First Week Must Dos

There are so many things that teachers must do the first week of school.  Do these sound familiar?

All of these things (and probably a few others that I missed) must be taught, discussed, and practiced (repeatedly) if you want your classroom to run smoothly all year long.  See the last item on that list?  That's my favorite 'must do.'  In my eyes, all the items in the list are equal in ranking when it comes to importance, but I truly enjoy teaching my kiddos good work habits from the start.

Good work habits, in my classroom, include:

We all want our students to be neat, to pay attention to detail, to follow directions, to take pride in their work, and to pace themselves when working. When I say "pace themselves" I'm talking about not rushing.  I want my students to focus on the task at hand and thoughtfully complete that task.  Rushing rarely yields stellar results.

Our students don't always come to us doing all of these things.  And, that's OK, they are little kids. They aren't born knowing the skills that make up good work habits. They learn these skills.   

My favorite way to teach these important habits is in context.  What I mean by that is, I use back to school activities, projects, and assignments that I have planned for the first week to introduce and reinforce these skills.

I usually start teaching these skills on day one.  I like to start with neatness.  Of course, being neat also entails paying attention to detail, and not rushing through a task.  My favorite project to use on day one is a class book. 

We talk about what a class book is and who will be reading it.  When kids know that other kids will be reading their work, they are typically motivated to do their best.  They want their peers to love what they have contributed to the special book.  This makes the class book perfect for encouraging students to take pride in their work.  You can cover so many work habits with one simple project!

Once we talk about the class book and its audience, I show them an example of neat work (see below).  I point out that I colored in the lines (yes, accidents happen, and that's OK).  I also point out that I used colors that make sense (I don't have purple hair, so I didn't color myself with purple hair).  A page like this is perfect for focusing on those coloring skills.

The next day, we make another class book.  One that includes more writing, so that we can focus on neatness as it pertains to handwriting.  I review the skills we talked about the day before, and I remind the students of who will be reading this book.  Then, I show an example and point out the use of neat handwriting (Do you like my typical second grader response? Hehe).  When I say neat handwriting, I simply mean that the words can be easily read.

Over the course of the week, we end up making several class books, which gives the students several opportunities to practice using neat handwriting and coloring, paying attention to detail, pacing themselves (not rushing), and taking pride in their work. It's easy to get student buy-in when focusing on these skills in this capacity because they want to make a really awesome page for that special class book!

Class books are one of my go to projects that help reinforce notions of neatness, attention to detail, pacing, and taking pride in one's work, but I love to do craftivity projects too!  Craft projects are perfect for teaching all these same work habits, but are also great for reinforcing the important skill of following directions!

You're probably thinking, crafts during the first week?  Really?  Yes!  I'm not talking about hard core, super involved projects here.  It is the first week of school, so keep it simple!  You can still teach your students to be neat, to pay attention to detail, to follow directions, and to take pride in their work with simple activities.  Take this project for example.

It's a writing project disguised as a craft.  More specifically, it's a first week journal.  Each day, the students write about that day.  With this kind of project, you can model neat coloring and handwriting, attention to detail, and pacing (remember, when I say pacing, I mean not rushing through the work).  Then, they can practice those skills. Whether you have students cut and assemble the book before they begin writing, or after they finish writing on all of the pages, you can use that portion of the project as a means to reinforce following directions and paying attention to detail.

If you walk into my classroom the first week, you'll likely see my second graders completing a craft like this. Well, actually, this exact craft. Hehe.   I like to get student work up on the board ASAP, and this is a quick and easy project for that.

It's simple enough and provides great practice with attention to detail and following directions.  I typically pass out all the templates that the students need.  Then, I model how to cut out each piece. Once I cut a piece, the students cut that same piece.  As I model, I talk about what I'm doing.  I point out that when cutting rounded or circular shaped pieces, I really need to slow down and carefully follow my cutting line. I even teach them where to set their cut pieces so they don't misplace them.  This reinforces the notion of neatness beyond writing and coloring.

Then, I repeat this process with the gluing phase of the project.  I display the craft on the board so they can see it and attend to detail and follow directions more easily.  Breaking it down step by step makes it easy for them to follow directions.  It also puts them at ease because they can easily see what is expected, and ultimately they end up feeling successful at the end of the project.

While there are so many things we must do that first week of school, remember to take time to make sure that good work habits are on your list of must dos.  Focusing on these habits from the get go will pay off in the long run. The activities pictured above can all be found in my Return of the Nerds Back to School Activities pack.  You can check it out here on TPT.

