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Wait for it Wednesday ~ Class Birthday celebrations

Welcome to another edition of :

So curious how you all celebrate birthdays at your sites...I love being friends with teachers all over the world and hearing how different things are done at different districts.  
So with that being said I want to share how my birthday celebrations have evolved over the years.
Back in the day - parents would bring in  cupcakes with mile high frosting and the kids would be on a sugar high for days hours that's why the smart teachers did the celebration 10 minutes before school got out. LOL
Then the healthy kids movement came through So. Cal and my district NO LONGER allowed sweets or home baked items.  So there were very limited items on the list that they could bring in ~ ~ which included skinny cows.  Let me tell you that's about all the parents bring in and it got old after a while. I wanted cookies or wine even.  KIDDING, kidding of course.
But seriously jump ahead a few more years and I started receiving longer allergy lists from the nurse and emails from parents about kids with special diets.  ( gluten free, dairy free etc. ) It became more of a 'chore' to celebrate a birthday: kids were feeling left out because they couldn't eat the skinny cow ice cream or had allergies, etc.   I found myself consoling first graders during what was suppose to be a fun celebration.  That started becoming not.so.fun!
SO ~ about 4 years ago I did away with birthdays well not really.  I told the parents at Back to School night that I loved birthdays and wanted to make their child feel extra special on those days but I no longer allowed food to be brought in.  The first time I did it I was soo nervous for Back to School Night.  I felt like a first year teacher.  My palms were sweating and I was like : they are going to eat me alive.  Do you know what...after I said it, I had about  two thirds of the parents clap.  NO JOKE!  They were smiling and clapping and I was so relieved!  However that left the other third...some had crossed arms, angry eyebrows, etc.  But the parents of kids with allergies or the super uber busy working parents ( from home or work ).  Let's be honest raising toddlers is a full time job right?!?!  They cheered, one mom told me afterwards that she was so happy because her child always felt left out due to her special diet and classroom birthday parties brought anxiety.  
I have since then stuck to it and each year I don't get any nasty emails or attitudes.  I provide their child with a fun crazy birthday straw which you can get { here }

They also receive a birthday pencil from the front office and a birthday shout out from the principal.  I also use to give them a fun seat pocket to hang on their chair but now with flexible seating I've replaced that with a special cushion they can use. 
Don't get me wrong:  I 'm a huge proponent of kids being kids and there are many times I think we push kids too hard.  I don't want them missing out on the 'fun' stuff of being a kid at all.  I just want every child to feel supported in my room and for me this works.  It eliminates sad kids and being worried if anyone is allergic to anything that might be brought.  All the while still making the  birthday child feel special!  How do you celebrate?

Also if you need a way to display student birthdays this is brand new in my store:  

You can grab it { here }

Flexible Seating ~ it's not for everyone

Welcome to my  weekly:

It's back to school time & that means my Wait for it Wednesdays blog posts are BACK!!!!  I love the Back to School energy and meeting my new group as well as seeing my big kids that I've taught over the years.  It just makes my heart so happy!
This is my second year with a pirate theme and my first year trying out flexible seating!  
What exactly is flexible seating and what can a 21st century classroom look like?
Well think about how you best read/learn or study?  I know that my 2 teenagers ( that happen to be straight A students ) work best sitting on their bed or couch with a lap desk and a pillow.  I like to be propped up with a pillow behind me or in an over sized comfy chair.  Why not create a classroom with those options?  Flexible seating is an arrangement that a teacher creates to give his/her students freedom of choice for where they learn or work best.

My flexible seating includes:
* a standing table
* kneeling pads/pillows on a lowered table
* regular/ traditional seating
* gamer chairs
* arm pillow chairs
* stools

I will tell you my students LOVE flexible seating!!!  I am learning to love it.  Just keeping it real here...I am a 23 year veteran and I feel like a new teacher this year.  Many of my management 'tricks' from the past don't work in this new environment so I've had to be extra creative.
For instance:
Table Points ~ yeah ~ those don't work anymore unfortunately.  I love table points. :o(  My students don't sit at the same table/spot all day so table points won't work.  Also not all kids are sitting at tables.
Rules  ~ Some of my rules have had to change.  My students don't have desks anymore so there's a bit more movement than I'm use to...and that's okay.  It's just wrapping my brain around all the extra movement has been a little challenging.
Having no desks has been different for sure.  My students now have cubbies which is fine but they need to get UP to grab their math books or their journals throughout the day...in the past they have just pulled them out of their desks.
What I'm observing:   My students are engaged, moving freely in their space, taking ownership of their learning, having more freedom of choice during their day and collaborating more freely.
Raise your hand if you are a teeny, tiny bit controlling ~ if your hand wasn't raised I don't believe you. Teachers are by nature a little bit controlling to some degree right?!?  Well I've released some of the control and they have certainly gained some.  But, I'm realizing that with the freedom of choice some of my behaviors that I normally see popping up have tapered down a bit.  Maybe not having a teacher breathing down their neck  guiding them along is actually beneficial...they are taking ownership of their learning.  I've seen just in the last week kids get up and find a new learning space.  They thought something would work for them but realized 5 minutes in that it wasn't for them.  I LOVE this!  They are realizing at the age of 8 how they best learn.  How great is that?!?!

