B2S Bash 2015!!!!!

That's right, my friends! It's that time of year. Back to School Bash 2015 begins tomorrow where we will introduce you to all of the amazing prizes and sponsors. Then you can enter to win big beginning on July 31st. This year we have over $5,000 in back to school swag! No, no...you read that right! $5,000!!! People love them some teachers y'all! 

So join me and some of my blogging besties below for some amazing giveaways this week. It all begins tomorrow when we will introduce our 18 BASH BASKETS! Be sure you get yourself a head start and follow all of these amazing blogs and their instagram accounts. Believe me...this year you don't want to miss a thing! 


See you all tomorrow! 

Meet the Teacher Tips & Ideas

Well...it's about that time.  Time to go back to school.  Do I hear a resonating sigh??  Or are you ready for routine and structure?!  Me personally...I need routine!  

At any rate, with the approach of a new year also comes the anticipation of Meet the Teacher night.  I absolutely LOVE Meet the Teacher!  I love meeting my kids and their families.  I love seeing my students around their parents.  I mean seriously.  The kids I'm always nervous about at the end of the night are typically my most well behaved kids!  They're just really comfortable around their parents :)  And that's perfectly fine with me!  

With the new school year right around the corner, I thought it would by a great time to talk a little about one of my favorite nights of the year.  I'm no expert and I'm sure there are a million and one different amazing ideas out there for running a smooth and successful Meet the Teacher night, but I'd like to share with you a few tips and tricks that worked well for me when I was in the classroom.

When the kids walk in on Meet the Teacher night, their desks/tables are prepped and ready for their arrival.  Desks/tables are labeled with names.  My supply boxes are set out and labeled.  My transportation chart is up.  And I have a huge smile on my face :)  

Lets talk about what's on the desks first.

A Meet the Teacher Checklist

A "Welcome to First Grade" Booklet including:
- Meet Your Teacher handout
- First Grade Expectations handout
- Class schedule
-What is My Child Learning in First Grade? handout

A Student information sheet

A 9x12 tabbed envelope filled with paperwork (from the school) & a "Getting to Know You" handout from me

Name card for transportation pocket chart

Ready Confetti package and poem

This checklist sits on top of everything else on the desk.  I tell my kids to find their desks when they walk in the room.  Of course, they have to search for their name and they're shy for all of about 5 seconds before they start whipping around the desks to see where they'll be sitting.

This checklist tells my parents exactly what I want them & their kids to do while they're in the room.  I love having a checklist for them to complete because it takes the pressure off me and frees me up to walk around the room and greet my kids & families as they walk in.  I get a lot of questions too so it's good to have them all working on things while I'm answering those questions.

The checklist...as mentioned before...sits on top of a 9x12 envelope filled with paperwork (from the school) and a Welcome to First Grade! booklet I compile for the parents to read through (either at home or in the classroom).  This is what's included in that booklet...

I like for the first page in that booklet to be a little "all about me" handout just to let them know a little bit about who I am.  I think it's a great way to make an immediate connection with your kids and they love getting to know more about their teacher.

This student information sheet also sits on top of the 9x12 envelope.  I want my parents to fill this out before heading home so that I have all this information on hand come the first day of school.  I have a student information binder I keep next to my computer.  Each child in the room has his/her own tab.  I file these information sheets inside that student binder (along with many other things!!!)

Next up on the checklist....transportation.  This is what I consider to be the single most important piece of information you need to get from your kids before they leave that night.  My biggest first day...uh, first week...fear is losing a child due to transportation confusion.  

When I have kids that don't show up, I make sure to call home before the first day so that I can have their transportation information when I start the day.  Sometimes things are so chaotic and busy on that first day that I'm afraid I'll forget to ask my parents how their kids are getting home.  A phone call home really helps to put my mind at ease.  I like keeping the transportation arrangements on a pocket chart because it helps me...and the kids..to "see" exactly how everyone is getting home at the end of the day.  It's a great visual reminder for my kids..especially those that are really anxious about how they'll be getting home at the end of the day.

In addition to having a visual of the transportation arrangements, I also have my parents complete a school issued transportation sheet before leaving that night as well.  This sheet requires them to indicate transportation arrangements for the first day, first week, and remainder of the year.  I make copies of this sheet and keep one in my student information binder and then the original stays in the office.

