oh, please do!" :)

Today I dragged The Husband, Middle Child and The Youngest to school with me. They helped me move everything in (except my tree because it wouldn't fit in the car!) and The Husband helped me get my bulletin boards mostly set. I have a few spots to finish but he helped with the big parts. I got to meet my teaching partner, who will have a 1st/2nd split (yuck!). She has had kindergarten for the last ten years so she knows exactly where they are coming from. I LOVED her. She is really nice. We were chatting before I left and she asked me if I had heard of Whole Brain Teaching and I was SO excited to be working with someone who has so many of the same ideas that I have. It is going to be an awesome year. I have trainings tomorrow and Wednesday but her and I will both be at school on Thursday and are planning to put our heads together and think about how to set up the first couple of weeks. She said she's only going to have 7 second graders so she will be running her class mostly as a first grade. I feel bad for her because I know exactly what it is like to have so few of one grade and try to meet all of their needs. It sounds like, however, they try to keep the K-2 classes small there. I found a seating chart from the teacher who had my room last year and she only had 20 kiddos. That would be AWESOME after having 30 last year!

I've made some headway and I'm SO excited about this year. I know that God put me where I am needed and this year is going to be awesome.
 Here's a peek at one side of my room. This is what it looked like when I left today.

I am finding all kinds of treasures in my classroom. I found a brand new, never been opened Mountain Math kit. Considering these kids are about $75, I was ecstatic to find it in my room. I am DEFINITELY using it. I can't believe no one ever opened it! I'm not going to use it as morning work or anything because of where I need to put it in my room but rather am going to use it as a math station, I think. 

I definitely feel blessed to come into a classroom and school that clearly cares about how their children learn. I have found so many good things to help me out. From four blocks books for first grade with rhymes and poems to a math workstation book to this mountain math kit, it's like hitting the jackpot every time I take the time to look on a different shelf or in another cupboard.

I even found a set of Leap Pads in one of the cupboards. I am going to have lots of awesome activities for my students to use during their rotations in both math and literacy. Very exciting. 
Hopefully I'll be DONE with my room by the time I leave on Thursday so that I can take final pictures.
The Caffeinated Teacher

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tips and Tricks on Writing Assignments {Guest Post}

Tips and Tricks on Writing Assignments

            Aside from Mathematics, writing is one of the students’ most dreaded academic-related activities. Apart from the tedious process of researching and note taking, writing assignments must be done in a manner that will reflect a student’s understanding about certain topics and its ability to convey such understanding to the readers.

While not everyone may be a born writer or has the luxury of spending too much time on a writing task alone, here are some guidelines that will help when writing your assignment.

Gather all relevant data and information. It should constantly be stressed that research is very important before doing your assignment. Use all the tools and resources available in the library or online and highlight the information you’re going to need.

Make an Outline. As a blueprint of your assignment, an outline should include the main points of discussion. Having an outline will help organize your ideas and how to write it, conduct literature searches and helps divide the word count for every section.

Create an Introduction. An introduction should contain 1-2 paragraphs with a brief background about what will be discussed and the objectives of writing the assignment. The thesis statement may also be incorporated in the introduction.

Ensure continuity of ideas. When writing your assignment, make sure that the idea conveyed in your first paragraph will be related to your succeeding paragraphs to enable your readers to follow your train of thought. Use transition words wherein the last sentences or ideas written will act as a “bridge” as you move on the next paragraph conveying a different subject. And as a general rule, stick to one main idea per paragraph to avoid confusion among readers.

Use examples. Use examples to better explain your topic and to enable readers to have a clear understanding of what you are talking about. More so, your assignment should reflect on how well you are able to understand your topic based from multiple sources by applying the concepts learned in practical applications.

Maximize tables and figures. While it may not reduce the number of words you’re only allowed to use, tables, figures or any form of illustration can be useful and effective in conveying information and date to your readers. For instance, if you have to present the 2013 Obesity Rate in the United States, graphs or tables may be a better way of showing it, to be supplemented with 2-3 sentences describing the illustration. Keep in mind that every illustration used should also be labeled for reader’s reference.

Stick with the word count. 1,000-word assignment may be dragging to read while shorter ones may not be able to exemplify the idea you would want to convey to your readers. If the word count indicates 450-500 words, then your assignment should be within the limit prescribed.