One last thing before you go.  I'd love for you to use this class book to help teach your students some great work habits this coming school year.  You can download it for free by clicking here. Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by today!


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A Litttle Calendar DIY {Monday Made It}

It has been a very long time since I last linked up with Tara for Monday Made It!  But, today I am smiling because I actually made a few things to share.  Yay!

A few years ago, I reluctantly got rid of my calendar wall.  It was a tough decision but I found that there was just no time for it as our math curriculum used up every spare moment of our math block.

This year we will be using a new curriculum, and I was thrilled and relieved to find out that calendar is part of the daily routine!  I may or may not have done a happy dance.

But, when I went to my garage to gather up my calendar stuff, it.was.all.gone.  I'm not sure where it went, but it wasn't there, I can tell you that. So, this summer, I have been working on putting together a new calendar wall.

I made a new money chart for the calendar wall.

The fancy nylon chart versions out there are a little pricey and I wasn't wild about any of the available color choices.  I want everything to match/coordinate with this calendar set I recently purchased at Lakeshore (well, you can see part of it here).

Here's what I did:
  1. I created a mini poster with the header "Show Me the Money!"  
  2. I printed the mini poster on white card stock.
  3. I laminated the mini poster, plus a blank piece of white card stock.
  4. I trimmed both along the edges and layered them on top of each other.  When I layered them, I made sure there was 12 inches of white space and secured them in place with some Scotch tape (on the back).  I chose that length because that's approximately how long the nylon versions are.  
  5. I attached a few rows of sticky back Velcro.  I made sure to place a strip of Velcro over the spot where the two pieces of white paper are overlapped.
If you would like to make your own money chart, you can grab the free mini poster {HERE}.

To finish the project, I added some Velcro to a set of plastic coins.

I also doctored up a 100 chart for my calendar board.  I wanted a black and white one, but apparently they don't exist. Not where I was shopping, anyway.  So, I bought a black and white polka dot poster and a 100 chart from Lakeshore.  I cut the 100 chart out and glued it to the polka dot poster.

I need to trim the tops of the polka dot poster, but I'm waiting until I get back to school and have access to one of those oversized paper cutters.
I also needed a new place value chart.  But, the ones I found were primary colored and didn't match my color scheme.  So, I made one using mini pails from the Target dollar section.

I just labeled each pail with a chalkboard marker and bought some coffee stirrers from Walmart to place inside the buckets.  I am going to place a small piece of dry erase sentence strip above each pail so that we can write how many hundreds, tens, and ones are in the pails.

I shared these little pails on my blog the other day as part of another post on saving money in the classroom.  But, they also fit into the Monday Made It category.  If you've already seen them, sorry!  Kind of.  Hehe. ;)

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Money Saving Tips and Tricks for Teachers

People like to save money whenever and wherever they can.  Teachers especially like to save money where they can.  Am I right?

I'm teaming up with the Weekend Warriors to share some teacher-y money saving tips and tricks.

Let's get started!

Don't be afraid to ask for the things you need.  Before school starts think of the supplies that will get you through the year and ask parents to donate them. I usually make my needs known at our back to school event.  I tend to ask for things like dry erase markers (for the students), paper plates, paper bags, etc. 

I also ask for things as I need them.  Think about those times when your glue stick supply has dwindled down to nothing, and your students' pencils are about two inches tall.  When this happens, I use my weekly classroom newsletter to ask parents to send in what they can.

And, I usually ask families to send in specific items for special projects, like our apple investigation and applesauce activities in September. The cost for apples by the pound adds quickly, so I ask each family to send in two apples. 

I realize that not everyone has the option of asking families to donate items, and I can respect that. But, on the flip side, this is an option for some.  I happen to teach in a school where asking for these types of things is typically not an issue or a burden.  When I ask (and I don't ask all the time), it is with a hopeful heart, and not an expectant one.  I am grateful for whatever is sent in and I always take the time to express my gratitude. :)

Do it yourself.  A little DIY can go a long way!  Maybe your students have personal whiteboards and whiteboard markers, but no eraser. If purchasing erasers isn't in your budget, then create one yourself!  You could glue a pom pom to the end of the marker or buy a few pieces of felt from the craft store and cut it up into smaller pieces.

I recently found myself in need of a new place value pocket chart.  The ones I found were about $12-17 and there weren't any styles that matched my classroom.  I like my stuff to match. #sorrynotsorry So, I made my own!