Moving onto supplies...
I've organized supplies in a million different ways through the years, but the most efficient way I've found is having your kids/parents sort for you the night of Meet the Teacher.  This is a no-fuss, low-prep way for you to get organized and goodness knows that in the chaos and craziness of prepping for Meet the Teacher, you need as much no-fuss/low prep as you can get ;)

Most kids will either be bringing their supplies or having their supply packs delivered to the classroom that night.  I remember sitting in my classroom for about 2 hours AFTER Meet the Teacher every year for the first 7 years, I swear.  I would be going through each of my kids' supplies and sorting them into our community supply bins.  It took FOREVER.  Then a smart friend suggested the kids do it.  GENIUS.  If you don't do this already and you're looking for an easier way to manage supplies, I would definitely suggest trying this!  Because I have community supplies in my classroom, this arrangement works beautifully.  At the end of the night all I have to do is take the boxes and transfer the supplies into the tubs on my supply shelf.  I do have my kids keep a few supplies in their desks (as mentioned on the checklist) for the first day, but everything else gets put on the supply shelf.  I know some teachers like to label and sort through the supplies with their kids on the first day to just make sure all of their kids brought them, but I prefer for them to be completely sorted because the first week of school is crazy enough :)  I want to focus my time & energy into other things that are really important!

I strongly believe in making deposits before you can take withdrawls, so I want to start the year off on the right foot with my parents and let them know I'm invested in their child.  We're a team!!  
Set out a stack of envelopes and ask your parents to fill them out with their name and address.  Hold on to the envelopes and spend the first couple weeks of school getting to know their child....take notes on specific details about the child (Bobby is a very detailed artist....Susie is so kind and compassionate...a real friend to everyone,etc.)  Write a handwritten note home to parents including some of these specific details and tell parents how much you enjoy their child and how you're looking forward to watching him/her grow throughout the year.  BUILD THOSE RELATIONSHIPS!!  
A handwritten letter is SO much more personal than an email or a text.  I've had parents in the past tell me that receiving their note was a *highlight* of the year for them...parents LOVE hearing that their teachers see the good in their child like they do :)

Not only do parents like to hear great things about their kids, but they like to stay connected, too.  I personally have no problem giving my parents my cell #.  I like to be able to text them pictures of their kids while they're at school...especially on field trips the parents can't attend.  But that's just me.  Create a QR code with your info (cell #, email, etc.), print, and display during Meet the Teacher.  Encourage your parents to scan the code so that they'll have all your contact info in their phones before they leave for the night.  I love having all that info at my fingertips...just in case ;)  Of course, if you're not into letting your parents have your info, Meet the Teacher night would be a great time to start your campaign for Remind and encourage everyone to sign up before leaving.

I didn't have any personal pictures from my classroom saved, so I found a couple of my favorites to give you a visual of my explanation.  If you have any wishes you'd like filled for the year...extra glue sticks, construction paper, craft supplies, etc., write them on a label and stick them to the teacher supply cutouts and display them for your parents to see.  In the past I've used the "helping hands", popcorn pieces in a popcorn box (displayed on my white board), and fish in fish bowl.  Same idea, different presentations.  I kindly suggest that they might like looking at that display and if they find it in their hearts to fulfill any of those wishes, I will be FOREVER grateful :)
I collect the wishes that don't get taken and then type them up in the weekly newsletter.

The best part of my night is sending my kids home with their "Ready Confetti".  Such a fun tradition and one the kids...and parents...talk about ALL year.  For real!  I'm so happy I have such smart friends because this is in no way my idea.  

Whew!  I think that covers it!

If you have any questions or want to share any amazing ideas or simple "why didn't I think of that?!" management & organization ideas, I'd LOVE to hear 'em! 

Math Center Set-Up & Organization

With the start of the school year rapidly approaching, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk to y'all all about how I set up my math centers.  This seems to be a frequent question I'm asked.  Let me just tell y'all that by NO means do I think I have it all figured out.   I just want to share what's worked for me over the last 13 years in the classroom.  As with anything, you have to find what works best for you as a teacher and what best fits the needs of your kids.  What works for me may not work for you.  What works for me one year might not work for me the next...especially considering the dynamics of my classroom.  I'm hoping this peek into my set-up helps you with yours!  

I like to organize my centers into 5 different tubs and they're all based on the math objectives we learn throughout the year. Here's how it breaks down...

