Saturday, August 27, 2016

It's Worth It Box! Free Poem Printable

Today, I want to give you a closer look into my "It's Worth It" Box. I shared this little idea at a Blogger Meet Up in French Lick, Indiana. I made a box as a gift for a teacher at the meet-up, and shared about it in this March 2015 blog post. At the time of that post, I wasn't aware of how many teachers would email me about it and let me know how much their own box now means to them. I decided I would share about my box in a little more detail with you today. I have also given the poem that I wrote for the box a little makeover! The "It's Worth It" Box poem that I wrote is near and dear to my heart, so I think it deserves a blog post all of it's own - a place it can call home. :)  Now, you may be asking yourself...

 "What is an It's Worth It Box?!" 
The photograph above is a picture of my own "It's Worth It" Box. I found it one day while I was browsing around at Joanne Fabrics, and after reading the quote on the top, I knew it was the perfect "It's Worth It" Box. 

The "It's Worth It Box" idea comes from a very special person to me! Her name is Mrs. Rinehart, and she was (and is) the most amazing early childhood education professor there ever was! Words cannot explain how much I learned from this professor. Her course was always  not just filled with amazing content, it was filled with love and passion for kids and teachers. I try to still email her from time to time to touch base and let her know how much her class meant to me, and how much it shaped me into the teacher I am today. (Mrs. Rinehart, if you are reading this, thank you again!!!) During my senior year, she gave us an assignment. We made an "It's Worth It" Box. This was not just any box. It was a special box that we were to place notes from parents, encouraging items from administrators, and most importantly, those precious pictures, letters, and notes from students over our teaching years that just make us smile and warm our hearts! 

Our assignment was simple: Throughout our years of being a teacher, we were to take the box out and look through the items on those especially hard days at school. You know the ones. Those days when it seems easier to just give up or throw in the towel. We all have those days. We're human! But taking out my own It's Worth It Box on days like that reminds me exactly why I do what I do. It is a box of light and encouragement that always, always makes me smile and forget what I was stressed about in the first place.  

A Peek Into My It's Worth It Box:
As you can see from the picture above, all kinds of things go into my "It's Worth It" Box. I keep notes, letters, emails, pictures, cards - ANYTHING that brings a smile to my face when it comes to my students and the teaching profession. Today, I would love to share a couple of examples from my "It's Worth It" Box with you.
See that little ripped piece of scrap paper in the photograph above? That was written to me by one of my second grade students, during my third year of teaching. I received that note a few hours after I had silently prayed to God to give me the patience and direction I needed to help this sweet kiddo. This little guy had some anger issues and three hours before I found this little piece of paper on my desk, he had attempted to throw a book bin at my head from across the guided reading table. (No worries, book bins are easy to see coming!) :) After explaining our school and classroom expectations for the billionth time, and giving him some time to reflect on actions and future choices, this piece of paper made its way onto my desk after recess. It was then that I knew that above all else, this little guy still loved me. I knew that for this reason, we would be able to find a way to turn chaos into calmness and make learning for this little guy fun again. (And, we did.) :) That little piece of paper is now safely tucked into the bottom of my box.
This little clay brain was chilling on my teacher desk one Monday morning. I remember picking it up, thinking, "What IS this thing?!" One of my sweet little first grade friends bounced over my desk and told me she had painted it for me over the weekend. After asking her to tell me about it, she explained that it was HER brain. "...so that you will never forget all of my dendrites." We had been learning and discussing how our brain works and how we learn all year long. This little pink brain has become one of my most cherished teaching items, reminding me of the impact our discussions have on our students. Today, it is an important part of my "It's Worth It" Box. 
Among the notes, cards, letters, and memos from students, teachers, and administration, is a poem that I wrote. I've taped the poem to the inside lid of my box. While I already shared this poem over a year ago, I gave it some fresh, new fonts, so I would love to share the new printable today! I don't want this box to become "just another box of stuff" that teachers throw clutter into. So, I wrote a poem that is very special to me! It explains what the "It's Worth It" Box is, and I hope it gives some encouragement and inspiration to teachers and administrators after reading it. It is my hope that you will not only make your own "It's Worth It" Box, but that you might make one for a friend, and pass a copy of my poem onto your teaching colleague or peer, so that he or she can fill up their box of "light and love."  Below, is a the poem I wrote for the "It's Worth It" Box. 

