Monday, September 2, 2013

September Currently

I can’t believe it is September already. We are starting week 4 here in North Georgia, and so far we are having a terrific year! Today I am linking up with Farley andOh’ Boy Fourth Grade for the September Currently.

Listening ~ Does anyone else LOVE Downton Abbey. I am obsessed. I have been the series on Netflix ( I think for the 3rd time). I can’t wait for season 4 this January but will it be the same without Matthew?

Loving ~ I am LOVING my new kindergarten class! This is my first year teaching kindergarten and I can truly say that I think kindergarten is my favorite grade. My little class is absolutely precious.

Thinking ~ There is NOTHING like a Monday in kindergarten. In the older grades, the weekends come and go without any issues. Each week you have a first day of school ~ A MONDAY. What’s more crazy than a Monday? I’m dreading tomorrow, Tuesday after a long Labor day weekend.

Wanting ~ My favorite Starbucks drink has to be a white chocolate mocha when I am in need of something warm and a very berry hibiscus refresher when I can’t something cool and refreshing. The only problem is that all that caffeine makes me so jittery and my heart race. I think I definitely need to lay off the caffeinemaybe I will start tomorrow??? I also am loving all the cute clothes I see in the stores these days for adults and kids for fall. I love the changing of the seasons. I love decorating my house, my kids, my classroom. I can’t wait for a shopping day!

Needing ~ School has just started and I desperately need a work day. I am such a perfectionist and want everything in my classroom to be perfect. I am going to try and plan a work day next Saturday for a few hours.
For My Heart ~ I have two goals this month. First, I want to spend my time with my littles. My Eric and Caroline are getting too big too fast. They are the delights of my lives. My second goal is to be the best kindergarten and Sunday School teacher that I can be this month.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week!
Happy September everyone!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Long time, no post...

School is back in full swing here in north Georgia. With starting a new year in a new grade level and dealing and sorting through my one year old's major food allergies to all dairy, pork, and citrus we have been just a little bit like the traveling circus. Oh, I forgot to add that our air went out too. Anyway, I feel like it has been a long time since I posted. 

I want to start by saying that I LOVE KINDERGARTEN! When my principal asked me to go to kindergarten, I was so excited but a little nervous. I had been teaching second and third grade for years, focusing my instruction on gifted and high achievers. But when she asked, I can truly say that I was so excited. I honestly feel like kindergarten is the perfect fit for me, and am so thankful every day that she placed me there. But... I have never been this tired in my life. As  a kindergarten teacher, you never get to slow down and rest. 

My school system started school on August 9th. We welcomed 23 precious babies to kindergarten in my class. On the first day of school, I introduced my kinders to the Daily 5. I have used the framework in the past and love it. I never have to worry about centers on Friday; they are already done. Students learn how to use the materials and can every activity can be easily differentiated to best meet individual learning needs. I was excited to be able to attend the Daily 5 conference for the 2nd year in a row. The "Two Sisters" are AMAZING and I truly recommend their workshop to all teachers. At the workshop, two things really stuck out at me.

First ~ They constantly stated that teachers need to make Daily 5 work for them. It will run differently in every classroom. That is okay. 
Second ~ I can't tell you how many times they stated, "we wrote this book in 2005-6. We do things a little differently" or "this isn't in our book but it should be". I always felt bad that I wasn't able to get in 5 rotations. Some years, 3 rotations were pushing it, and this year my kinders and I are pushing it to get 2 in. But listening to Gail and Joan speak, they too had felt this burden and some years only had 3-4 rotations. 

The first day, my kiddos made it to 36 seconds of stamina. A little scary for me. Honestly, I had the worst case of jitters and worried that this wasn't going to be possible for my kindergarteners. They were just too young. We are about to finish week 3. They are know up to 18 minutes (Yes, you read that right) of reading stamina. We have also introduced listening and writing. Today, my kinders made their first Daily 5 choices. It went a lot smoother than I thought it was going too. I still had a few that would say, "umm.. home center" but I think we finally got on track. Listening is still a little rocky. They really struggle with that whole volume control button ~ the whole class doesn't need to hear the story blasting while you are singing to the top of your lungs the Pete the Cat song. If you are worrying about the transition to Daily 5 in kindergarten, don't. Practice and model, practice and model. Even though I am only about halfway up and going (I still need to add buddy reading and word work), I feel like my kinders are getting this process down pat. I plan to add a few more detailed posts about Daily 5 in my classroom in the upcoming weeks. 