Cite your sources. Plagiarism is prevalent these days, hence considered as a major offense in most schools and universities around the world. Make attributions when borrowing an idea or illustration or making a direct quotation from a person. All the information and materials you’ve used should be included in your bibliography list. And in making citations, there are numerous styles that can be used so use a specific referencing style according to what was prescribed by your instructor.

Make a Conclusion. Your conclusion should state again the aim of the assignment, a brief summary of the main points discussed and final sentence which can be a challenge or question or something to think about for your readers. Conclusion should be strong and compact in order to leave in impact to your readers.  

Lois Weldon works at dissertation writing services She moved from Liverpool to London with her family. Loves writing helpful articles for students. She is a great Star Wars fan.
The Caffeinated Teacher

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hello from WV & Back to School Sale

I'm currently hanging out in a hotel in West Virginia, about 550 miles from Home Sweet Home. Today was Move-In Day for The Oldest. Bittersweet! 

It was a LONG drive down here but we laughed and laughed and had a great time. I will be so sad to have to drive all those miles home alone tomorrow. She, of course, is all settled in at school and ready to tackle her first Band Camp of college starting tomorrow. Very exciting for her. Sad for her momma though. I'm gonna miss that kid.

This is the courtyard in The Oldest's dorm. Isn't it divine?? 
I'm just a bit jealous of her! :)

I am also participating in the TPT Back to School Sale that runs tomorrow and Monday. I don't have much in my shop that costs anything but you can snag the items for a much cheaper price if you so desire!
The Caffeinated Teacher

Friday, August 16, 2013

Classroom Exercises to keep Students Calm and Focused {Guest Post}

Classroom Exercises:  Keep Your Students Calm And Focused

While the classroom is designed to be a comfortable environment for students to learn and advance in their education, it is often that teachers have a difficult time maintaining their students’ full attention, especially with younger children. While we might like to think that kids are able to stay calm and focused throughout the school day, the reality is that many students just have too much energy to really stay focused on their education.

That’s why some teachers have started doing basic calming exercises with their students right in the classroom. These breaks from the normal lesson plan can help students focus and be more disciplined in their studies.

While all students may not need the exercises, almost every child in your classroom can benefit in some way from regular calming exercises. 


You won’t be conducting full yoga sessions in your classroom, but a few minutes of exercise that incorporates the basics of yoga can help kids feel more relaxed and ready to learn. For example, you can include some of the fundamental stretches and poses found in yoga with deep breathing techniques.

You can even break up these different exercises throughout the day. For example, stretching exercises may be beneficial for students in the morning, since they can help increase blood flow, while deep breathing exercises may be more beneficial after lunch or in the afternoon, when children have just eaten or come in from the playground.

Yoga exercises are also ideal for older children and teens who can really gain something from the relaxation and focus-boosting benefits of yoga. 


Basic Calisthenics

While many schools have physical education programs, a lot of kids don’t get the regular exercise that they need on a daily basis. You can’t really provide that in a classroom environment, but you can help kids release some of their energy so they can be better prepared to learn in class by using basic calisthenics.

Because of the size of most standard classrooms, you don’t have to necessarily incorporate the standard calisthenics in your class. Instead, try replacing jumping jacks by having your students jump in place while they reach for the ceiling.

Small kids will love the activity, and they can get out a lot of energy in just a minute or two, so the exercise doesn’t eat up all of your class time.

Drawing or Writing Exercises

When you have kids in a classroom that just won’t focus or calm down to get to work, it might be counterintuitive to allow them to do something on their own. After all, they’re going to continue talking or messing around, right?

In actuality, many kids will calm down fairly quickly when asked to work on their own. Something as simple as as telling a child to draw every shape they know on a piece of paper can help them calm down and get into the right mindset for learning.

Best of all, an exercise, like a shape-drawing exercise, only takes a few minutes of class time. Drawing has other benefits for children as well. 

Kids get a lot of stimuli in and out of school. It’s no surprise that they often come to class bouncing off the walls and would rather run around, talk and giggle, rather than learn about history, math or any other subject you may be teaching.

By using these exercises, you can help kids of all ages calm down so they can learn efficiently-- they’ll likely enjoy the break from their monotonous schedule of lessons too!

