I’ve Got Eyes in the Back of My Head

I always tell my students when I first meet them that I have eyes in the back of my head; all teachers do. I also tell them that the fire alarm is a camera straight to Santa’s Workshop. He is always watching. I’m pretty sure they believed me too as they sat up a little straighter, folding their hands a little tighter. Unfortunately, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, nor is Santa watching diligently over my classroom from the North Pole. All I have to rely on are my own two eyes, and my oh so trusty traffic light.

What is a traffic light doing in my classroom, you ask? The traffic light system is what I use to manage my students behavior; anywhere from horrid to exemplary. It’s simple really. I created a paper traffic light using black construction paper which I glued large circles in red, yellow, and green to. At the very top I placed a large blue star. The idea is – all students start the day on blue. Blue is excellent. Each time they break a rule, I would move down a clip with their name on it. Green meant they had one verbal warning, yellow meant they had to go “take a break” in the time-out chair (or silent lunch in some cases), and red meant that they continued to break our rules so a note was sent home. At the beginning of each month, a calendar was stapled inside each students’ folder. At the end of every day, I would mark their calendar with a dot or a star with the color they were on at the end of that day. This way, parents were informed daily of their students’ behavior.

This entire monstrosity I called a traffic light was taped to the wall in the back of my classroom, only accessible by snowmobile or helicopter. Well not really, but it did mean you had to climb over students, tables, chairs, etc. to get to it. In other words, truly an inanimate object. So this year, I am turning my yard stick into my traffic light, making it come to life; officially mobile and much more useful.

The idea of the traffic light yard stick is the same as before, students’ clips are moved down when a rule is broken. Except now my students are held accountable for their behavior whether they are with me in the classroom, in the cafeteria, or in specials with their music, art, or gym teacher. I also plan on using it to herd cattle, and lead sheep to greener pastures.

Now remember, the traffic light yard stick is not intended to be used as a weapon. Also, if you envision yourself using it to usher your students along quicker in the hallway while shouting, “MUSH!” Then this probably isn’t for you.

1st Grade Day 1 Outline

My grade level partner and I sat down this week and hashed out our first few weeks of school. It was a little difficult because we do not know what our exact schedule will be; we do not know our lunch schedule, prep  schedule, or bathroom times. So we did what we could with what we know.

We used basically the same “First 2 Week” structure that we had used when teaching kindergarten. Since we already know our kids this time around, we will not need to focus as much time building our classroom culture and climate. We will still have daily Guided Discoveries and review of classroom rules, but we can also incorporate things like Choice Time into our First 2 Weeks because our students have had previous exposure to it.

This year we will be starting the Daily 5 on day 1, and we will spend about the first month building stamina through our Daily 5 routines. We had found an article online titled  The Daily 5 For Dummies, and we will be using a lot of what we found in that article to help us with specific “Daily 5” language when we are going through the process of introducing it. You will see this below in my plans. Things that I want to make sure I say are in italics.

First Grade First Two Weeks of School

  • All day routines being learned- Habits of discussion –complete sentence training

 Day 1

  • Send in 4 at a time, hang up backpack, find name and sit down and eat – no talking
  • coloring name tag or picture with a few crayons out
  • remind/ teach attention clap, position 1, move to carpet – several students model – direct students to square
  • Review listening position – who can show me listening position?
  • Morning Meeting: Message on chart paper, Greeting game, abc’s/ Heggerty, poem ( School Chant), active movement game  (later add spelling practice w/ words for week) (25 min.)
  • Writing – Launching workshop (30 min) – LEVEL 0
    • Before turning students off to write- tell them we will always have the first 10 minutes of writing be silent and on our own.  After the “Quiet Ten” you may share with a table partner or raise your hand to talk to the teacher
    • Model writing and drawing a story- label picture by stretching out sounds and recording the letters that represent sounds
    • Model thinking of sentence, counting words, and writing
  • Read aloud- Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss or beginning of year book
  • How to line up- HALL chart (Hands at side All eyes forward Lips zipped Legs walking safely)
  • Launch Read to Self (20 min.)
    • 3 Ways to read a book (1st 2- read words, read pictures)
    • Model 2 ways and discuss- use a King Street book
    • I Chart for Read to Self
    • Model- Practice- Check-in- Practice (3 Minutes per practice)

“Today we are going to begin our very first day of the Daily Five.  We know that the most important thing we can do to become better readers who love to read is to spend lots of time practicing reading.  Let’s begin by making an I-chart, with our ideas of why it is so important that we read to ourselves.”

                        Top of chart – Read to Self, Independence

                        Under heading write – Why:  to become a better reader

“That is why we will begin Daily Five with Read to Self.  Why else do we read to ourselves?”

