An Eye For Bargains

I would by no means call myself a frugal person. I have no problem shelling out a couple hundred bucks for a good pair of jeans, or a dress that I’m only going to wear once. I have a closet full of clothes with the tags still on. But one thing I am great at – finding bargains for my classroom.

Some of my great bargain hunting, I’m sure, comes from my mom ūüôā who is also a teacher. She is as responsible with money as I am careful not to walk through spider webs. She’s always got her eyes on the sale ads for me. So when we heard there were some great teacher items in the $1 section at Target, we were on out way.

It took us 2 different trips to 2 separate Targets, and a few bags of Pretzel M&Ms,¬†to find what we are working for. Here is what we found…

My first purchase – mini desk caddies! I purchased enough for each student to have their own, hopefully alleviating some of that “urge” to steal crayons from one another. I think it will also be a great way to move from kindergarten, where everyone shared caddies, to first grade, where we are older and smarter and therefore deserve our own personal supplies.

1 individual desk caddy Р$1 @ Target

Here is an idea of what the mini caddies will look like when filled. This scissors is larger than one my students will actually use in school but it was all I had. I am also using an UHU stick which claims to be a large glue stick but I don’t believe it. You are not fooling anyone, UHU stick.

Next, I splurged on the good plastic folders. Only the best for my kiddies.

1 plastic folder Р$0.50 @ Target

This is more than I’d normally spend on a folder but my very generous mom wanted to do her part. Now I have a stack of nice, new, shiny plastic folders just waiting to get destroyed in my kid’s backpacks.

If you don’t have as generous a mom as myself, you can also get…

1 cardboard folder – $0.15 @ Target

1 cardboard folder – $0.01 @ Walgreens ( limit 16 so bring a friend with to help you stock up!)

Last, I purchased 30 cardboard magazine holders. They seem pretty sturdy, and I’m hoping they will last at least half the year once I bandage them up with packaging tape. I plan to use these during the Daily 5 for “Read to Self”. Each student will get their own, and they will be filled with about 8 books. The only problem with these magazine holders – the ridiculous patterns. The one you are seeing is my favorite of the bunch.

1 cardboard magazine(book) holder – $1 @ Target

or, if you want something much simpler…

5 cardboard magazine holders – $1.99 @ IKEA

A 24 pack of Crayola Crayons was $0.40, and Composition notebooks were $0.50 each. I didn’t buy either because I know that these prices will continue to go down. Last year, I got the 24 packs of Crayola Crayons for $0.25 each, and I got a pack of 3 composition notebooks for $0.25 at Target.

I did buy a few squishy balls because who doesn’t want a squishy ball with eyes and tenticles? I got some new parts for my Calendar – days of the week, months, weather, etc. I purchased a few new pointers, name plates, notecards, and labels. DON’T FORGET TO BUY LABELS…you need them for anything, and everything, whether you think so or not.

And then I went to Nordstrom and got a really great shirt…ON SALE ūüôā

Read Alouds I’m Craving

I had a momentary panic attack when I realized that, since I will have all the same students again next year, my kids have already heard all of my read alouds. Oh, who am I kidding, it was definitely not momentary…

I don’t have the money to completely restock my read aloud inventory, so my first item of business – get a library card.¬†Although, that is no fun. All those books need to go back. I love children’s literature almost as much as I love french fries, and I don’t like to share. But for now, I guess it will have to do. Here are just a few books that I am craving at the moment…

First, The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood. It has charming illustrations and beautiful text. I can see using it at the beginning of the year for teaching classroom rules, and voice levels. It will also make a great read aloud when the kids just need some quiet time.

Next, Ish by Peter H. Reynolds. It teaches children that art does not have to be perfect. That even when a drawing of a vase doesn’t look like a vase, it still looks “vase-ish”. I cannot wait to use this book as a read aloud¬†during Writing Workshop.

Last, I’m craving Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. I guess, most importantly, it teaches children about manners. But I love this book because it is HILARIOUS! I actually laughed out loud while reading it to myself. I can envision my students falling in love with this book, and requesting it to be read over and over.

All of these books are available for purchase on Amazon.

So now I’m asking you for your recommendations for 1st Grade read alouds…

What book would you recommend?

Classroom Banter

Kids say the darndest things…

Here is a list of my top ten funniest quotes from my Kindergarteners. Sometimes it is hard to keep myself from laughing out loud.