In the download file at the end of this post, I included two different fonts for the heading. I also included a version that contains the poem as a half-sheet of paper, in case you need a smaller size for a small box. You can glue the poem onto the inside lid like I did, or glue it onto the top or side of your box. Either way, I hope you love your "It's Worth It" Box, and I hope it continues to remind you, day after day, that what you do for students and families is important. Reading through the notes in my box takes me back to those first days I became a teacher. I remember that I quite literally shed some tears after my principal left the room, and I stood by myself in my very first classroom.  I was so happy to be given the opportunity to do a job that I know God placed on my heart. Sometimes our days as teachers can be hard and draining, and it's easy to forget that feeling you had as you stood in your very first classroom. I hope this poem reminds you that the impact you make on our future and our children is worth it. 

Thank you for spending some time with me today and reading about the "It's Worth It" Box! I'm so glad I am able to share my poem with you! You can download it for your personal use by clicking below. :)






Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Building Fluency With Poetry Binders (Free Printables)

Recently, when one of my favorite school supply companies, Avery, asked if they could send me some school supplies so that I could create something special with them for my followers. YES, PLEASE! When I opened the box of goodies, I was so excited because I knew exactly what I wanted to share with you! Today, I'm going to share how, why, when, and what I use to implement poetry binders into my classroom. I have been using poetry binders since my very first year of teaching, and they are most definitely a core staple of our weekly routine. I'm also going to share some really fun FREEBIES with you that will help you create, set up, and implement poetry binders in your own classroom.  

Before We Start: Why I Use Poetry Binders In My Classroom
Research tells us that repeated reading is critical to fluency progress for our learners. We also know that repeated reading that results in some type of "performance" is even more powerful. Now, do not let the word "performance" scare you. In my classroom, our "performance" is simply reading and singing the poem with a partner, a small group, or even as a whole class to just ME! We are not talking about a studio set up with a red carpet, Oscar-worthy performance. ;) Poetry is also powerful for learning how to read with emotion and intonation. It helps students understand how to connect to text. Perhaps one of the most important reasons I use poetry in the classroom, is that it's FUN! I love when we can set our poetry to music, and integrate repeated reading and singing into our poetry binders time. As we continue to add more poems to our binders, my students become very, very familiar with the text on each page. This helps to build their confidence and create eager, happy readers and singers in my room! Taking 10 minutes a day to read familiar text has truly made a powerful impact in the fluency of my students. I have used poetry binders in first and second grade, and I can confidently say I would even use them with fifth graders and tenth graders! It's THAT powerful - and it doesn't take a lot of time.

We practice and add poems to our binder 10 minutes before lunch. It's quick, effective, and it also leads to authentic "word hunts." These "word hunts" are targeted phonics skills that we review by using our poem. For instance, we may take our highlighters and find all of the short vowel words in our poem for the week. Or, we may highlight all of the r-controlled vowel words we can find. There are so many possibilities, and it helps integrate necessary skills so that we can "fit it all in" throughout the day.  Poetry binders also make wonderful little "fast finisher" activities. My students are trained to know that if they finish a task early in the classroom, they can whip out their poetry binders and practice reading their familiar songs and poems. Poetry binder time has always, and I believe it will always, be a valued and very special moment in our day together. 