Because I start with the end in mind, I know exactly how many weeks of formal instruction my kids will be getting on certain skills and I can see what's most important based on how long my kids get to learn/master each concept.   Setting up consistent centers helps me ensure that my kids will get ample opportunities for review and practice in concepts that may be lacking in formal instruction.  For example, if I know my kids only get two weeks of formal instruction in one-to-one correspondence and that's a skill they'll need to build a good foundation in numeracy, I can make sure to plan independent center activities that will engage them in opportunities to practice that skill throughout the year.  My kids are constantly practicing and reviewing those key concepts in their centers even if we're not formally working on those concepts during whole group.  Does that make sense?!

This is an example of how my math tubs are set up.

Each tub is labeled 1-5.  Each activity includes the hands-on piece, a recording sheet for assessment (if applicable), and manipulatives needed to complete the activity (so they aren't constantly getting up and grabbing things off the shelf...helps keep them on task and focused!)

I let my kids choose their own centers/stations during our literacy block, but I like for math to be a little bit more structured.  I mostly do this to ensure I have mixed abilities working together.  This is just a little example of what that might look like on my rotation board.

You've probably noticed that I don't have a dedicated rotation for small group guided math.  True!  I don't.  I've had a dedicated rotation for small group in the past and LOVED it when I taught 2nd grade.  I also had a dedicated rotation for small group when I taught Kindergarten, but I switched that up to give myself more freedom for intervention.   I just found that in K & 1 I really liked the flexibility of being able to pull kids to work with me as needed and without being tied to a dedicated roation, I was able to pull kids and work with them as long as I needed instead of just for a specific amount of time.  Sometimes it was easier for me to work with kids one-on-one.  Sometimes a small group was necessary.  Just depended on the day. This set-up is especially great for those days...uh, weeks...when we have to do benchmarks and testing.  

Speaking of benchmarks and testing, here's how I know which kids need to be pulled and how often I need to pull them.  

The picture on the left is how I keep my tubs organized.  The colored stickies on the left side of the file folder identify the high/medium/low kiddos.  The pink stickies on the right side of that same file folder show my groups.  My groups are constantly changing through the year and using stickies helps me to quickly move them around as needed.  As you can see, visually organizing my kids into their high/medium/low groups first then helps me to divide them into their math tub groups heterogeneously.

The two pictures on the right show how I organize my intervention groups.  The white labels indicate the objective/skill in which my kids have not yet mastered. I take the data from our benchmarks to identify the kids who need intervention and then place their names next to those labels (of the skills they haven't mastered) so that I can quickly identify who I need to pull for one-on-one or small group activities during math tubs.  

You probably also noticed that I assign my kids to anchor activities/fast finishers.  These are activities they can work on when they are finished with their math tubs.  The number on the rotation board corresponds with the number on the fast finisher/anchor activity tub.  I have several of those tubs labeled with the same numbers to give my kids more options and ensure that they aren't arguing over which activity they get to do.  They know that only two kids are allowed to be at one activity at a time and this really worked well (for this dynamic of kids).

Speaking of fast finishers/anchor activities, here's a fun idea I implemented into my class years ago that helps keep my kids on track and focused during when they're visiting these activities.  

The idea behind "Beat the Timer" is for your students to finish an activity before the timer runs out.  This works especially great for any kind of puzzle that you might keep available for the kids to solve.  Just set out the little sand timers (you can get them from the Dollar Tree) and have our kids grab one before starting their activity.  If they can complete the activity before the timer runs out, they get to sign their name in the "Beat the Timer" notebook.  If not, they can try again.   Sounds a little cheesy, but it's proved to be a great management tool over the years!

Now let's get back to the math tubs.  One important thing to remember when planning activities for your math centers....NEVER expect your kids to do something independently you haven't practiced in depth first.  Basically, don't plan any new concepts for independent practice until you've reviewed and practiced as a group for at least a week.  This, of course, is based on my prior experience!  #hadtolearnthehardway #iwantthosekidsbacksoIcanapologize ;)
We want to set them up for success...and we don't want to cause any additional struggle for ourselves. The more familiar they are with the concept, the less redirection they'll need when it comes time for independent practice.  When I introduce a new skill/concept, we work on that concept for a week (whole group) and then take those activities and put them in the math tubs the following week so that they're familiar with them.   

For the first two weeks of the school year, it's all about establishing routines and procedures.  For my K babies, we're exploring manipulatives.  I want them to be able to "play" with our math tools and learn the routine before I expect them to use the materials appropriately.  For my 1st graders, we're doing the same thing, but I'm also throwing in several review activities to assess their ability to work independently on various skills.  Establishing routines and procedures is far more important than planning activities that are heavily academic.  If the management isn't in place, the behavior & learning won't be either.