  1. “Ms. S, Robert told me that he likes Jakyiah, and that he cheated on her.
  2. After school, one of my kids, Damonte, held up a Valentine with an owl on it.
    Me: “Damonte, can you tell me what that animal is?”
    Damonte: “It’s a hoot. Hoots come out at night.”
  3. “Ms. S, turkeys don’t have eyes. That’s make-believe.”
  4. “When I grow up, I want to be a vampire.”
  5. Today I showed my kids a picture of a man fishing by a pond in the woods. I asked them to look closely at the picture, and share what they saw. My favorite response, and most relevant: “My Mom got me a Snuggie for Christmas.”
  6. On Tuesday…
    Me: “girls stand up”
    Davion: (pointing at Chazz who is, in fact, a boy) “that girl is not standing!”
  7. And then on Wednesday…
    Me: “ok kindergarten, Chazz is picking up his book. Let’s watch as he walks to his table.”
    Gabari: “that’s not a boy!”
    Jekayla: “that is a boy!”
  8. Chazz: “But I am a boy!”
  9. Me: “Leroy, how old are you?”
    Christian: “Leroy is 3.”
    Amari: “No, Leroy is 2.”
    Me: “Actually, Leroy is 5.”
    The whole class: “Whhhaaat?”

And the top 10 funniest quote from kindergarten is…

  • Anthony: “Derek just peed on me!”
    Derek: “Anthony peed on me first!”

Needless to say, there is never a dull moment. But It does appear that we have a little gender confusion…and we need to have a conversation about proper hygiene.

Lesson Plans for Day 1 of Kindergarten

The first weeks of school,¬†I survived¬†mostly on adrenaline. Working 12-15 hour days, eating lunch standing up (if¬†I¬†got¬†to eat lunch at all), and I’m pretty sure that I never used the bathroom. Oh, and who could forget the lack of air conditioning! Apparently, 110 degrees in your classroom does not give you an excuse to let your students put their heads down, or take extra water breaks.

My 2nd year teaching Kindergarten, I had 29 students. Throughout the school year I lost 8 kids, and got 10 more. I had one student who didn’t talk, and one who was¬†schizophrenic. Only about 10 of my students had gone to pre-school, so that left the majority who had never stepped foot into a school before. That first week of school, I had a handful of students¬†who cried all day, everyday. I had one student who came to school each morning and threw up in my classroom. Needless to say, it was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

I survived those first few weeks by following The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete to a tee.

I also spent weeks scripting out my first few weeks of school so that I would remember exactly what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it. Here is what my “Day 1” looked like:

Day 1:

 9:00  Entry

  • Students find table by color on card, sit down, put backpack on chair, eat breakfast LEVEL 0- This means no talking
  • Call table names to hang up backpack, model, s. model, table group models

 9:10 Breakfast Cleanup

  • Teach CLAP. ¬†Practice a couple of times narrate positive
  • ‚ÄúEveryday after breakfast we have to clean up so our room stays nice.¬† We clean up one table at a time.¬† Model how to hold trash bag, have s. hold.¬†
  • To clean up, put your food back inside your bag.¬† LEAVE your milk out.¬† Watch what I do:¬† Narrate and model how to throw trash in bag and walk back to sit.¬† LEVEL 0.¬†
  • Call on s. to model and then call each table. Excellent work being careful with cleanup friends!¬† I know you will each take good care of our classroom this year.

 9:15  Teach quiet signal and position 1- The clap- practice 2 or 3 times (hands folded, mouths closed, eyes on me)

            Call students by table names:

  • Purple table sits on a purple square
  • Blue table sits on blue square
  • Green table sits on green square
  • Yellow table sits on orange square
  • Pink table sits on red square

¬†When students get to rug teach ‚Äúlistening position‚ÄĚ:

  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† criss cross applesauce
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† hands in lap
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† eyes on me
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† mouths closed

 Introduce students and favorite color: My name is miss S and my fav color is blue. Pass around ball.

  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Watch and notice students who are doing a good job sitting

As students say names, write name on chart paper.

¬†9:30-9:45 Sing ‚ÄúPeanut Butter, Grape Jelly‚ÄĚ ‚Äď written out on chart paper

 Move students to rug squares.

 Read morning message: Good Morning! Today is Monday, August 9, 2010. We will learn names today. Love Ms. S

  • continue to reinforce students who are sitting correctly

 Teacher led Calendar. Continue to reinforce students. Date and number line.

 9:45-10:00 Practice lining up at door.