Our Weekly Poetry Binder "Schedule"
This is a very "rough" schedule of our Poetry Binder Routine. We only spend 10 minutes a day on our poetry binder time. Over the past few years, due to our schedule, I always set this time to take place right before we head to lunch. I love ending our morning with poetry binder time because it leaves our environment in a happy, joyful mood! I truly believe that when your whole class comes together to sing and read as "one voice," your class is unified and they see themselves as a "team." I find that ending our morning in this way really boosts the energy in my classroom. Because it is a very short part of our day, it makes for the perfect transition to lunch and recess. Generally, our weekly 10 minute poetry binder time follows this sequence:

Monday:  Add a new poem to our binders. We follow an "I read, we read, you read" sequence. 
Tuesday: Review yesterday's poem and go on a "word hunt" for a specific phonics skill.
Wednesday: Re-visit yesterday's poem and practice a few older poems from our binder.
Thursday & Friday: This changes from week to week. Sometimes, we will add two poems to our binders in one week. If this is the case, we add a second new poem on Thursday and we review and do a word hunt on Friday. If we do not add a second poem for the week, we use Thursday's to illustrate our poem and practice it with partners. On Fridays, we often have a "Poetry Party." (This is really just a fancy title for: Let's all read, sing, and review as many poems as we can from our binders before lunch haha!)

Now that we've discussed the why and when for poetry binder time, let's move on to MAKING our poetry binders! Throughout these easy to follow steps, I'll also share activities, tips, and tricks for instruction during your poetry binder time. Here we go!

Step One: What You Need
*Avery Binder with Clear Cover (We use 1 inch binders in my room)
*Small Avery UltraTabs
*Large 3 x 3.5 inch Avery UltraTabs
*3 Ring Hole Punch
*Avery Hi-Liters
*Scissors
*Pencil
*FREE Poetry Binder Printables (Link Below)


Step Two: Print Your Freebies
 The first thing you will want to do is use the link at the bottom of this post to print your poetry binder freebie binder cover and spine label.  I have included both color and black and white versions, in case you would like to print your printables on colored yardstick to save ink. I also have a version that includes a space for your students to add their name.
 Slide the binder cover into the Avery Binder Front Clear Pocket. Cut out the corresponding sized spine label and insert it into the binder. Do you need a trick for getting those tricky spine labels into your binder? Bend the binder backwards and then insert the spine label into the pocket. It creates more room and makes this task much easier!

 Beautiful, right?! Now, we're ready to set up the rest of the poetry binders! My students fully assemble their own binders at the beginning of the year. In the rest of the post, I will show you how they do this. The only thing I do for them beforehand is the cover and the spine label, because that can be pretty tricky for little hands! 

Step Three: Adding the Table of Contents and Poems!
 Within the freebie printable pack is a Table of Contents page. You'll want to start your students off with either one sheet, or a few sheets at a time for the front of their binder. In my classroom, I start every student off with three pages of the Table of Contents. There are enough spaces to write in 12 poems on each page. Use your 3 hole punch to punch the pages. Then, you (or your students) can place the pages in the front of the binder.
Now, you are ready for your students to insert their first poem into their poetry binder! This is cause for LOTS of celebration and excitement in your classroom! I like to REALLY play up the poetry binders because I want my kids to fall head over heels in LOVE with them! (And trust me, they really do!) It becomes one of my students' favorite items in their desks. I've included a FREE poem/song for you to add to your students' binders. All of our poems come from my Monthly Poems for the Whole Year resource in my TpT Store. After a year of hard work, I wrote 45 poems that are set to a familiar tune! Your students can read or sing their hearts out while they practice their poems. It is SO.MUCH.FUN! The FREE printable pack in this blog post contains the poem: Clever Student. It is set to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot." I hope you and your students love it!

Step Four: It's Poetry Time!!!
Every time you add a poem to your students' poetry binders, they write the title of the poem and the page number onto their Table of Contents page. This helps them organize their poems, find poems quickly, and learn exactly how a Table of Contents works because they are creating one every single week. 

