Friday, March 30, 2012

April Showers... Bulletin Board and Base 10 Block Art

At our school, there is a HUGE bulletin board outside the office and each grade level has gets to decorate it one month out of the school year. We are in charge of April and found this super cute bulletin board idea here.

We decided to have students make the umbrellas and flowers for our "Extra Fun Thing." We both use this as a reward in our classroom to make Fridays special. Students who have completed all of their work for the week and had good behavior (no more than 3 problems) get to do the "Extra Fun Thing." We keep it a secret all week and the kids love to try and guess what we will be doing. It is usually art, but sometimes we play games in the computer lab or have extra recess.

Anyway, here's our completed bulletin board. Isn't it cute?

We also worked on Base 10 Block art this week. We got the idea from Kristy over at Teachin' First. Students used flats, longs, and cubes to make an original piece of art. Then they had to title it and calculate the value of their art for the price tag. Some of them were pretty creative! See below:

Enjoy your weekend! Rest up! :-)

Kristi and Crystal

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shoulder Buddies - WOW!

Okay, so I may be officially addicted to blogging now. It is no secret to those who know me that I enjoy writing, but really...this is my first evening home this week and I choose to blog. :-) Here's why...

Monday was our first day back from Spring Break and I decided to try something new with my kiddos. You see, we are very blessed to have a Kagan trainer in our building and last year (my first year teaching) she began doing some district wide training for us. I will admit that I was a bit hesitant to try the Kagan structures--especially last year. I was so afraid of losing control of my classroom. I think I have mentioned before I am a bit of a control freak. Shhh...

Anyway, I managed to try some structures last year and over the summer I prepared some Kagan materials (i.e. Quiz, Quiz, Trade cards, Showdown cards, etc.) that I could pull out and use quickly and easily this year. I also created "teams" and "shoulder buddies" so that I could very easily get students into groups for various structures (Numbered Heads Together, etc.). You may be wondering about this because a total Kagan classroom would already have these groups sitting together - not me, I confess I love my rows! We move desks to sit with teams or shoulder buddies from day to day depending on what activities I have planned, but we always get back to rows at some point. I do all my direct instruction at the front of the classroom with students sitting on the rug in assigned spots. Well, I had not figured out how to make that work with my shoulder buddies...

Let me pause here and say that Kristi has the same style - or maybe I should say I have the same style as her since she is my mentor teacher. :-) We'll come back to that later...

Anyway, just before Spring Break I had my evaluation conference with my wonderful principal (heehee - blessed again to have a principal who was my friend long before she became my boss). She made a comment about using the shoulder buddy system to help some of my firsties who struggle to stay over the break I started thinking about how to make it work for me. I also realized there was no better time to experiment and try to become comfortable with a new routine. This class is wonderful and knows my expectations. I knew they could handle it - and would be patient with me as I figured out what we were doing. LOL!

I came back Monday and assigned new shoulder buddies (I do this each 9 weeks anyway) and - SHOCK - new assigned seats on the carpet so they were sitting by their buddies. I have had an awesome week watching the system work. I ask questions as normal - only now I remember to have them talk it over with their buddies before pulling a stick to answer. It has been going great and I am tweaking as I go...

One funny learning experience so far:

Mrs. Ratcliff: Pulls stick of student with a history of struggling to listen and asks, "What did you and your buddy decide?"

Student: Scratches head and looks at ceiling. Long pause.

Mrs. Ratcliff: "Were you listening to your buddy?"

Student: Shakes head. "No. My ears were turned off."

Mrs. Ratcliff: "I am sorry to hear that. We do not have the option to turn our ears off at school. You will need to move your helmet for not listening."

That is my behavior plan - break a rule, move your helmet. See below (picture was taken before school started - now the clips have helmets on them with each student's name).

Like I said - learning experience! I then labeled each student either Partner A or Partner B so I can alternate who talks first to ensure all are participating. I can also then ask the listening partner to repeat back what the other partner said if needed.

Back to Kristi - she worked up the nerve and started shoulder buddies on the carpet on Wednesday. She's loving it too. :-)

I'm also excited about a bulletin board idea we are doing tomorrow! We'll blog with pics when it is finished, but here's a pic...and  the link to where we found it.

Have a good night!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

OR Sound Visitors and Connect Four Freebie

OR Sound Visitors and Connect Four Freebie

We have been working on the OR sound this week in our reading series.  My students love the visitors that come to our class each week-this week was oor, or, and ore.  I make up a little story about each visitor and they try to guess what sound the visitor loves.  Once they try guessing, I introduce the visitor and tell them that they have a favorite song that has their favorite sound in it.  We play the song that is from Funky Phonics.  I feel a bit silly when introducing these visitors and the stories that I tell with them, but the students love it and get so excited when I tell them that we have a new visitor.  They love trying to guess what it is and love hearing the songs that go with them. 

To practice reading words with the or sound, we have been playing Connect Four.  This is a game that I found and adapted to go with our sounds that we are working on.  The following is how to play the game:

Pass out one card, die and colored counters to a group of students. The student rolls the die and puts a counter on the number that they rolled.  If they say the word correctly, they get to keep their colored counter on the space.  If they say it incorrectly, they have to take the counter off the space.  Students can also try to bump the other student’s counters off from a space if they roll that number.  The first student to get four in a row wins the game. 

Here are some pics of our firsties playing the game. 