  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† feet together on top of feet
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† arms at side
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† eyes on door
  • ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† mouth closed

 Practice bathroom routine in hallway

10:00 Bathroom

Get back in square spots. Practice listening position. Reinforce behavior expectations.

Song and movement – ‚ÄúTony Chestnut‚ÄĚ

 10:10-10:35: Guided discovery: Crayons:

Guided Discovery of Crayons

  1. Gather students on carpet (in circle if not too many children)
  2. Show the wrapped box of crayons.
    1. What do you think I have in here? (Let a couple of children hold the package)
    2. Open the package to reveal the new box of crayons
    3. Now, what do you see?  Crayons!
  3. What do you know about crayons? 
    1. How have you used them before?
  4. Students share and introduce vocab- crayon point, different colors
  5. Ask open ended questions about crayons
    1. What do you notice about the crayons?
    2. What are they made of?
    3. What shapes and colors do you see?
  6. Using crayons discussion
    1. How might we use crayons in our classroom?
    2. How might we use crayons to help us learn?

                                                               i.      Will you show us how you might use them? (S. volunteer)

                                                             ii.      What did you notice he/she did with the crayons?

  1. Caring for Crayons
    1. We want to take care of our crayons so we can use them all year long.  What are some ways we can take care of our crayons when we use them?

                                                               i.      Chart up ideas

    1. We keep our crayons in these green caddies.  Who can show us a safe and careful way to take out and use a crayon?
    2. What did she do to be careful with the crayons?  Chart up.
  1. Practice with crayons at desks.
    1. Now we will all practice using crayons at our desks.  Try out one of our ideas!

After 15 or so minutes:  Hand Clap and position 1

            It is time to clean up our crayons.  Remember to carefully place them back in the caddy so they don’t get broken.  I’ll be watching to see what a good job you do.

10:35-11:00 Practice lining up, walk to lunch

  • girls sit at table 1, boys at table 2

11:00-11:20: Remind students how to enter classroom and sit on rug. Continue to reinforce expectations.


  • Come to carpet, practice listening position.¬†
  • We want to get to know each other better in our class.¬† We will each get a turn being SUPERSTAR of the Day.¬† When it‚Äôs your turn to be the star, we‚Äôll ask you questions so we get to know more about you.¬† Everyone will get a turn, so don‚Äôt worry if today isn‚Äôt your day.¬† Tomorrow might be your day.¬† Today, I‚Äôll be the first Star of the Day, and you‚Äôll learn about me.
  • Use chart paper with interview questions
  • Read interview together.¬† Display chart for 5 days and then send home.¬† Read 4 charts a day.
  • NAME WORK:¬† Chant the name and say each letter as it is clapped.¬† Clap syllables.¬† Count the letters.¬† Cut the letters apart and put back together, name the 1st and last letter.¬† Discuss capital and lowercase letters.¬† Any of the same letters?
  • Add name to work wall and pass out name template for children to complete.¬† Collect on first day.

11:20-11:45 Writing Workshop Day 1

  • We are going to become writers this year!¬† Each of you will write books like this-¬†Eric Carle books and Dr. Seuss.¬† Each day we will meet here to learn what authors do.
  • Watch what I do when write:¬† First I think of an idea.¬† Hmmmm‚Ķ what should I write about?¬† Something that happened to me was‚Ķ oh I know, I‚Äôll write about eating breakfast this morning.¬†
  • Let me draw my story.¬† I was standing in the kitchen with my bowl of oatmeal.¬† I took a bite and the oatmeal was HOT so I said ouch!
  • Now I need to write my words.¬† This is me so I‚Äôll write me. Mmmm¬†eeeeee.¬† Cont. labeling bowl.¬†
  • Write:¬† I ate oatmeal.¬† It was hot.
  • Did you notice what I did?¬† First I thought of something that happened to me.¬† Then I drew it.¬† Then I wrote words about it.¬† You can do this same thing!¬† You can think of something that happened to you and write about it.¬†
  • Ideas:¬† Maybe your baby brother was crying last night and woke you up. Maybe you were playing baseball with your friends.¬† Maybe you want to write about playing with your favorite toy.¬† Maybe you helped your mom cook dinner.¬†
  • Writers, close your eyes and think of something that you want to write about.¬†
  • Each child share what they will write about before I give them paper.¬† Go to seat. Level 0.¬† Write and draw.