Adding, learning, reading, and singing our new poem or poems of the week is SO fun for my class! They are reading and building fluency without even knowing it. But reading and singing are not the only things we do with our poems. We also integrate phonics and sight word practice and review into our poetry binders.  After all, poetry and songs are rich sources of text, so it makes sense to integrate our language instruction and fluency instruction together. We spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year looking and hunting for sight words. We highlight sight words we see and find in the poems, or sight words that we already have on our Word Wall. I might also introduce a new sight word and have the students highlight the word or draw a special circle around it. The goal is to completely engage with the text - on the fly! I know I have a few people who are reading this right now, wondering if I have a "master list" of what we hunt for in each poem. The answer is actually...no! I don't have a list of which skill or which words we highlight for each poem. Why? Because every class is different, and I am a firm believer that educators have to do what is best for their individual group of students, not always what a scripted handout tells us to do. ;) Because our poetry binders serve as supplemental practice and reinforcement for phonics and language skills, I have the flexibility to base what we highlight and discuss each week on what my students need in the moment

Other ideas for integrating phonics into your poems and songs are finding rhyming words, highlighting contractions, vowel pattern words, punctuation, and multi-syllabic words. While I DO use phonics-based poems in the classroom, you don't always need a poem that was specifically written for a particular skill. One of my favorite sources for reproducible phonics poems that are based on singing is the Scholastic Word Family Sing Along set. The link below is an affiliate link for this product, in case you are interested in ordering it to use in your classroom, as I've had many teachers ask me where I get our phonics poems for our binders:


There are always language discussions you can have with your students in EVERY piece of text. :) In the photograph above, we quickly highlighted the rhyming words in our Riding the Bus poem. The important thing to remember is that this is a quick, easy, and no-prep mini-lesson (really mini), review, or introduction.  Poetry binder time is meant to enhance fluency and quickly zero-in on a specific target goal you may want to address that day. I think it's important to note that I do not always do "word hunts" with my students. Sometimes, we just read, sing, and enjoy! 

Step Five: Use Ultra Tabs To Stay Organized
 Why do I love Avery Ultra Tabs? They are colorful and you can completely re- position them. They won't tear the paper and they are super durable! I pass one out every now and then for my students to use as a bookmaker of where we left off in our poetry binders. The kids LOVE them!

 The large UltraTabs are perfect for the teacher's poetry binders! Sometimes, I will plan ahead what we want to focus on with our poem that week. For example, if I notice my students are having trouble with contractions at the small group table, I'll look at our next poem and jot down any contractions that I want my students to find and highlight in their poem. I write these words down on an Avery UltraTab with a sharpie marker.  I like doing this because the following year, I may want to focus on something entirely different with that particular student, so I don't want to always be marking up my teacher copy. (Yes, I make a binder that is exactly like the students for myself, so we can all follow along together.) :) 
 I can stick the tab with the words I want to focus on directly on the poem printable. It doesn't ruin my teacher copy, and I can easily remember what I wanted to review! 
I often like for my class to go on our word hunts together, so I stick the tab beside me as I direct the students through our activity. (Especially at the beginning of the year, when are just learning how to utilize our binders.) Then, I can easily stick it back on the page as a reminder for next year. This keeps me really organized and saves paper!

I hope you really enjoyed reading about how I set up, organize, and utilize poetry binders in my classroom. If you'd like to grab the freebie printables in order to set up your own poetry binders for your classroom, you can click on the text below. I've also included a graphic and a link to my Monthly Poems for the Entire Year pack, if it is something you'd like to utilize and enjoy this year! At the end of the school year, my students are SO excited when I announce that they get to take their poetry binders home to keep forever! I always have a lot of parents and students who tell me that this becomes a favorite reading resource over the summer months. Poetry binders have been a wonderful way to unify my class and they have helped to form literacy memories that we share together throughout the year. Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today! Happy Reading!
To Check Out ALL of My Monthly Poems, Click HERE or On The Photo Below!


The Avery products mentioned in this blog post were provided to me by Avery. They were given in exchange for my own opinions and review. I never endorse anything for my classroom that I do not truly believe in, and I hope you will enjoy these Avery items as much as I do!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Teach, Create, and Engage with Oriental Trading!

When Oriental Trading asked if they could send some goodies to review for the classroom, I was so very excited! I have been shopping with Oriental Trading for years now, and they are always my go-to online store when I am in need of cute, fun, and engaging supplies for my classroom, PD sessions, and even family parties.  When they told me I could even pick out my own goodies to review, I was so happy! In this post, I would love to share some of the things I picked out and how I plan on using them with students. 