Virginia Cunningham is a health writer and mom of three living in Southern California. She also works with Northwest to educate other parents about their family’s overall health. With three kids of her own, she is always finding new ways that will keep her kids from bouncing off the walls, such as yoga and gardening.
The Caffeinated Teacher

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Class Dojo's New App!

ClassDojo Mobilizes More Teachers to Build Students’ Character Anywhere with Version 2.0 of its Popular iOS and Android Apps

ClassDojo 2.0 now lets teachers manage, edit, share and sync up their students’ behavior reports from their mobile devices
SAN FRANCISCO – August 15th, 2013 - Today, ClassDojo, the free behavior development platform for teachers, students , and parents, is launching a major update - version 2.0 of its mobile apps for iOS and Android. ClassDojo, already used by over 15 million teachers and students in over 80 countries worldwide, will now offer teachers the full suite of ClassDojo’s web functionality on mobile devices, including setting up and customizing their classes, taking attendance, viewing progress reports, and inviting other teachers.

Download the iOS app here: and the Android app here:

The original ClassDojo app was intended to be a lightweight ‘remote control’ for the website, making it easy for teachers to give students positive feedback on their behavior in real-time within their classroom. There were significant limitations, including the inability to customize classes, view reports or even set up a class. In effect, the app made teachers somewhat dependent on the web application to fully manage their classrooms. ClassDojo’s new iOS and Android apps will offer the full set of ClassDojo’s experience.

Now that roughly two in three teachers have a personal smart device, more teachers can access ClassDojo’s full set of experiences without using a laptop or desktop computer. For many teachers working at underfunded schools with limited school technology resources, this means for the first time they can use ClassDojo with their students to reinforce positive behaviors like persistence, curiosity, and teamwork - and indicates great promise for ClassDojo’s continued ubiquity.

The new version also allows teachers to give behavior feedback without needing to have a Wi-Fi connection (although they still need network coverage). This new feature meets one of teachers’ biggest needs: to be able to use ClassDojo in settings outside of the classroom - for example, in lunchrooms, the playground, on field trips, and even just in classrooms with poor Wi-Fi connections.

Today’s news reflects the company’s continued learnings about the ed-tech market. Classroom adoption of mobile devices is growing quickly, as is evident with the recent news that Apple partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide students 640,000 iPads. Accordingly, the company has built out its mobile capabilities to allow its mobile development to parallel its web efforts.

“For many teachers and in particular for students, education is now a ‘mobile first’ environment, and we’re excited that ClassDojo is leading the charge,” says Sam Chaudhary, co-founder of ClassDojo. “Our new mobile apps build upon our mission of helping teachers, parents, and students develop the behaviors and character strengths that are essential for lifetime success. Real-time reinforcement of positive behavior, especially when provided consistently across contexts, helps build the character strengths that influence students’ academic and lifetime success.”  

ClassDojo’s mission is to address the ‘other half of education’ that goes beyond just building good test scores, to actually helping students develop the character strengths that are essential for lifetime success. The company is a graduate of the ‘Y-combinator for education’, ImagineK12.

About ClassDojo:
ClassDojo is a real-time behavior feedback platform used by millions of teachers, students and parents to build specific positive behaviors like persistence, curiosity and teamwork at school. It helps teachers solve the most painful problem they face teachers: improving student behavior. It enables teachers to easily conduct their lesson and improve student behavior by providing students with visual and audio feedback triggered using a smartphone, tablet, or computer; it engages parents and students to effect changes in behavior outside of the classroom as well.

About the founders:
Sam Chaudhary worked as a high school teacher and McKinsey & Co education analyst, and has a degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge. Liam Don was an MMO game developer at Runescape (Jagex), and was doing a computer science PhD in Education Technology, which he left to start ClassDojo. ClassDojo was early-stage seed funded by the incubator ImagineK12.

The Caffeinated Teacher

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

1st Grade Space

Well, I did it. I went into my new school and begged to be let in. (Okay, I didn't have to beg. But that sounds so much more dramatic!)

