Making First Grade FANTASTIC

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Blank Slate

I've started a new blog, that is literally a blank slate right now.  Come follow me at Kindergarten Chalkboard.  It's totally bare...I haven't even chosen a background yet.  You can read a bit about where I've been for the last few years and see what I have in store for this coming school year.  I'm super excited and I'd love for you to join me!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Vistaprint Addict

Hello, my name is Gwen, and I am a Vistaprint addict.  If you aren't familiar with Vistaprint, it is an online printing company that offers many of their products for free (yes, FREE).  All you pay is shipping.  You can customize anything from business cards and magnets to note pads and banners.

I'm linking up with Nancy at The Apple Basket Teacher to share some of my favorite Vistaprint creations.

Some of My Favorites
Personalized note cards:

Student of the week notices:

Labels for Christmas gift books:

Self-inking stamps:


A notepad for make-up work:

Car magnet turned classroom management tool:
See how I use this for positive reinforcement here.
Small magnets for parent communication (I give these out on the first day of school):

I have also made a wide variety of personalized notepads and sticky notes that are just adorable!

Are you addicted to Vistaprint?  What are your favorite creations?  I'd love to hear!!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Grab My Button!

This is my first attempt at making a button for my blog...


Hopefully, I can get it to work.  What d'ya think?

I'm Back...

Well, I haven't posted anything in 5 months or so (yikes!!!).  As I start to get ready for a new school year that is coming very quickly, I plan to get back to posting.  Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Only 2 Days! Argh...

Well, my lack of quality posting this week has been due to a two day work week.  I am officially sick of snow days!  I can't believe that is actually coming out of my mouth, but it's true.  I'm ready for a real, normal week of school.  My kids are so accustomed to the same schedule every day and these past two months of off and on school has just wreaked havoc in so many ways.  Not to mention that I've had to take out a lot of the "fun stuff" in order to play catch up with all the basics.  I'm looking forward to posting regularly again next week, when we are hopefully at school every. single. day.  All day.  Anyone else feeling this way?  Who's had ENOUGH of this winter madness?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Presidents Day

Well, my plan was to share a fun graphing activity and Smartboard file I used today for George Washington's birthday, but for some reason, my files won't upload at home.  I will still share the activity, but I'll try to post the file to go with it tomorrow.

We had ANOTHER snow day yesterday, so we are going to be celebrating Presidents Day through the remainder of the week.  Last week, I introduced Abe Lincoln.  Today, I introduced George Washington.

I was planning to do the following activity on Washington's birthday, February 22, but alas, the snow made other plans.  After reading "A Picture Book of George Washington"
and discussing a basic history of George Washington, I told the kids I brought a birthday treat to celebrate Washington's birthday.  I brought chocolate covered cherries to help the kids remember the legend of Washington chopping down the cherry tree.

Every child tried their chocolate covered cherry and then we made a graph on the Smartboard.  Our graph was titled "Do You Like Chocolate Covered Cherries?".

This is where the pictures are supposed to come in, so just imagine them for the time being.  The Smartboard has a really neat graphing feature that allows you to drag pictures into the graph so you can make an actual pictograph.  The kids really LOVED the special birthday treat and had a ton of fun using the graphing feature on the Smartboard.

I will try to figure out how to post the file for this graph tomorrow along with some other activities we are doing to celebrate Mr. Washington and Mr. Lincoln.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How I've Come to be "At Peace" with My Listening Center

I don't know about you, but whenever I opened up the listening center for my kiddos to use in past years, it was always so stressful.  First, most of my audio books were still on tape.  Do you know a child who even knows what a tape is anymore?  So, explaining how to use a tape player was a challenge.  Then, I had six pairs of headphones in one large perpetual knot.  That's always a delight!  And, while I have always had a very large library of audio books, I generally have only one or two copies of each book, so children had to share.  This became it's own monster...always arguing over who gets to hold the book and the inevitable child who just has to sit and listen because he can't see.  Doesn't really sound like an ideal situation to enjoy listening to books and improve reading fluency, does it?

The quest to improve my listening center started two years ago.  During the summer, I vowed to convert all my tapes to CDs.  Luckily, my husband has the equipment to do that, so all my tapes were converted to mp3 files, which I burned onto CDs.  Problem number one solved.  Every kid knows how to use a CD.

My next issues all revolved around storage: how to make books easily available and how to store those pesky headphones.  For this, I turned to DonorsChoose.  If you've never heard of DonorsChoose or haven't yet tried it, you are missing out!  It's a website for teachers to post grant ideas.  The public gets to choose grants and projects to fund.  I've had a total of five grants funded through this wonderful site.  Anywho...I turned to DonorsChoose and wrote a grant for a storage cart to house my book collection, organize headphones, and hold the CD player.  I also looked for a hanging bag storage system to hang many of my audio books.  Thankfully, both of these projects were funded last school year and I was able to better organize my listening center.  Problem number two solved.

Towards the end of last year, I still noticed that the headphones were still getting tangled and we were still having the issue of more children then books.  I got this idea then to ask for six individual CD players from DonorsChoose.  I was shocked when this project was funded almost immediately!  Problem number 3 solved.

So this year, for the first time, I am completely at peace with my listening center.  The generous donations from DonorsChoose made it possible for my students to listen to books of their own choosing. They can always see the words and pictures and never have to sit among a tangled mess.

This is what my listening center looks like now:


The books that are hanging are the ones my students are allowed to choose from.  I keep my other ones in the two drawers on the left.  I rotate them seasonally.  On the right, you can see that I have five stacked Ziploc containers.  Each one contains one CD player and headphones.  I also have storage for other CDs that I don't use as often.


This is how the CD players are stored.  I was very specific when I showed the children how to store the players.  The player goes in first, followed by the headphones, so they don't get crushed.  I know some schools required students to use their own personal headphones, but I just use disinfectant wipes, and have never had any issues.  

My students have taken extremely good care of the CD players this year.  Every single one works and is as good as new.  In case you're wondering, I've only had to change the batteries once, and that was this past week.

My listening center is always open now.  Children can use it during center time, but are also free to use it before school starts, after taking a test, or during indoor recess.  The other wonderful thing about setting up a listening center this way is the freedom the children have, not just to choose what they personally are interested in reading, but the freedom to choose where to sit.  Some children do better in a chair and some prefer to be sprawled out on the floor.  A few of my children like to sit in a quiet corner of the room and even under the coat hooks.

Not only am I at peace with my listening center now, but it really has made my classroom a more peaceful place.