Do you have these in your classroom yet? If you don't, RUN and grab these babies! These neon dry erase sleeves are the perfect solution for center time - especially word work! I slipped my Word Family Warm-Up Sheets into these sleeves and it became an instant word work center for my kiddos. They can work on the printable, erase it, and it is instantly ready for the next student. These neon sleeves save me so much paper, kids love them, and they are perfect for the guided reading table. I love to use simple graphic organizers with them. We can work through the organizer as we read our small group story. This allows my kids to practice the skill, but they don't feel like they are doing a "worksheet." I can also reuse my graphic organizers over and over again, saving us time and resources. 

 These lanyards are perfect for ______________. <--Insert ANYTHING you can think of. I'm planning on using them for some really fun vocabulary activities. (I'll be sharing lots of vocabulary activities with you this year! I worked on a ton of new vocabulary lessons with my first graders last year and I just haven't had the time to share them all yet. Stay tuned!) I'm also planning on replacing the ribbon around my technology coach badges with these super soft, bright colored lanyards. (You can find my FREE technology coach badges by clicking here.)

These pocket dice are perfect for games and small group activities in the classroom. Oriental Trading has square cards that fit into the pockets. They have activities that are already created for these dice, or, you can design your own games. I see lots of sight word games in our future with these adorable dice!

Have I ever mentioned on my blog that I love all things organization? (That's a joke. If you've ever visited my blog before, you know I'm o-b-s-s-e-s-s-e-d with organization.) These super bright index storage boxes are making me SO happy! I don't know about you, but I always have tons of little small group activities and games. I NEVER know how to store all of it nicely. I'm planning on using these index boxes to re-organize my small group phonics games. I actually ordered two sets of these boxes. I am going to put my math cards, dry erase markers, and erasers for my Small Group Independent Math Games into these boxes, too. They will be the perfect size and much more colorful than the ones I currently have. 
Do you want to know something I haven't told my husband  yet?! Next year I am planning on replacing ALL of my library baskets for my classroom. (Shhh!!! Haha, just kidding! He is always teasing me that I am re-vamping and re-doing my classroom decor every single year!) The ones I currently have are going to be NINE years old next year. I got them for $1.00 each at the Dollar Store when I landed my first teaching job. They are falling apart, cheap, and just plain OLD.  I have been searching and searching for the perfect baskets for my books.  When I say "search and searching," I'm not exaggerating. I have even bought baskets and sent the back when I saw the size or the colors. When I saw these neon storage bins on the Oriental Trading website, I thought it wouldn't hurt to check them out.  They.are.perfect.  I love the option of the lids, and they are the ideal size for my bookshelves and small picture books. Plus, I am in LOVE with the bright neon colors. Right now, my bookshelves are painted blue. I'm planning on painting them black and adding these bright bins to my library. You can just imagine how happy my teacher heart is just thinking about it! These bins would also be great for classroom school supply storage, math manipulative, games, and center work. 
I have one last thing I would love to share with you! Oriental Trading has a Wish List feature on their website. It is SO very easy to use. You sign into your account, shop around, and add items you would love for your classroom to your wish list. Then, you can easily and quickly share the wish list with parents, your PTO, and other members of your school. I love this idea for Open House because teachers know exactly what they need for their rooms, and often it's hard to share those items with parents who want to donate to the classroom. This makes it easy-cheesy for them to donate and purchase items you really want and can use with your students. 

You can find my own wish list by clicking HERE. It features all of the items I shared with you above, plus additional items I plan on using and picking up in the future! You can head over to Oriental Trading to set up your own wish list, and have it ready for your classroom newsletter, Back to School Night, or Open House!

Thanks for visiting my blog today. I hope you all have a wonderful week and that perhaps this blog post inspired you for some learning activities and engagement ideas of your own! 