Here are some pictures of my classroom: 

You can see a facebook live video of my classroom tour on my facebook page if you'd like a closer look:  https://www.facebook.com/teachingandmuchmoore/

Now ~ ~ ~ flexible seating is NOT for everyone!  I've read several posts that mention it's a fad or teachers are jumping on bandwagons.  That's fine, but I had to try it and I'm glad I did.  There needs to be a definite strong management style with this so kids are very CLEAR on your expectations but it can be done.  I will post another time on just how I do manage it but for now I wanted to leave you with some thoughts on the first few days and what I'm learning about it.  Who said teachers aren't always learners...I love that I'm learning and growing everyday with my awesome third graders!!

Organize Me

Organization is soo important!  Even if you are a TYPE B teacher like me you can still be super organized at school.  One of the first things I noticed as a mom when my kids were in elementary school was the organization of the teacher/classroom they had each year.  It is your first impression and it's very crucial to start off on the right foot.  They may walk by your room when you aren't there 
( let's say they are registering and it's a few days before schools starts ).  Obviously your first real impression is YOU - your smile and warm personality.  But, your room/space matters too.  Is it welcoming, easy to navigate and get around?  There are so many things to think about when planning out your classroom.  But beyond that planning out your first week.  
For instance ~ have you thought about what you will do on the very first day when students are arriving with bags of donations?  I set up copy boxes or bins with labels.  Parents or the kids can place their donations in the corresponding bins so that it's not just a #hotmess of Target bags on the back table.  All of the pencils are in a bin, all of the glue sticks are in another bin,etc.  When you have some quiet time later ( yeah right ) you can then move them from the bins into your very organized cabinet space which of course is pre labeled as well with supplies.  Having these set up ahead of time is of little effort to you BUT it says a lot about you to the parents.  It sends a message that you care and you're planning ahead.  If you are planning ahead for something like this you will certainly plan ahead for more important things that really matter to their child.  

Easy Peasy ~ you are organized, kids have direction if they are 'dumping' their donations and parents know where to put things if they are bringing things in.  The beautiful thing is if you are busy talking to parents on the first day and other parents have bags to donate they can easily see what to do with them without getting in a line to talk to you. #winning  
Another important thing to have on that first day if you teach K-1 is a checklist on a clipboard on HOW kids get home the first day.  That is a must have.  Now that I'm in third I don't have to worry about that anymore.  How do you collect supplies?

Back to School Parent Donation Wishlist

Are you disgusted with me yet?!?  Back to School ~ ~ who says that in June right!?!?!  Well I was inspired to create an Instagram themed parent wishlist for Back to School and I just had to share it with you...#sorrynotsorry  
I usually create something that ties in with my theme for the parent wishlist each year and the parents pull a piece of paper off my white board and off they go to purchase.  I was trying to think of a way that I could have more of a display that I could keep up all year.  When I make something I keep it up for a couple weeks and then need the white board space.  I'm lucky enough to have parents that swing by and ask me what they could pick up for me or what I'm running low on...so this idea came to mind. 

Although the first one is cute and matches my theme with a catchy title, it is temporary and can't even be saved easily from year to year.  Whereas the next picture I've used an easel that I will keep in the hallway all year long.  I will print out several of the 'pic's and throughout the year will change them out.  When we are in need of kleenex and ink I will put some of those up and add it to my newsletter or 'remind 101' app for the parents to know it's been updated.  Not only is it cute but it's functional.  
So...pin it, save it ~ it's okay if you don't think about it until August or September but I hope you remember it when the time comes because I do think it will keep you more organized for supplies in the upcoming year.  Working parents are often frustrated because they can't commit to coming in and helping but are usually very open to donating items for the classroom.  So this allows them to do it and your students benefit - I'd say that's a win/win.  
Now go to the beach, enjoy your summer and swing by {here} when you are in FULL ON Back to School mode to grab this fun pack to make your life easier!  I'm heading to Hawaii to catch some rays and celebrate my hubby and my 20th wedding anniversary. #manwereold 
I have included tons of donation ideas but if you have some that aren't included I've made this EDITABLE so you can add your own.