I have some of these games at our Teachers Pay Teachers store.  You can grab the OR game for FREE!!
Hope you have a blessed day!  Kristi

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NTR - Command Center and Home Management Binder

NTR - Get it? Not Teaching Related... But KEEP reading because this has definitely helped this busy teacher at home! And it is Spring Break so I am at home this week - not teaching. :-)

I started using this organization system on January 1st and I LOVE it! Every time I talk about it, I have a lot of questions and it is hard to describe so I thought blogging about it and posting pictures would help. We come into our house through the dining room so each day "stuff" would get dumped on the table, then when it was time for dinner, the "stuff" would get moved to my desk and possibly never seen again. LOL! In my defense, the desk is out of the way and I rarely have time to walk by it, let alone sit there for a few minutes to organize.

Anyway, found the idea for a home management binder on Pinterest (love it!) over Christmas Break and I got busy searching for how to create one that would work for me. First, I have a "Command Center." Funny name, I know, but my super organized 12 year old son loves to call it that! Here's a pic:

See how pretty it is? My hubby was a little horrified as I explained what I wanted to do because he didn't understand how a "Command Center" could be pretty - and we really don't like anything on the kitchen counter. You'll notice the calendar next to the Command Center - it has all of our activities written on it so I know what is going on from day to day and where we need to be. Inside the Command Center is where the 'magic' happens. Take a peek:

The Home Management Binder is at the front, followed by some hanging file folders. I made these based on the 'stuff' that piles up at our house. Mine are labeled: To File (later moved to filing cabinet when I have time), Projects (household - requested by hubby once he got into my system), Taxes (it is that time of year so I could just drop it all in the file as it came in the mail), Coupons/Ads, and 4-H.

On to the Binder...

Cute cover just for fun. :-) Mine has a picture of the kiddos and Matthew 6:33-34 (one of my favorite scriptures). You can also see the tabbed dividers on the side. Mine say: To Do, Cleaning, Meals, Schoool, Kids, and Bills. These dividers have the half pockets - very important!

Before the first tab, I have an Important Phone Numbers page where I typed up the numbers for family, friends, doctors, etc. That got rid of a lot of magnets and sticky notes on the side of the fridge!

The To Do tab has a "Daily Docket" that I found on I used this at first, but I don't anymore - found it was simpler just to check my calendar each day rather than rewrite but you may want to check it out. I put mine into page protectors and used a Vis-A-Vis so I could erase and start again each week.

The Cleaning tab has one of my favorite things! It is a Weekly Cleaning Checklist. I saw the one from and made one that fit our home a little better. It is also in a page protector. I pull the binder out on Saturday mornings and we all get busy. My kids (10 and 12) love to mark a job off when accomplished. They know we aren't going to do anything fun until it is all done so they move quickly from job to job. I don't even have to say anything!

The Meals tab has a two week planner that I created with tables in Microsoft Word. I just plan dinners and make my grocery list from here. You can see that I will swap meals if I don't feel like having something one night, etc. My thought was to reuse these and have a grocery list to go with each one, but we are so busy in the evenings that I plan a lot of my meals based on how much time I have to cook that night so I haven't been able to do that yet. Tuesday may be a night at home one week and not the next...

Another favorite - the School tab. You know all those notes you get from the school and you need to keep for a week or two? Well, they no longer hang on my fridge. I keep them all here - along with the school lunch calendar. This has actually saved me money! Before the binder, the kids would eat school lunch almost every day because they would forget to look ahead and ran out of time to make their lunches in the morning. Now they have to "sign-up" to take their lunch. See below:

They check the binder the night before and if they signed up to take their lunch, they gather as much as they can before going to bed...makes for a much more relaxed morning. Now that they actually plan ahead, I am spending WAY LESS money on school lunches and a sack lunch is cheaper so it is a WIN-WIN.

I also have a Kids tab. This is for anything of theirs that is not school related such as Master's Club schedules or notes from church, etc.

Finally, the Bills tab... As the bills come in the mail, they are placed in the pocket divider. Behind that I have page protectors that hold extra checks, mailing labels, envelopes, etc. Then I have a calendar that I print and write when I will pay all of our monthly bills. Behind the calendar, I have my "checkbook" register (we use notebook paper because we rarely use checks anymore). I love this system for my bills because I can just pull out the binder and everything I need is right there.

Well, if you've stuck with me this long, I apologize for the length of the post! Hopefully it will be worth it to someone! I know I have had ZERO clutter on my table since I started using this system, my house is cleaner, and it has saved me money. LOVE IT! :-)

Hope you have a wonderful day!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Break, K-2 Linky Party, and a Freebie!

SPRING BREAK is finally here! We finished up parent teacher conferences yesterday and are now officially on break. In fact I slept in (until 8)and am sitting comfortably in my PJs as I write this. :-)

To celebrate Spring Break, Kristi and I wanted to direct you to one of our TPT product FREEBIES. It is great game that your kiddos will love AND they will be practicing the /oo/ digraphs!

Click here to grab it: 

We're linking up! Kindergarten Lifestyle is having a linky party to get links to all the awesome primary blogs in one place. Check it out at

Hope you have a blessed day!


Friday, March 9, 2012

First Grade Authors!

Wow! What a busy week! With spring break approaching, our first graders were counting down the days - 3 more to be exact. To keep them busy, we have been working diligently on a writing project for our bulletin boards. Next Tuesday and Thursday parents will be coming for conferences and our little kiddos wanted to show off their writing skills. This year we have started doing Writer's Workshop and we both love it! The students are writing so much better. Here's some pictures:

Hope you enjoy the weekend - the calm before the storm of those final days before spring break!

Kristi and Crystal

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dr. Seuss Fun!

In honor of Dr. Seuss, our students had a fabulous time designing and painting a new hat for the cat in the hat!  Their imaginations ran wild and they were so excited to have the cat in the hat sporting his new hat!  Other activities throughout the day in our school included guest speakers and each child receiving a book.  We had a great time celebrating Dr. Seuss Day!  We hope all of you had as much fun as we did! 


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