The secretary is super nice. I was the only teacher in the building at the time, which kind of surprised me a bit. As far as I can tell, only three of the staff members are new there so that's probably why. Everyone who has been there before probably doesn't feel the need to come in this early. I did exactly what I wanted to do. I met the secretary, gave myself a tour of the school (found everything but the art room, I couldn't tell if it was up or downstairs!) and saw my room. It is right across from the main office. I said to her, "Ah, so ya'll heard about me, huh?" and she laughed. :)

I got to see my fabulous new classroom space and brought home the first TE for math and for Reading Street like I wanted to do. I am STOKED to note that my new school has the Common Core edition of Everyday Math. They must have been piloting it because I didn't find the "old" materials that everyone else is still using. I flipped through it and giggled. 1st grade math = easy. I have to remember it won't necessarily be easy for my new little friends! But compared to teach division...this will be cake for me!

My room is HUGE and I am in love with it. This is the first time since my first year of teaching that I am not in a "new" building. I've had the privilege to be in the newly constructed and/or remodeled schools for most of my career and this school is definitely "old school" makes me think so much of my very first classroom. I really actually love it. The only downside to this school will be the lack of air conditioning when its really hot. But I have TONS of windows so I can't complain.
Keep reading to see my fun new space. I didn't do ANYTHING to it except peel back a little part of the the paper covering one of the bookshelves so I could take the TEs home. I didn't move anything at all so this is exactly what I will return to on Monday.

2013-2014 First Grade Classroom BEFORE
 This is the teacher tech cabinet. Just like at all of my last schools, this houses the ELMO camera and the other technology (VCR, etc). I LOVE the bulletin board behind it and that little blackboard just makes me smile. You never see them anymore but my first classroom had one and I thought it was cute. :)

 Look at that board space!! And an interactive whiteboard. I've never had one so I don't even know how to use it! ha! But I LOVE the space I have because it will allow me to have areas for reminders, schedules, etc that won't take up space that I need for other things. I'm thinking of putting my calendar on the part where I wrote "books". We shall see.

 Everything hidden under that red paper in the corner is books, books, books! I am in LOVE with it. It was probably one of the biggest things I worried about because most of my own books are for older kids. I am definitely not going to have to worry about having enough books for my new friends to read. See the bulletin board? Just wait....

 Big book stand, math manipulatives, a bookshelf and more of my bulletin board....and again, just wait...

 Look at the rest of that bulletin board!! I had NOTHING like this at my last school and I am dizzy with anticipation over what I can do with that awesome space! You can see two student computers right by the door. See that tree on the wall in the far back? It's painted on. I have to figure out some way to incorporate it into my decorations. I think I might take pictures of my kiddos and make them small and put them on the branches like "leaves". I don't know how feasible that will be but I'm going to try it!

 View of my room from the whiteboard area. This room is HUGE. Super high ceilings and alllll of that awesome storage in the back. Everything covered in red paper is bookshelves. The ones in the back mostly have teacher type of materials (its where I got my TEs). It's a bit hard to see but the U-shaped table has an accordian divider behind it that I can use to separate spaces and/or use for center activities.  

 Another view of this area. I have an actual teacher desk (see it back there with the trash can on top?). I know lots of people have gotten theirs out of their rooms but I NEED a space of my own and I'm super glad I have a real desk with drawers again. And the windows! ♥ Two more student computers! Love it.

 This is the last section of my room, (if you were to turn once more to the right, you'd see what's in the first picture). Again, everything covered with that red paper are books! Definitely not going to have any trouble getting books into the hands of my little friends this year.

I am SO excited about my new classroom. Still apprehensive about teaching the little guys but I know I will be okay. I have been pinning and blog stalking first grade blogs for about a week and I'm at a point where I am starting to think, "hey, I can do this" :)

I think my biggest challenge with the way my new building is set up is that the boys bathroom is ALLLLLL the way down the hall while the girls bathroom is right outside my room and past the stairwell. I will have to work with my 1st/2nd split colleague, who has the same issue except she's near the boys' bathroom and see if we can coordinate our restroom breaks so that both bathrooms can be monitored. It will be one of the first things I ask about at our staff meeting because potty time is pretty important to 1st graders. That much I do remember! :)
The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thank Goodness and Thirty One Teacher Bag Fabulousness