I want to leave you with an adorable picture of my littles. My family owns a chalet in Pigeon Forge, Tennesse and we try to get away whenever possible. Not having any air last weekend was a pefect opportunity for a get away. I snapped this adorable picture of my two littles riding the duck ride at the park. My daughter clapped and waved the entire time. I sure did love my weekend with these two precious littles after a long week of work. 

Now I'm off to bed to get ready for Friday. Happy Friday everyone and have a wonderful long weekend!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Teacher Week Day 4 and 5

Today I am posting day four and five of Teacher Week at BlogHoppin together. The theme for the days is Taming the Wild ~ Tricks for Classroom Management and Teacher tips. We have just completed our first full week of teaching. With this being my first year in kindergarten, I am feeling very excited but very busy. Add a one year old with newly diagnosed food allergies, and my life resembles a circus just a little bit. I decided to post the last two days together to save a little time.

Classroom management is so important. It is an area that every teacher must improve on every year because every single class is different. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of each school year focusing on classroom procedures and routines. While it takes a lot of time in the beginning, the payoff later makes it so worth it. Later in the year, I am able to quickly manage my classroom and focus more heavily on instruction without constantly having to stop instruction to correct a behavior.

A few of the things that I do…
·      Classroom Stoplight ~ Our school uses a stoplight program to help monitor behavior. I do think that it is effective for young children because they understand the concept of a stoplight. Green means go, yellow means slow down, and red means stop. This year, I opted to use pizza boards as my stoplight. After adding a little cricut vinyl to them, they are too precious. I printed each child’s picture in wallet size and added it to the board. Now students only have to “move their picture.” This really helps with my kinders who can’t recognize their own names.

·      Lunch Count Clipboard ~ I LOVE my lunch count clipboard. It makes taking the lunch count so easy. I am also able to easily carry it to the lunchroom to make sure none of my kindergartners are changing their lunch choices. Each child has their name on a white plastic clothespin. It honestly takes about 2 minutes for me to ask each child for their lunch choice.
·      Daily folders ~ I know that some teachers only send home weekly folders in kindergarten, but I am doing daily folders. While work is not going home each day, I do like sending home the folder for communication purposes.  I would rather look in the folder each day for a transportation change then chance depending on a 5 year old to remember to give me the note that is floating in the bottom of their book bag. I call my daily folders my B.E.E. folders. I was a little concerned when all I could find at Walmart was black plastic folders-YUCK! But my bee themed turned them into a cute communication method. I will post pictures later.
·      Pencils ~ I HATE pencils! I hate sharpening them, I hate pencil shavings, I hate kids sharpening them, I hate how dirty they make your hands. This year, I used my cricut vinyl to make a pencil holder out of a straw dispenser. It turned out cute and is so easy for students to use to retrieve a pencil. Plus, I can easily sharpen any dull pencils and then drop them in the top.
·      Student numbers ~ Why did I not think of this earlier??? With my older kiddos (2nd and 3rd grade), they could always put themselves in number order quickly. With my kinders, umm… not so much. The night before school started, I quickly cut out numbers with cricut vinyl. It took about 5 minutes honestly to cut them out and put them on the tile. The first day, my students learned their number and could easily line up with no problems. This was especially helpful since we had a fire drill during the first two hours of school! Bless my kinders hearts- they were so scared! Anyway, I highly recommend that any teacher do this. This vinyl will easily peel up at the end of the year, but is stuck tight now. The wonderful custodians have even mopped without any problems. This is a must try!

My teacher tip is to never stop learning. I never want to be the teacher who decides that she has everything perfect and doesn’t need to change up her teaching. I purposely throw my lesson plans away at the end of each year because I never want to use the same plans again. I thrive on finding new ways to best meet my kiddos. The best teachers are constantly improving on what they already do. Don’t get stuck in a rut.

I can’t wait to see what other classroom management tricks and teacher tips teachers have up their sleeves. Our greatest strength as teachers is our ability to learn from each other. This blog party is sure to be a great asset to all teachers. Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Teacher Week '13: Classroom Digs

Today is the second day of the 2013 Teacher Week hosted by Blog Hoppin'. The theme of the day is classroom digs and I am so excited to share my adorable classroom. I wanted a classroom that I wanted to be in, a classroom that was happy and fun. I LOVE this room!