Now let's talk about how I organize these activities.  I seem to get this question a lot, too.  Once it's all created and used where do I store it?!  Material management is a struggle!!!  Especially when storage and space is limited.   After my kids work with the activities, I place them in either a 9x12 tabbed envelope or a gallon sized Ziplock baggie.  There's no rhyme or reason to either...just what I have available when it's time to store.  If I'm placing them inside the 9x12 tabbed envelopes, I will label it with the month in which the activity is used, the name of the activity, and then the author of the activity. This is especially helpful if I've purchased something off TpT.  Sometimes my kids will lose a piece of the activity and I'll need to print extra the following year.  Instead of spending time aimlessly looking for those files on my computer, I know exactly where to find them.   If I place them in a Ziplock, I will place a label on top of the baggie or write out a note to myself that goes inside the baggie.  

Once the activities are placed in their envelopes/baggies, they're then stored in either my filing cabinet or my monthly drawers.   My filing cabinets are organized by subject.  My drawers are organized by month.  Since I thematically plan my centers/tubs, this type of filing and organization works great for me. 

To take it a step further, I also write down the name of the activity and the location (filing cabinet, monthly drawers, etc.) in my planning binder.  I take this binder to our team planning meetings so that I can visually see exactly what I have when it's time to plan...then I know exactly where I need to find those materials.  Again, just a little something to help me with my time management ;)  Just ignore the handwriting...YIKES!

Whew!  I *think* that covers it.  Of course, if you still have questions, don't hesitate to leave me a comment and let me know!!  

In other news, if you have my Solve & Stamp Sight Word Bundle, go back into your downloads to find the most recent addition....Solve & Stamp Sight Word FIRST GRADE mysteries.  Just added it to the bundle last night!  

Vegas Teacher Blogger Meetup 2015

The meet up that we held in Vegas last week was AMAZING!! There really isn't many other words that could describe it. Picture 1100 teachers in a room together, having fun, meeting new people, and winning lots of prizes. We were all smiling so hard that our cheeks hurt. It was a great night and we appreciate all of the many teachers and bloggers who came and had a fabulous night with us.

First and foremost, we have to give a HUGE shout out to Teachers Pay Teachers, SDE, and GoNoodle!  These sponsors not only donated generous amounts of giveaway swag, they also helped organize and make our meet-up extraordinary!

It's safe to say that in a mix of 1,100 educators, we all appreciate staff development that is fun, engaging, and inspiring.  SDE donated several different staff development gift certificates... from online seminars to National Conference passes!

Not only did TpT host their very own conference, but they were also so generous when it came to our blogger meet-up!  Who wouldn't get excited about FIFTY TpT gift certificates??!!  That's right, FIFTY lucky winners went home with a little money to spend atTpT!  Oh, and those drink passes?  Those were from TpT as well!

I mean, what would we have done without those amazing GoNoodle swag bags??  Plus, they brought in the neatest PhotoBooth that you ever did see!  AND, we can't forget Freckles, theGoNoodle mascot!  How fun was it that he was running around snapping pictures with people all night long??

We had so many other sponsors that helped donate over $55,000 worth of swag, prizes, and goodies!  Can you believe that?!  I don't know about you, but to us... that's a whole lotta love for teachers!  Let's take a look at these amazing prizes...

Who loves Scentos out there?  Teachers AND students love the fun-loving smell of all theScentos goodies out there!  Scentos gave markers and stickers to all of our attendees!  Isn't that amazing?!

Who doesn't want a precious {and FREE} bulletin board set to start off the new year?!  Creative Teaching Press sent bulletin board sets to every single person who came to our meet-up!  A couple of lucky teachers went home with a Creative Teaching Press gift card as well!

Erin Condren sent products that were hot off the press!  Have you seen their teacher posters,  teacher bundles, and teacher planners?  Erin Condren makes lesson planning a beautiful thing!

Speaking of beautiful things... check out these too cute to boot Vera Bradley gift baskets!  Vera's bags are PERFECT for teachers, moms, and well... anyone who loves pretty things :)

Now, we all know how stylish all you teachers are out there!  The Pampered Teacherdonated TWENTY Teacher Subscription boxes to our lovely attendees!  These boxes are designed to help teachers keep up-to-date with the latest trends and styles without any hassle!