This is a two part post because I'd just rather not post two separate things. Two birds with one stone and all of that good stuff. 
First of all, I am eternally grateful to the blogging community and teachers in general. Its not a secret that while I have accepted my move to first grade, I am kind of paranoid about it. I've always joked that I liked bigger kids because then if I warped their minds, it wouldn't be such a big deal. *wink* Of course, teaching little guys is SO different than teaching big ones. Even 2nd graders aren't as needy at the start of the year as 1st graders will be. 
I have found so many new (to me) blogs over the past few days that are authored by first grade teachers. (Is it me or are the vast majority of teacher blogs authored by K-3 teachers??)  I found a couple that even have full first day lesson plans which is giving me such good guidance in how to set up my first couple of days. So grateful.

Additionally, an interventionist I had the privilege of working with for two years at my last school has been giving me some great ideas and strategies of things she's been using with her K-2 students in summer school. I'm loving how willing she is to share with me. She is so sweet because she says to me, "You are a FABULOUS teacher and you will ROCK first grade." ♥ 

I'm feeling much, much better about the whole thing. I emailed my new principal but didn't hear anything back (which, I'm sorry, I find to be very rude, especially since we can tell if/when someone reads our email and she did read mine and still hasn't replied). Regardless we were told we would have access 10 days before report date which is tomorrow and I AM going in there. I'm not planning to move anything in. I'm taking myself, my purse and my phone (for the camera). I have to see this space and see what I have to work with or I'm going to drive myself nuts.

*   *   *   *   *
As you  may have heard me mention (about 30 times!), this past weekend was my birthday and I had a Thirty One party to celebrate. We had the party on FaceBook, kind of like a chat. It was super fun. My consultant is desperately trying to get me to become a consultant too....and I ♥ the products BUT I told her there is no way I can add something else to my plate right now when I haven't had little first grade friends before. Although the Consultant package is a steal at $99....tempting, tempting.
Everyone needs an awesome teacher bag and Thirty One makes that very easy! Last year, I bought these two bags while a friend was having a party.
Organizing Utility Tote in Party Punch 
Keep it Caddy in Party Punch

The larger of the two bags I use to take things to and from school. It holds a TON of stuff. Remember that I had 2 grades last year and often separated my grading based upon the grade of the kids so it was easier to put the stuff into our electronic grade book. So I would usually have 2-3 folders of papers to grade, plus my math TEs (everyday math) for both grades and still had some room. The smaller one I usually put my purse, cell phone and other things I needed to be a bit more handy inside. This one tends to ride on the passenger seat in my car :)

With parties of this style, you earn free products based upon how much money your party earns. I was really pleased today when I closed my party with my consultant to be able to purchase a bunch of fabulous goodness at a minimal cost to myself. I love the Party Punch pattern and ordered everything in this pattern. I'm not sure if its the colors or the Chevron style that I like the most.

Fold N File Organizer -- I LOVE this organizer. It will fit inside my Organizing Tote to make carrying things back and forth to school even easier!

Thermal Tote - I just had to have a lunch box that matched all my other stuff, right?? I got this one personalized with my first initial.

Mini-Zipper Pouch - Isn't this little bag cute? I thought this would be good for a makeup pouch for school. I tend to keep a separate set of makeup at work because some mornings are just crazy and I get there so early that I usually have enough time to put my face on before I meet my students for the day. I did not personalize this one.

Fold And Go Organizer -- Is this not the cutest little organizer?? I took a picture of it from the catalog (the bottom one). I love that it holds a notepad and will hold my phone. This is a perfect little clutch to take with me if I'm just running out for a little while. 

Organizing Pack -- this was my Hostess exclusive item (in other words, you can't order this unless you host a party). It's basically a backpack. It comes with a thermal water bottle holder and is big enough to hold a laptop. I think this will be good for PD days. I can carry everything I need in this bag and won't have to lug around anything else. It will be especially nice if my Mac Book will fit inside it. This one is personalized with my last name on the front pocket. 

The funny thing is, this afternoon, my consultant sent everyone an email to show us styles and patterns that were being discontinued after August. And two of the products above will no longer exist after August 31! I'm super glad I ordered when I did then!

No matter what, I will be a stylin' (and organized!)  first grade teacher with all of this fun loot!
The Caffeinated Teacher