To make my own, I bought three little pails from the dollar section at Target and a pack of coffee stirrers at Walmart. I used a chalkboard marker (which I already had) to label the buckets and tied some zebra ribbon to the handles (had that too). Total cost: $5.

I'm going to place a small piece of dry erase sentence strip above each bucket on the calendar so we can write how many hundreds, tens, and ones the buckets hold.

Use Goodwill, donations, and Scholastic points to build a classroom library.
  • When I first started teaching, I had no classroom library and I didn't have any Scholastic points.  And, I really didn't want to start my first year of teaching without any books for my students to read.  So, my mom and I hit up a local thrift store and I scored!  I didn't spend a lot, and I managed to start my first year off with a fully stocked library! In fact, most of those books are still a part of my library.
  • Also, ask families to send in books they might not be using any more. I did this one year, and was able to add a lot of great books to my library!  
  • And, of course, once you accrue those Scholastic points, use them!  I've added many books to my collection over the years.  

Stop collecting things (translation: Stop buying things you don't need). 
How many times have you been at the store and thought, "Ooo, that's too good of a deal to pass up.  I'm sure I can use this (insert name of whatever spectacular, special, unique, cute thing you've found) somehow." 

Chances are if you can't think of a significant purpose for something on the spot, you won't use it and you don't need it. 

Shop Smarter!
Enroll in rewards programs at your favorite stores. Even if they aren't your favorite store, but you shop there a lot, take advantage of their programs.  Walmart has a great rewards program.  It's called the Savings Catcher program.  Each time you shop, you scan your receipt using the Walmart app. It will compare the prices you paid to area competitors.  If lower prices are found, you get a refund (the price difference) in the form of Walmart gift card money!  I let my savings stockpile and use them to make my back to school purchases in the fall. 

Michaels, Starbucks, and many other major retailers have rewards programs.  Be sure to take advantage!

Now, go out and start saving yourself some money!  ;)

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Back to School Brain

School is still a month away for me, but I can't lie, I've got back to school brain.  Big time back to school brain.  I keep tackling things on my to do list to make sure I'm all set and ready to go for next month.

Most of what I've been working on is super boring like cutting reward coupons.  Some things have been a little more exciting, like gluing bows to a few storage containers.  Yes, that is fun to me.  Some of what I've been working on is so dang exciting, that I'm sharing them with you today!

I made some new class rules posters.  And, I think that's pretty exciting!

I have used the Whole Brain Teaching rules for the past several years, and I really can't imagine using any other set of rules.  These five rules cover it all!  My previous set had a polka dot background, but I was kind of tired of that and wanted a cleaner look.  If you like these and can use them, I'd love for you to grab them {here} for FREE!
I'm also pretty excited about my newly updated Editable Back to School Power Point freebie on TPT.  I was working on the content for my presentation this year, and realized that my old slide set up was just too much.  The old slides were cluttered with polka dots, and let's be honest, when you're trying to give a presentation, that can be a little distracting.  But, I'm loving the cleaned up version and this year's presentation is ready to go!

Are you loving it too? Great!  Then head on over to TPT by clicking {HERE} and grab a FREE copy for yourself!

Alrighty friends, I'm off to tackle more of those little projects on my to do list, but I do hope that you are able to use one, or both, of the freebies! 



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Bragging About Brag Tags

I love brag tags! I've used them for several years, and I can honestly say that they have had a positive impact on my students, year after year.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.  I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links.  For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

All About Brag Tags
You've probably seen brag tags posted on Instagram, or scattered about your Pinterest feed.  And, you've probably thought, "Oh, those are so cute, but what on earth are they?"

Brag tags are a classroom/behavior management tool that allows you to quickly and easily recognize, encourage, and reward positive behavior and student effort.  Best of all, they motivate students to make good choices.  They are little tags that students earn for making good choices, working hard, setting a good example, demonstrating a positive attitude, and so on.

Students collect tags throughout the school year and add them to a chain necklace.   

Why I Love Them
I have found brag tags to be extremely motivating for my students. They love earning these special awards.  Like, love, love, LOVE earning them.  They especially love showing them off to their friends, and they take a great deal of pride in earning new tags. What I'm trying to say is, they have been really effective in encouraging my students to be the best that they can be.  And, what teacher doesn't love that?

I also love that they give me the ability to quickly recognize behavior on the spot.  I can immediately recognize students for their efforts in a significant way.