If there is something that we know... it's that teachers LOVE getting new tech-goodies for their classroom!  So many times our schools, districts, and counties just don't have enough funds to outfit our classroom with the latest and greatest, but we sure are glad that oursponsors are willing to step up to the plate!  Hue HD gave 11 different doc cams!  Isn't that amazing?!

ESGI is all about helping teachers simplify giving meaningful assessments.  They were so generous to donate a GRADE-LEVEL license!  That's up to TEN teachers that get to use ESGIfor an entire year! Plus they even included a little gift basket of goodies!

Alive Studios' mission is simple:  to equip teachers with engaging solutions that help young students become proficient in reading and math by 3rd grade.  I mean, who doesn't want to get on board with that?!

Do you want your students to come to the carpet, line up, and transition in an organized andFUN manner?!  Sit Spots knows how important spatial management is for teachers!  That's why they sent FIVE $100 gift certificates to our meet-up!!

Now that we are talking about staying organized, let's focus on Seat Sacks!  THREE lucky winners went home with different Seat Sack Packs!  These teachers will now be able to have a classroom full of organized and tidy students!

Carson Dellosa has been in the business of making teachers happy for over 38 years!  If you have taught for any amount of time you have probably purchased their classroom resources, decor items, or supplemental materials!  Not only did they give cut-out accents to every attendee, they also donated three gift baskets

It's no secret that the Ron Clark Academy has been positively impacting education for several years now!  Well, now that our sweet Hope King and her precious hubby are teachers there, we are getting to see even more incredible things that are happening there!  Several bloggers have visited over the past year, and now TWO more teachers will get to plan a visit thanks to the generosity of Ron and Kim! If you can't get to their Academy right away, you many want to check out their newest books: Move Your Bus by Ron Clark, Crash Course by Kim Beaden, and Inside the Trenches by Adam Dovico.

Have you seen the Ellison All-Star machines?  These die-cutting machines are portable and easy to take on-the-go!  Ellison generously donated FIVE of their AllStar SuperStar Machines!  They also sent goodies for our swag bags... that every attendee was able to take home!

While we are on the subject of classroom goodies, let's talk about Teacher Created!  They donated THREE gift baskets showcasing their very own classroom decor materials!

Do you teach about butterfly life-cycles in your classroom??  If so, you MUST check out Insect Lore!  They are the original Butterflies-By-Mail company!  Everyone went home with a package of 3D insect stickers at our meet-up!

Kaplan provides developmentally-appropriate educational products to families, early education professionals, and classrooms! 


Looking to jazz up your laptop, phone, or tablet?  Skin It makes those devices that we are so addicted to even better than before!    

If you haven't heard of Kim Sutton's math materials, you must stop what you are doing and check them out NOW!  She brings the fun into your math instruction!!  Creative Mathematicsgenerously gave a Staff Development DVD :)

Lakeshore Learning is no stranger to education, right?!   We all know and love their teacher-and-student-friendly products!  Their STEM kits were the perfect gifts for our winners!

Who doesn't love a pretty notepad, desk organizer, and cards?!  Well, we have all known that Krista Wallden brings her A-Game to clipart, but she's also knocking it out of the park with her new Creative Paper Collection!  Of course, we just adore her new designs that make scheduling and planning such a pretty thing!

OHHHH, and if you love adding personal touches to your classroom, home, and well, pretty much anything... you MUST check out Silhouette America!  You NEED this cutting system in your life!  Silhouette donated a Portrait and Cameo to our get-together!

Are you a blogger?!  Are you looking to start a blog OR revamp your blog-look??  Jumping Jax Designs offers printables, invitations, AND blog designs!  We can't wait to see the look that our winner and Jumping Jax comes up with!

And, finally, we all just swoon over 's educational products.  From teaching materials, classroom manipulatives, classroom decor, and management tools to all thingsorganizational... we just can't get enough!  Thanks to RGS for donating an entire Math Kit to our meet-up!

There are literally a thousand pictures that we took that night and it would be impossible to share them all with you. Here are just a few pictures of the night. 

(To see more pictures, please visit the What The Teacher Wants Facebook Page.)

As you can see, this turned out to be the biggest teacher and blogger bash of the century. Thanks again to all our generous sponsors who made the night possible and to all of you who were able to be there in person! 

The last shout of of the night goes out to all those who planned and organized this event over the past year. These girls reached out to all the sponsors and helped make the night such a success! (Not to mention they helped fill over 600 swag bags…)