Happy creating and learning,

Oriental Trading sent me the items described and shown in this blog post, in exchange for my personal opinions and review. I never endorse anything I would not personally use in my classroom. I'm happy to be able to share products and resources that I absolutely love with you! :) -Christina

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Fabulous First Week: Jumping Into Hands-On Learning

A BIG Collection of Fun and Engaging Activities, Lessons, and Ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
The first week of school is SO exciting (and let's be honest - exhausting, too!). As a primary teacher, my first day of school always consists of two main goals:
1) Make sure every student in my classroom gets home the right way. 
2) Make sure EVERY child who walks out of my classroom door at the end of the day can't WAIT to come back tomorrow!

Truly, if 100% of my students are not jumping into their parents' cars or bolting through their front door bursting with excitement and smiles, I have not done my job as a first grade teacher. As primary teachers, we have a HUGE responsibility when it comes to teaching. It is, perhaps, one of the most important responsibilities of our careers: Make learning fun. Why is this such an important task? My students are six and seven years old. They are bursting with hope, excitement, and a thirst to learn. School, a place where most of our students will spend the majority of their childhood lives, should be a place where learning is embedded into an environment that is bursting to the seams with engagement, silliness, and FUN! Since we teach little ones, we need to keep in mind that for many children, we are providing our students' with their first experiences with learning and education.  By grabbing their attention from day 1, we are setting the tone that our classroom is a place in which learning and magic collide. 

So, how do we add FUN into our classrooms? A big part of this comes from the teacher's personality. A happy, passionate teacher is a teacher children want to learn from. The other half of this stems from the activities, lessons, and experiences we provide in our classrooms. They need to be engaging, visual, creative, and hands-on. In this post, I'd like to share some of the activities and lessons I complete with my students during our first week together. As veteran teachers and new teachers, deciding what to do during that first week of school can be a daunting task! I'm hoping this post will provide you with plenty of ideas for a fun and engaging first week of school. All of these activities serve the purpose of shaping and launching the classroom routine, classroom family, classroom community, and the classroom learning we will embrace throughout our year together. Here we go!

Magic Dough
Magic Dough activity and science lesson: This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
I use this activity on the first day of school and it is the very first thing we do together! The weekend before school starts, I make the magic dough and put the balls of dough into little baggies. I also tape these adorable Magic Dough poem tags onto the bags. You can find the free recipe for this dough in the free Preview Download of my Back to School First Week Fun Pack. The recipe page can be found at the end of the preview. Magic Dough activity and science lesson: This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
Once every student has a baggie of Magic Dough on his or her desk, I pass out a copy of the Magic Dough Lab Report. We talk about what it means to observe, say and trace the magic word, and then we get started with our very first science experiment! 
Magic Dough activity and science lesson: This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
"Magic dough, oh so white, I wish I may, I wish I might. If I make a color appear, It's going to be a great school year!" Once we say the magic poem, the students start to squish their play dough up IN the baggie (so as not to cause a food color disaster!). If their dough starts to change color, we know it is going to be a GREAT school year! After this initial activity, I usually have all of my students ECSTATIC to be in first grade and LOVING our classroom and school! They love drawing and coloring what their magic dough looks like after the experiment. It's the perfect way for me to set the tone for my students and get them excited for our year together.
Magic Dough activity and science lesson: This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo

Marshmallow Toes and Voices
Marshmallow Toes & Voices classroom management activity (hands-on) This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
Our next hands-on activity is an awesome way to bring an aspect of my classroom management to life. It provides both a visual and a hands-on experience for my students. I use the concept of "Marshmallow Toes and Voices" to teach my students how to behave when we are walking in the hallways of the school.  I complete this activity with my students on the first day of school, and I start it about 10 minutes prior to the first time we enter the hallway as a whole class.  First, I set a marshmallow on everyone's desk. I ask my students to pick the marshmallow up and hold it very close to their ears. Then, I use these prompts:
"Listen reeeeallly closely to your marshmallow. What is it saying?" (Cue giggles and laughter. "Marshmallows don't talk, Miss DeCarbo!")
"Are you sure?! Let's listen again." (A pin could drop in the room at this point. It is SO quiet as my students listen carefully to their marshmallow.)
"Hmmm...you're right. It doesn't talk. It's SUPER silent. Let's try something else. Drop the marshmallow on your desk." (The students all drop their marshmallow onto their desk, and you can hear the pitter-patter sound of marshmallows all over the classroom.)
"Was your marshmallow loud?" (The students all reply with, "No!")
"What did your marshmallow sound like when it hit the desk?" (At this point, the students will exchange observations that the marshmallow was very quiet and very soft.)
I proceed to explain that while we are in the hallway this year, we will use Marshmallow Toes & Voices at all times, so that we do not disrupt the learning happening in other classrooms. Marshmallows do not talk, and they are very quiet when they hit the ground. This year, we will also be like marshmallows. We will be silent in the hallways and use soft feet while we walk.