¬†11:45-12:15 Read Miss Bindergarten¬†Get Ready for kindergarten ‚Äď continue to reinforce behavior expectations, students draw how they got ready for kindergarten

 12:15-12:45: Reading Workshop: Model taking a picture walk. Read The Gingerbread Man. Then retell using only pictures.

 Independent practice: There are baskets of books on your tables with fairy tales and folktales. Choose a book and take a picture walk, just like we practiced.

  • ¬†Have students repeat directions
  • ¬†discuss expectations for working at tables ‚Äď continue to reinforce expectations
  • ¬†whisper voices (model)
  • ¬†stay in seat
  • ¬†do your work

 12:45-1:15: Guided Discovery scissors:

Guided Discovery of Scissors

  1. Gather students on carpet (in circle if not too many children)
  2. Show the wrapped scissors.
    1. What do you think I have in here? (Let a couple of children hold the package)
    2. Open the package to reveal the new scissors
    3. Now, what do you see?  Scissors!
  3. What do you know about scissors? 
    1. How have you used them before?
  4. Students share and introduce vocab
  5. Ask open ended questions about scissors
    1. What do you notice about the scissors?
    2. What are they made of?
    3. What shapes and colors do you see?
  6. Using scissors discussion
    1. How might we use scissors in our classroom?
    2. How might we use scissors to help us learn?

                                                               i.      Will you show us how you might use them? (S. volunteer)

                                                             ii.      What did you notice he/she did with the scissors?

    1. Model how to hold scissors
  1. Caring for Scissors
    1. We want to take care of our scissors so we can use them all year long.  What are some ways we can take care of our scissors when we use them?

                                                               i.      Chart up ideas

    1. We keep our scissors in these green caddies.  Who can show us a safe and careful way to take out and use a scissors?
    2. What did she do to be careful with the scissors?  Chart up.
  1. Practice with scissors at desks.
    1. Now we will all practice using scissors at our desks. Model using cutting practice paper.

After 15 or so minutes:  Hand Clap and position 1

         It is time to clean up our scissors and scraps.  Remember to carefully place them back in the caddy so they don’t get broken.  I’ll be watching to see what a good job you do.

Practice position 1, then practice sitting on carpet. Continue to reinforce correct behaviors.

 1:15-1:30 Practice clap and position 1.

Practice Lining up:

  • ¬†¬†feet together
  • ¬†¬†arms at sides
  • ¬† eyes on door
  • ¬†mouths closed

1:30-1:45 Bathroom Break ‚Äď practice lining up and bathroom routine

1:45-2:15: Model math pattern necklaces on the ELMO. Remind students of behavior expectations while working at tables.

  • ¬†practice whisper voices

Take pictures of students while they work at tables.

Practice position 1.

2:15-3:00: Dismissal procedures: Students move back to carpet. Remind students of behavior expectations.

Call students by colored rows. Show students how to stand, turn, and get backpack. Then hang backpack over chair and come back to carpet and sit in square.

  • Teacher Model
  • Student model

¬†Read ‚ÄúHow do dinosaurs go to school‚ÄĚ ‚Äď tomorrow we‚Äôll learn about our classroom rules.

Pass out folders an Line up for dismissal.

Students must give teacher a hug or handshake before they leave.

Volume, Participation, & Movement

My first year of teaching was a mess. I thought that if I told students to “use a whisper voice”, they would of course use a whisper voice. I can just hear all of you seasoned teachers laughing at me ;). Well, as everyone knows,¬†this is just not the case. When I started my 2nd year, I knew that I had to teach my kids what a “whisper voice” was before they would be able to use one. I would say a sentence, my students would repeat back in a “whisper voice”.

There are 3 key” ideas” that you always need to make sure your students know before you send them off to do anything, especially in the first few weeks. Students need to know what every activity looks like, and what every activity sounds like:

  • Volume – Students always need to know what their voice level should be. The first 2 weeks of school, I do not let my kindergarteners talk to each other, ever. I know this sounds harsh but it’s much harder to try to change the “wrong” behavior than it is to teach them the “right” behavior. After about 2 weeks, I slowly start allowing my students to whisper to one another. We practice, over and over. If at anytime a student gets too loud, I call everyone back to the rug where we review what a “whisper voice” sounds like.
  • Participation – Students need to know exactly what they should be doing. In a middle school classroom, this may be as simple as saying, “put your name on your paper.” In a kindergarten classroom, you need to break up this step much further: pick up your pencil, point to the beginning of the black line at the top of your paper, write the first letter of your name – all while modeling on the ELMO.
  • Movement – Last but not least, if you do not tell a child where their bottoms should be, they will be everywhere! I learned this the hard way. Tell the students exactly where you want them to be – “you are sitting in your chair, your legs are under the table” or “you are sitting in your square, you have criss cross applesauce legs”.