I want to start by showing you a before picture. This made me want to cry. It is never a good sign when the custodian is begging you not to cry as you walk down to your room for the first time all summer. All I can say is YIKES!!! 120 something boxes a 3 weeks later, it is perfect.

Here is the after pictures.

One thing that you may notice is that I do not have a teacher desk. I felt like this was a wasteful piece of furniture that took up a huge amount of space and provided no use for students. Honestly, I haven't even thought twice about it. I would much rather spread out at a table instead.

I hope you enjoyed the tour around my classroom digs. I hope you have a Terrific Tuesday!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Let’s Talk About Me!

This week I am linking up with Blog Hoppin’ for Teacher Week. It is a wonderful way to connect with other teachers and share wonderful ideas that can help all of us be better educators.

The theme of the day today is “Let’s Talk About Me!”

1. My name is Elizabeth Davis and I live and teach in the mountains of north Georgia. I just started my 8th year as an elementary school teacher last week.  I have my bachelor’s degree in early childhood and special education. I received my masters in early childhood education. I also hold both a reading endorsement and a teaching of gifted endorsement. I have taught first, second, and third grades, focusing on gifted education the past few years. This year I am so excited that I am teaching kindergarten!

2. I love teaching. It is a passion in my life, and I wake up everyday excited to go to work. I learn so much everyday from my kiddos. The biggest influence on my life had to be a precious group of students that I have the privledge of teaching three years ago. One of the students in my class had a terminal illness and passed away during the school year. I watched my students grow into such wonderful people with such servants hearts. That class taught me so much and changed my outlook on teaching and life. I am so thankful that God put these precious individuals in my life.

3. I am married to Mr. Davis (as my kiddos at school call him). He is a fire fighter. We started dating while I was a freshman in college and have been together ever since. We just celebrated our 7th anniversary. 

4. We have two precious littles that are the delights of our lives! Our son, Eric, is four and is a comedian. He has the quickest wit that I have ever seen. He loves visiting aquariums, and wants to go to Sea World to meet a “killing whale”. Recently I took him to the Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies in Gatlinberg, Tennessee; he thought it was a pet shop. He keeps asking me when his pet penguin is coming to live at our house. 

5. Our daughter, Caroline, is one. She is a little princess, and has her daddy completely wrapped around her finger. She LOVES playing with her baby dolls, wearing big bows (the bigger the better), and following her big brother around. I think a trip to Cabbage Patch Land is in our very near future. 

6. I am a Christian and strive let God’s light shine through me everyday with my actions. I teach children’s church each Sunday. It is so much fun because most Sundays I have a lot of my students from school in my class. 

7. My hobbies are baking (when I have time), reading, blogging, and making things on my cricut. I also love to to sew but don't have the time. I was so excited to get a cricut for my house and a cricut for my classroom. I use them that much.

8. My husband believes that I also have a hobby of shopping, and he is right. I am a huge compulsive shopper. I love buying things for my kids (baby gap and kid boutiques- I love anything smocked) and for my classroom. I love to shop at Coldwater Creek and the Loft for me. 

9. I am also a Disney fanatic and up for a Disney trip EVERYDAY! We took the kids to Disney at the beginning of summer and are already planning a return trip next year. Growing up, I wanted to work at Disney and be a character. 

10. I have two sisters that are my best friends. I talk to them at least a couple of times a day. Amy is a doctor of physical therapy and Susannah just started college. I am a very proud sister. They are the "honeybees"  to my kids- Aunt Honey and Aunt Bee. 

I can’t wait to meet so many new friends through our linky party.
I love Back to School time!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Five for Friday (August 2nd)

Is anyone in shock that August is here? I am so jealous of all of you out there that start school later in August or even after Labor Day. I hit the ground running with preplanning on Tuesday and my kinders come back to school on Friday. I'm linking up today with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday. I thought I would share with you some of the things I am planning to do in my classroom for the upcoming school year.

I started blogging after reading so many wonderful blogs out there with so many wonderful ideas. As teachers, we have always followed the beg, barrow, and steal mentality and blogging takes this to a whole new level. No longer can I only use the teachers in my building as a tool, but now I have access to so many new friends through the teacher blogging world. I have loved this!