This very simple, yet very effective, hands-on experience helps my hallway expectations "stick" for my students. We can use this visual and hands-on activity as a gentle reminder throughout the school year. The Marshmallow Toes & Voices provides a concrete connection to their learning. And...it's FUN! I would call that classroom management at its finest! ;) (The poem, anchor chart pieces, and lesson plan is included in my Back to School First Week Fun Pack.)

Classroom Rules
Free Whole Brain Teaching Rules posters
After we return from using the restroom on our first day of school, we learn and go over our classroom rules. I use the Whole Brain Teaching set of rules for my classroom. We discuss each rule, and I have ALL of the students act out the rule with a partner. I then call on one partner pair to show the entire class how to follow each rule. This helps everyone get involved and allows them to interact and connect with new friends. You can find these Whole Brain Teaching Rules posters for FREE in my Teachers Pay Teachers shop by clicking HERE

Quiet Chants
Quiet Chant posters for classroom management: This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
Starting on the first day of school, and continuing throughout the first week, we learn several fun Quiet Chants. These are quick, engaging, and fun ways I signal for the class' attention. I use a Quiet Chant when I need all of my students' eyes and ears. It is important to note that I do not just introduce a Quiet Chant, try it with the students, and move on. No, no, no. We practice, practice, practice, every Quiet Chant several times throughout our days together during those first few weeks. I will even have the students "pretend" to chat and whisper to each other. Then, I'll call out a Quiet Chant and the students have to give me the appropriate response, while immediately fixating their eyes and ears on the teacher and showing me their hands are in their laps. We continue to practice over and over again until the entire class has the hang of it. I also do not start to talk after a Quiet Chant right way. Doing this would not give my students practice in staying quiet long enough to hear what I have to say. I want them to build listening stamina just as much as I need them to build reading stamina. Patience needs to be practiced. One of my favorite Quiet Chants is Clickity Clack. I will say, "Clickity Clack!" to my students, and they will respond with: "Get on track!" (You can find all of my Quiet Chant cards/posters in my Back to School First Week Fun Pack. They make really cute classroom decor pieces and they are great to hang up in your classroom because substitutes LOVE them!)

All About Me Activities
A BIG Collection of Fun and Engaging Activities, Lessons, and Ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
We start working on an All About Me poster before we go to lunch on the first day of school. It is a nice way to practice our "working expectations" at our desk and helps students unwind before the chaos and craziness of the cafeteria on the first day of school. It also gives me the opportunity to front-load directions for when we get back from lunch on the first day. I tell the students before we go to lunch, that we will work on our posters for a few minutes when we return from lunch/recess. Since we are not in any kind of "routine" yet on the first day of school, I want my students to know ahead of time what we will be doing when we return from lunch. This really helps calm the nerves of students who get anxious and thrive on "knowing what comes next." (On Day 2 of school, we will start to learn our Daily 5 routines, and from that day on, my students will grab their book bins immediately after lunch, and meet me at the carpet for a mini-lesson.) I also love these little All About Me posters because I have 4-5 students share their posters at the end of the day during the first week of school. It helps us all get to know each other, and it's important to me that every student has a few minutes to shine independently during the first week of school. This builds confidence and helps students feel comfortable talking and sharing with one another.  
All About Me rainbow craftivity - This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
My Back to School Pack also contains TONS of other All About Me activities. Starting on Day 2 of school, students work on their All About Me activities right before lunch, and I begin to pull students back for their DRA assessments. I think it is important to build some quiet "desk time" into our day during that first week, so that students can build stamina with independent work and practice the expectations and routines we discuss from Day 1. 
M&M Math
m&m math activity: This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
M&M Math is an activity and lesson we complete on the second day of school within my room. Because we do not break out into small groups for math for the first couple of weeks, this is a super fun, hands-on activity that lets my students get excited about math this year. I use the mini packs of M&Ms and a coordinating M&M Math printable from my pack. (I have a kindergarten, first, and second grade version within the pack.) We spend time sorting, graphing, adding, and subtracting our m&ms. This is great little review activity that helps our math brains "warm back up" after our summer vacations. :)