It may sound something like this: “You are sitting in your seat with legs under the table, you are writing in your journal, and there is no talking.”

Remember, you are the teacher so make sure that you model first, then allow a student to model and praise all the appropriate behaviors.

Guided Discovery

Anyone who has ever taught Kindergarten knows that everything needs to be introduced veryyy slowly. I used this template to introduce everything from pencils and scissors to table caddies and the classroom library (which I had completely covered up until then with butcher paper). It worked wonders!

Guided discovery template:

1. Present material attractively packaged (wrapped in or in fun container). Gather students in a circle on floor.

 2.Ask open-ended questions to find out what students already know about it:

 What do you know about_____?

How have you used _____?

 As students share, introduce important vocabulary.

 3. Ask open-ended questions that help students notice details:

 What do you notice about the ____?

 What is ____ made of?

 What shapes/colors, etc. do you see?

 Walk around with material so students can look closely.

 4. Begin with an open-ended question to generate ideas:

 How might we use ___ in our classroom?

 How might we use ___ to help us with our learning?

 5. Ask a few students to model their ideas using a small set of the materials:

 Ask student Will you show us how you might do that?

 Everyone watch carefully and see what you notice about what s/he does.

 What did you notice that s/he did?

 Write down ideas/observations from students.

 6. Generate ideas about how to care for the material by asking:

 What can we do to take care of the ____ when we use them?

Gather student ideas then ask one student to model:

 Will you show us a safe and careful way to take a ____ out and use it?

 Everyone watch carefully and see what you notice about what s/he does.

 What did s/he do to care for the _____?

 7. Remain in circle formation:

 Now we will all practice using the _______. Try out one of our ideas.

(pass out a limited number of materials to each students. Observe them as they work – reminding and redirecting. This part is about 10 minutes.)

 8. If work resulted in a product, say:

¬†If you’d like to share your work, hold it up so all in the circle can see it.


 Who would like to tell one thing you liked about your work today?

 9. Ask a volunteer to model careful clean-up

 Who will show a safe and careful way to put away the ____?

 Everyone watch carefully to see how s/he cares for the _____

 What did you notice?

 As the whole class now cleans up the material, say:

 I will watch and notice as you all put away the _____ safely and careful. Support and remind students as needed.

My Bibles

I’m very excited to start using the Daily 5 by Gail Boushey & Joan Moser in 1st Grade.

Here are a few professional texts that helped me survive, and be successful, during my second year of teaching Kindergarten.

  • The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton & Roxann Kriete
  • Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers Work by Debbie Diller
  • The Complete Year in Reading and Writing (K edition) by Karen McNally and Pam Allyn
  • Teaching Writing in Kindergarten by Randee Bergen…This helped us set a structure and framework for writing so that we could move into Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop by the 2nd quarter

To purchase through Amazon, click on titles under¬†“Books to Purchase” at bottom of the page.

Hello world!

It is the summer before my third year of teaching. The summer has just begun but I am already planning for the upcoming year.

I think back to my past 2 years of teaching.¬†I spent my¬†first year of teaching just getting my bearings, and to be honest, it was a mess….I was teaching Kindergarten at the time, 31 to be exact. 31 Kindergarteners in one of the worst neighborhoods I had ever seen. “I can do this!” was my motto. That motto sooned changed to “I can survive this!” I had no supplies or resources, and my students showed up on that first day, unregistered, and with no supplies. I spent hundreds of dollars on things such as paper or crayons – items that you would think a school would provide.

Well as you can see, I survived that first year. People ask me about it now, and I honestly don’t remember much. I think that I blocked the whole experience from my mind. Altough I do have a very strong memory of one of my 5 year-olds telling me to¬†“suck his d*ck.” Lovely.

So that’s why I’m writing this blog! I spent that next summer preparing for my second year of teaching kindergarten, and it was 500 times better than that first year. I have all my lifesaving resources that I used to plan, and helpful hints I learned that first year. In the fall, I will be teaching 1st grade (looping, for all you educators out there), and I hope you follow me as I set up my classroom and begin the Daily Five for the very first time! Follow me in my journey!