Differentiation is such the buzz word these days in education, but it is also such a phenomenal idea for meeting the individual needs for each student. I am not a huge fan of following a strict basal series. Yes, they are excellent tools, but there are so many other ideas out there. Moreover, to think that every child in your class is going to be on one specific reading level at exactly the same time is ridiculous. It's one of the reasons that I LOVE Daily 5. Daily 5 is such an incredible framework for literacy instruction, allowing a teacher to tailor instruction to each personal child. And a huge planning benefit is that I never have to worry about center activities. I set up the framework of activities and expectations, and the kiddos take it from there. SO EASY!  I have used the framework in my classroom for two years in the upper grades and seen amazing success. I can't wait to give it a try in kindergarten.  I have to share my favorite success story. One child came to me in an upper grade reading less than 30 words per minute and on a pre primer reading level. By tailoring instruction for this child (we met daily and discussed different strategies- picking a good fit book was a big lesson topic for about two weeks- we aren't ready for Harry Potter when we are learning our sight words), this child left me reading more than 130 words per minute and growing five years in reading ability. I was a very proud teacher. Be sure to check out the "two sisters" at The books (The Daily Five and CAFE) are easy reads and the website membership is so worth every penny. The resources are amazing. I can't wait to blog about my Daily 5 experiences in kindergarten. 
Sight word recognition is a huge part of reading for our youngest learners. While looking for ideas, I stumbled across Marsha McGuire's A Differentiated Kindergarten blog and her ball words. The sight words have been separated into lists by sorts balls (Baseball Words, Football Words, Ping Pong Words...). The kids work at their own pace trying to earn each ball for recognizing all the words on the ball list. This is such a fun way to learn your sight words. Her ball word units on TPT are amazing and have so many ready to use activities. I have been a busy teacher, cutting, laminating, and putting together my ball word activities. Be sure to check out her blog. 
A few summers ago, I read Math Work Stations by Debbie Diller. At the time, I was teaching third grade and wasn't able to implement the work stations into my classroom but loved the ideas in the book and tucked that knowledge away for later. Now that I am in kindergarten I am so excited to use math workstations in my classroom. Again, I started researching through my favorite blogs for how other kindergarten teachers have used math work stations. Marsha McGuire's A Differentiated Kindergarten blog and Erica Crowder's Sprinkles to Kindergarten were amazing resources. Be sure to check out these amazing blogs!
I've been lucky to be raised by an AMAZING educator. My mother taught kindergarten in Florida for years. Then, we moved to north Georgia for her to start a preschool in a rural area. She is able to serve more than one hundred of our youngest (babies through state funded pre-K). I can not stress how important having a great preschool experience is. It makes such a difference. These kiddos come to school ahead of the game; they know their letters, they know how to hold a pencil, they know how a classroom operates and how to take turns. It has been so much fun to each year to see my gifted/high achievers list and see so many former students of my mother's preschool among them. We have one high school in our county; this  year at graduation two out of the three top GPA's were students of the preschool. My mom actually hates office work so she also teaches on of our Georgia State Funded Pre-K classes. This summer has been so much fun for me. We have done so much planning (and shopping) together. One thing that I love that she does is that she adds literacy and writing material to every center (dramatic play, blocks, etc.). I have been busy gathering cook books, building books, and more to add a literacy connection and learning link to every social center. I can't wait to share picture soon. 
For number five I thought I would make it a funny, non-school related story. My four year old son cracks me up. He is so funny and has NO FILTER (we so need to work on this). When we brought Caroline home from the hospital last year he looked at her and said, "Is she a joke?" When we assured him that she was not his next words were, "Are you kidding me?" Fast forward 15 months, I really thought we were past this but listen to this conversation from this morning...
Eric "Mommy, I love you"
Me "Oh Honey, I love you too"
Eric "Yes, and I love Caroline because she is my sister"
Me "This is so sweet"
Eric "Yes but Mommy a question... I like her when she was in yours belly. When she going home there?"
His new phrase is "Mommy, a question" and let me tell you I never know what is going to pop out. 

I hope everyone has (or had) a fabulous Friday! Think about me next Friday. I will be busy with teaching new routines! T.G.I.F. everyone!