How I Use Brag Tags
I use brag tags to recognize my students' behavior, attitude, effort, and character.  I firmly believe that when students' behavior, effort, attitudes, and character are on the right track, academic success will follow.  But, the great thing about brag tags is that they really can be used however you want!  Honestly, there is no right or wrong way to use them.  

Introducing them to Students
I don't waste any time when it comes to introducing brag tags to my students.  On day one, I give each student the same brag tag, usually one that marks the beginning of the year, like the one below that reads "This year will be awesome!"  No one earns their first tag, everyone gets one.

There is definitely more to it than just giving the students their first tag, though.  I cover the following in our discussion:
  • I explain what brag tags are.  
  • I explain how the students can earn them (and I make every effort to start awarding them as soon as possible thereafter).  
  • I go over the procedures for when students can wear their brag tags and my expectations for students when they are wearing their necklaces.  Keep reading for these details. ;)

How Students Earn Brag Tags
I hand out tags whenever I see that a student has earned one. I cannot stress enough that in my classroom a student must earn his or her tag.  And, again, they earn a tag based on their behavior, attitude, effort, and work habits.  I do not hand them out lightly, nor do I use them as a form of bribery. 

For example, if a student stands out because they are working especially hard, persevering through a tough assignment or situation, or being super helpful or kind, I would award a brag tag.  And I would make a big deal about awarding that brag tag, which makes it even more special to the student.  It also gets the attention of others and motivates them to work a bit harder, etc.

The Necklaces
Whenever my students earn a new tag, they get to wear their necklace for the day.

On Fridays, all of the students get to wear their necklaces for the entire day.

At the end of the school year, the students take their necklaces home to keep forever!

NOTE: I have a strict hands-off policy. My expectation is that when a student is wearing his/her necklace, that he/she does not touch it, pull on it, play with it, etc.  If a student chooses to play with his/her necklace, he/she has to remove it. I explain this at the beginning of the school year as part of my expectations.  Bottom line, if a student is busy fidgeting with the necklace, they aren't focusing on their learning, and that is why it has to come off.

I've had lots of people ask me where I purchase my necklaces.  I typically buy mine from eBay.  But, if eBay isn't your thing, rest assured, you can also find them on Amazon.

Storing Brag Tag Necklaces
When the necklaces aren't being used, they hang on the wall behind our classroom door.  They are numbered to match the students' numbers, which makes it easy to keep track of the necklaces.

My classroom is extremely small and this space is just perfect for tucking them away, yet keeping them accessible to the students as the same time.

You can grab these number cards HERE for free! :)

Storing Brag Tags
I store my brag tags in DMC floss organizers.  I removed the lids and this gives me easy access to the tags. I need to be able to see what I have, so this is perfect for me.  I store them on the shelf behind my desk so it's really easy to find, and grab, a tag quickly!

I have five organizers full of tags ready to be handed out.  Having a collection of tags this size might seem overkill, but it gives me variety.  I never run out.  During the summer, I take stock of the tags that I need to reprint/stock up on.  I always print my tags on card stock and then laminate for durability.

You can read more about brag tags by clicking HERE.

Brag Tag Resources
I recently made a few sets of tags, and I'm loving them!  What I love most is that there is space above the words and images to accommodate the hole punch.  I want the words to show!  The kids have earned these tags and I hate for the recognition to be punched out and lost.

You can check out my full color brag tag sets here.  I also have a set of full color editable brag tags that allows you to type whatever text you want on each tag (see below)!  This set has been so useful!

And, I also have black and white versions of each set available!  Everyone loves to save a little ink, right?  They look great printed on colored card stock!

A Freebie for You
And, if you've read this far, I have a little freebie for you!  You can download the colored brag tags below by clicking here. Don't worry, there is a black and white freebie too.  Keep scrolling!

If you prefer the black and white approach to brag tags, then this version is for you!  Click here to grab the black and white set.  I hope you can use it.  Enjoy!

More Brag Tag Related Posts
I have a few more brag tag posts that you might find helpful:
Brag Tags {Tips and Tricks}
Brag Tags {All Your Questions Answered}
6 Reasons to Use Brag Tags in the Classroom

Brag Tag Resources
Looking for a more complete brag tag collection?  Be sure to check out my resources on TPT.  I have lots of options available.  Click on an image to learn more. :)

 I also offer black and white brag tags for those who prefer a more ink friendly option.  :)


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