Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tips and Tricks (and a Freebie) From the First Week of 1st Grade Teacher Bootcamp

It's Over!!! 
That first week back...oh's like body shock! I forget every stinking year! I have this perception (for some unknown reason) that the incoming first graders are going to be like the outgoing ones who left in June. And, every year, I am so, so, so wrong!!! That first day, I believe all teachers fuel themselves on pure adrenaline. Well, now that it's the weekend, and I have time to check the mail, catch up on email and just sit down for a few (none of which I did this past week). I also have some time to reflect back on my week. I am very excited to get to know each one of my 21 (soon to be 22...on Tuesday) first graders. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that #22 doesn't rock the calm waters we've worked so hard to establish. 

This year, I am a mentor. This is my 2nd time being a mentor, but when I was one the first time, it was a few years ago. We didn't have all these district initiatives that we have going now. Being a mentor this time around is keeping me on my toes!!! I have to plan about a week in advance (to be able to share my plans with my "mentee"-is that a word?), I have to make sure her room is up to snuff for her very near future "walk through" (it is),  and I have to make sure she has everything she needs. She was hired right before the school year began, and she walked into a near empty room. That being said, I think she is a very motivated teacher who is fitting in just fine. We are both up for the challenge.

So,  here are some tips you won't want to miss....
Tip #1:If you use a writers' workshop approach to writing, you've got to run and check out this FREE (click on FREE) resource. My colleague, Christina, found this little gem last year (huge thanks to her). Last year, my goal was to revamp writers' workshop and do it "right". This resource helped me SO much (as well as the other first grade teachers in the building). There are many FREE writing units available. I just linked the "Launching" unit. By the way, I can't save and open that particular file...keep getting a message that it is damaged. BUT, you can just print it out, and stick it in a binder. 

Tip #2: (A Management Tip)-Sit your students in groups. I have my students in 3 groups (desks pushed together). They currently have fancy "Group 1, 2 and 3" (ha ha). Put two small community pencil holders (little organizers from Target Dollar Spot) to hold their pencils, dry erase markers and erasers. Make sure there are a ton of sharpened pencils in them to start the day. As pencils break, they just put them in an empty section of the organizer and take another one. Any pencils they want sharpened go in the organizer by the end of day (many brought their own pencils). I showed a student how to sharpen them, and she does this at the end of every day (she's on the last bus set). 

Tip #3: (Another Management Tip)-To minimize walks to the trash can, water fountain and to get tissues, I recommend the following: 
*Place an empty basket/container in the middle of each group to serve at a mini trash can. Assign a group leader to each group. That person is responsible for emptying it when it gets full.
Put a few paper towels and a box of tissues in the middle of each desk group. This has made a world of difference! Also, encourage students to bring water bottles (with built-in straws or flip tops...not the regular twist-off grocery story water bottles). 

I'll continue posting tips and tricks that could help every teacher in my next few posts. Maybe I'll call it "Tuesday Tips and Tricks"? So, keep checking back. 

Now, for the freebies...
If you haven't read the book Ish by Peter Reynolds , you've got to  get it TODAY!!! Or, if you are on a budget like me, borrow it from your local library. This story is about a little boy, named Ramon, who loves to draw. But, he is discouraged when his older brother makes fun of his drawings. Ramon crumples up his drawings and gives up. Later, he finds his younger sister has been sneakily taking his crumpled up drawings and taping them to her walls. During a visit to her room, Ramon is stunned to see his artwork. He complains that they are not perfect (ex: He says his vase doesn't look like a vase). His sister says that it looks "vase-ish". Ramon quickly catches on that it's ok if things are "ish". His desire for drawing quickly comes back. I think this is perfect for all your little darlings who like things "just so" and have a hard time when things aren't 100% perfect. This is a book we'll refer to all year. 
We were working on making text-to-self connections this week. They had the option to draw or write (or both) their connections. Then, they had the opportunity to use water colors to paint their own "ish" paintings. I just used regular white paper.

                       (beach-ish)                       (balloon-ish)

You can grab a sheet for an "-ish" painting or drawing plus a Fiction Reading Response sampler pack that contains the text-to-self response sheet by clicking on each image below.


  1. We read Ish during our launch of Writer's Workshop. We discuss how drawings don't have to be masterpieces. They just have to convey the message and details you would like to include in your writing.

    Our goal is to reduce the amount of time students spend on the drawing and increase the actual writing time during Writer's Workshop. It worked like a charm! Love that book!

    Read With Me ABC

  2. I NEED that now. I will probably order it from Amazon sounds amazing! I loved your "labor" comment you left true! Back to school exhaustion is crazy! Thanks for all of your tips and writing links. Hope you are enjoying your weekend!
    Two Friends In First