Write responses on chart  – Add an I, we stands for Independence.  Write “students” on the top left and “teacher” on the top right.  Brainstorm appropriate Read-to-self behaviors.

“If our class were to do Read to Self independently, which means all by yourselves, what do you think it might look, sound, or feel like?”  

(Record response.  Be sure “reading the whole time” is included.

“These are all such good ideas.  You already know a lot about how Read to Self looks, feels, and sounds.  What about the teacher?  What would the teacher be doing?”

Add “teacher” to the I-chart and add:  read with groups of children, read with children one at a time, listen to children read, and help them with their reading strategies.


 “Now that we have talked about what Read to Self might look like, sound like, and feel like, is there anyone who would like to model, or show the class?” 

choose student to model

“Let’s look at Patrick as he models for us.  Wow, he is certainly staying in one spot.” 

                        Point to I-chart while observing each behavior.  Applause

“Who can tell us what you saw Patrick doing as he was practicing Read to Self?”

                        Choose a few other models.

Incorrect Model

 “Is there anyone who would like to model Read to Self the inappropriate way?”

 Choose student

Okay, let’s watch Benjamin as he models Read to Self the inappropriate way.” 

“Oh my, let’s look at our chart.”

“Okay, Benjamin, now please show us the appropriate way to Read to Self.”



 “The reason we are practicing for just three minutes is that we are working to help you build your stamina and to train your bodies and brains to do Read to Self the appropriate way, the ways we brainstormed on the chart and the way you saw some of your friends model.  Building your stamina each day will help you all year long as we work toward becoming better readers who love to read.”


  • Handwriting (Introduce pencils, grip, practice strokes, using caddies, what to do when you need a sharp pencil)
    • Guided Discovery of caddies with only pencils in them
  • Rules- Read How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? Or David Goes to School – Make chart of ideas for rules, teach behavior stick
    • Have kids brainstorm rule ideas, write on chart paper, circle ones we like best and add those to Rule Chart
  • Introduce behavior stick
  • Draw yourself following the rules
  • Math- Calendar
  • Guided Discovery of Pattern Blocks and play time
  • Guided Discovery of folders – How to take care of them, put them in backpack, etc.
  • Closing Circle/ End of day meeting – sing chant from the morning, talk about day – what went well, what will you work on tomorrow, etc.

Kindergarten Writing: Year in Preview

Kindergarten Year in Preview in Writing

For use with: Lucy Calkins and Teaching Writing in Kindergarten

August (Themes/Ideas: School, Myself)

  • Name writing
  • Launching Writer’s Workshop
  • Thinking of a topic, drawing and labeling

September (Themes/Ideas: Emotions, faces, bodies, Rules)

  • Explicit drawing lessons (representing ideas in pictures)
  • Guided Writing of short, simple sentences
  • Writing word wall words in sentences

October (Themes/Ideas: Bats, Witches, Halloween, Pumpkins)

  • Explicit labeling
  • Guided Writing of longer sentences

November/December (Themes/Ideas: Snow, Winter, Turkeys, Holidays)

  • Guided picture, independent writing
    • Prompt for lower writers
  • Writer’s Celebration

January (Themes/Ideas: Revisit previous topics)

  • Topics
  • Independent writing


  • Small moments
  • Publishing books


  • How tos
  • Publishing books


  • Writing for readers
  • Conventions
  • Publishing


  • Poetry
  • Publishing


  • Memory books

Dear 1st Grade

While doing some cleaning and organizing today, I came across a letter that one of my Kindergarteners, Jeffery, wrote to 1st grade back in May. I got a little choked up, as I thought back to how hard my kids worked this past year. Here is Jeffery’s letter…

It is a little difficult to read, so I’ll interpret…

Dear 1st Grade,

I’m smart, and today I’m going outside, and I’m going to college when I get big.

Love, Jeffery

Brings tears to my eyes. What a smarty. He did that all by himself. One day Jeffery asked for my phone number, and I told him he could have it but that he was not allowed to call me until he was in college.

I will be waiting for that phone call…

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 🙂 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 – $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 – $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 🙂

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
  • “Everyday 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 “listening position”:

  •          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 “Peanut Butter, Grape Jelly” – 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 – “Tony Chestnut”

 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’s your turn to be the star, we’ll ask you questions so we get to know more about you.  Everyone will get a turn, so don’t worry if today isn’t your day.  Tomorrow might be your day.  Today, I’ll be the first Star of the Day, and you’ll 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… what should I write about?  Something that happened to me was… oh I know, I’ll 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’ll 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 “How do dinosaurs go to school” – tomorrow we’ll learn about our classroom rules.

Pass out folders an Line up for dismissal.

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