Math Games: Back to School BUMP
Back to School BUMP math game for partner math: This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
Back to School BUMP is one of the first partner math games I teach my students. My Back to School pack contains THREE different versions of this game. A number identification version is included, as well as two addition versions: Sums up to 12 and Sums up to 18. Kids LOVE math games and they ADORE when they get to play a new math game with a friend! The students roll the dice, add them together to find the sum, and place a marker on the sum. If the partner rolls the same sum, he or she can BUMP their friend off the board. If a student gets the same number he or she did before, he can build a "tower" on that number with his cubes. If a student has a "tower" on a number space, his or her partner cannot BUMP him off anymore. That student "owns" the space for the remainder of the game. The student who has the most cubes on the board wins, or, the student who gets rid of their cubes first wins! Then, they clear the board and play it again! This is an excellent game to teach your students math stamina for partner games. We learn this game on Day 3, and continue to play it every day for the remainder of the week. Every day we play, the student must play with a new partner. This helps the students learn new faces and make new friends. :) 

Classroom Scenario Cards
Classroom Scenario Cards for Character Education, Rules, and Expectations: This post contains a BIG collection of fun and engaging activities, lessons, and ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
Character building is BIG in my classroom. I want to set the tone right from the first day that we are a classroom family who cares for one another and treats everyone with respect and kindness. Throughout the first week of school, we gather at the carpet and work through my pack of Classroom Scenario cards from my Back to School pack. These cards have simple, everyday "situations" typed onto them. Each card leaves students with the question: "What would you do?" I read the card aloud, and provide students with a couple minutes of "think time" at the carpet. Then, I have the students turn and talk to one another, sharing what they would do in the situation. We then share our thoughts as a whole class, as we practice raising our hands to share and being good listeners. The cards discuss situations that might happen during recess, friendship issues, classroom problems, and situations involving our feelings and emotions. Having these DAILY discussions together during that first week of school shows my students that kindness, respect, behavior, and character are so very important in our classroom.

Hopes & Dreams
Hopes & Dreams writing activity: A BIG Collection of Fun and Engaging Activities, Lessons, and Ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo
One of my favorite little writing activities during that first week is our Hopes & Dreams writing piece. We start by having a class discussion about our "hopes and dreams" for first grade. What do we want to do this year? What do we hope to learn about? We write down our hopes and dreams on this cute cloud writing template. (My pack contains three different versions of this writing template, so that you can differentiate according to your needs. There is a picture-only version, a version in which the students can trace the writing prompt, and a template that has only blank writing lines.) This writing piece becomes one of the first bulletin boards we decorate in my room. I use blue background for the board, and then we hang up our Hopes & Dreams clouds. It is super helpful to learn what my students want to learn about this year. It allows me to pull books for small groups and read aloud that I know my students will be interested in. 

All of the activities, printables, and lessons within this blog post come from my Back to School First Week Fun Pack. The activities I shared in this post are just SOME of the things you will find in this pack. The pack contains TONS of other lesson plans, activities, and printables. Some of these include a craft for the first day, read-aloud activities, class books, mini-foldable books, writing assessments and activities, additional math games, a classroom scavenger hunt, and more!

Click HERE or on the picture below to check it out in my store:
Have a WONDERFUL beginning to your school year!
Happy Learning,

A BIG Collection of Fun and Engaging Activities, Lessons, and Ideas for the first week of school! - by Miss DeCarbo