Monday Made It

I love summer!!! I also love Monday Made It and it happens a lot more in the summer than during the school year so I'm thrilled to link up with Tara to share my Monday Made It(s).  Swing on by and check out her weekly link up.

I have made some okay several visits to Target lately and I came across this gem.  Multi colored chalkboard clips...I loved them but the colors just wouldn't do for my classroom theme.  

I figured with a little paint and a chalkboard pen I could change these up fairly quickly.  

This idea is not new by any means:  I've seen Hadar from Miss Kindergarten and Kristen from Easy Teaching Tools use this in the past.  I just thought it would be fun to paint these and make them 'fit' my theme.  I'm excited to have this extra organization for my parent helpers.  

The second little craft I made was also inspired by the Dollar Spot at Target.  I saw these very cute library cards and knew I had to do something with them.  I have several books from my mama ( circa the 80's ) and she added these library cards so her students could check out her books.  She was uber organized ~ I only got some of those traits of hers #typebgirlhere 

I grabbed them but struggled with what to do with them.  I didn't think I would use them in my classroom but then I just knew.  I love actually ADORE my librarian!  She is a rock star servant like no ones business.  She will do anything for you without even asking so I knew I would make her a cute little banner for her space.  And...we have a lunch date this summer so I'll give it to her then.  All I did was purchase these tags, red twine and the sticky alphabet letters.  Here's how it turned out:

It's simple and that's perfect for her because she's a simple, sweet lady and I know she will just love it!  What are you up to this summer?  I can't wait to see your crafts! 

Camp Read A Lot

We have the BEST literacy specialist at our site...I mean truly the best!  She is super creative and fun and encouraging.  So, she wanted to plan a Camp Read A Lot.  I think she was smart in that she planned two night events... a lower elementary and an upper elementary one.  I helped out with the upper elementary one and we had a blast!  
We had 3 stations, an opening and closing time and Smokey the Bear even showed up!  She also made sure to invite the local library to come and they had sign ups for a library card and the summer reading program. #genius
So...this is how it was set up:  
After the families checked in with the camp ranger they came into the multi purpose room.  We had tents, ( christmas trees ) set up, etc.  We gathered together and sang camp songs via our guitar playing school secretary.  Then we broke up into 3 groups ( already assigned by color code on their 'passports'.

The first group was in the multi purpose room:  They read in tents with their parents.  We turned off the lights and they used flash lights that we provided and there were pillows and sleeping bags in the tents.

The second group was the fishing for topics group.  They had fishing poles made from large branches with string and magnets at the end.  There were ponds for them to fish in and once they caught a fish ( topic ) they jumped on chrome books to google or kiddle facts about the topic.  They read non fiction text to gather their facts.

The third group was my group, the nature hike!  This group walked through the hallway with birds chirping and all ( hidden i pads with bird noises playing ).  We hung anchor charts for several topics and the parents and kids read short information texts and then wrote some facts about them on the matching anchor charts with markers.


We came back together at the end, sang campfire songs, had a backpack raffle ( full of books of course ) - we gave 5 backpacks away and lastly how can we forget we had SMORES!  It was a blast!  The families and kids loved it, we will be sure to do it again next year!

End of the Year Gifts

It's that time again folks....I seriously can't believe how fast this year flew by.  I know, I know I say that every year.  But really...someone needs to stop the clock because another year gone means my kids are another year older and my mama heart can barely take it!

You can peruse Pinterest and find all kinds of goodies if you're stuck and in need of an awesome idea on what to give your kids or parent helpers...I just tweaked an idea I've seen several times.

For my students I purchased packs of sunglasses from Party City and added this tag:

If you would like this tag you can grab it { here }

Also for parent helpers this year I decided to use lemons from my lemon tree to make this special treat for them!  It seriously cost me about $1.25 per gift.  If you have a ton of parent helpers like I did a few years ago then this is for you!  Rather than spending close to $100 on gifts for 9 parent helpers you can spend closer to $10.

If you love the parent gift tag you can grab it { here }

Enjoy!!  What kind of parent gift ideas do you have?  I'd love to hear about them and so would my followers. Share in the comments below.  Happy Summer!

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