Amazon Prime is a teacher's BFF

Happy New Year friends! I wanted to write a post on the last day of 2016, but didn't know what. I wanted it to be about something I really loved, but I love so much that it was hard to choose. Then, a light went off in my brain. DUH! Amazon. I seriously am on Amazon almost every day. It's only fitting to tell you what I absolutely loved buying from Amazon in 2016.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation. Now that THAT'S out of the way, let's check out my favorites!

Since I don't have kids of my own, my classroom gets a LOT more love than it should. I know I spend way too much money on things for school, but it makes my life easier and happier so it's all good, right?

Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches
I usually don't buy the actual Scotch brand of laminating sheet, BUT when I do - they're on SALE. Amazon has had these on sale for a while and hopefully it doesn't end with the New Year coming! They are under $10 for 100! These are normally over $10 so I couldn't resist this deal. The brand I usually buy actually went up in price when these went down so it was a total win for me!

PaperMate Inkjoy Gel Pens

My favorite pens for the last few years was the PaperMate Flair. That is until I found these lovelies! Seriously they write SO amazingly!

Planning is a breeze with this freebie! Use it to plan your week and check off what you have done and still need to do!
I use them to plan with each week. You can grab the planning freebie using the image above!

I also use them when writing my note of the day to go home. I use these to easily bridge the gap between home and school. Of course parents know about the things their child needs to work on, but with these notes I easily send home a positive message even if their child did not have a stellar day. They're super easy to implement and the Inkjoy Gel pen makes it so nice and quick!


Ermmmm... who doesn't spend tons of time making new centers? Well, I had to this year because I moved up to 1st grade. The last time I taught first grade was 4 years ago and times have CHANGED! So, that meant lots of new printing, laminating, cutting and obvi I need cardstock. I love buying this. It comes in a 250 pack and is usually around 7 bucks. This is way cheaper than purchasing on the fly at Walmart. They have a pack of 125 (I think) and it's close to 6 bucks. The cheapest I've ever purchased this was around $6, but it was only once and I racked UP big time!

Scotch Laminator
This is the exact one that I have (I had an older version), but this is the link I bought it from. My first Scotch laminator was purchased when I was in college in 2007 I think. I bought it from Walmart for about $30. Fast forward until this year and it FINALLY stopped working. Totally got my money's worth. I decided to purchase another because it was on sale right before it stopped working and had two. If you don't own a laminator, don't buy one. BUY TWO! It saves me so much time when I'm laminating. I load a bunch of the sheets so I have a stack to work from, load both up and as they laminate I fill more sheets. This is by far one of my favorite purchases of all time!

Xyron Ezlaminator
I actually did not get the Xyron Ezlaminator with my own personal money. I made a Donors Choose project for it along with the magnetic laminate. PEOPLE! You need one! I wanted this for my kids to be able to laminate their book covers. We make a ton of personal books in our classroom and I want them to last. The only idea I could come up with was to have the kids laminate. I don't have time to laminate book covers all the time and I didn't want them using something that had to be plugged in and that could heat up. 

How did it go? Amazingly! This is so simple to use. All you do is place the sheet inside of the lines and then turn the handle. In a few turns the paper is laminated. Then, cut it off. That simple. If you laminate a lot like I do, this would also be helpful. It's quiet, no heat or plug in required and they rolls are a good size. I got 22 full sheet pages in one roll (with a few hiccups included). I would not use this for my everyday laminating needs though.

I also bought the magnetic sheets to make our games stick to cookie sheets. I have laminated a lot of our word work and math center game mats on these and it allows the sheet to stick to the cookie sheet. I also laminate the parts to each of the games on these.

What are some of your favorite purchases from Amazon this year?

Pre-Kindergarten - 1st Grade Classroom Tools

How to beat new reader comprehension blues

Help your students gain confidence with quick and easy reading fluency. These Read. Write. Illustrate. sheets have a checklist built-in to each activity for easy checking.

Last school year, my kinders were ready for some easy sentence comprehension pretty early in the year. I wanted them to be accountable for their reading. However, I didn't have time to fit in space for comprehension practice that was totally dedicated to that. Our morning routine was pretty quick and easy, so I decided we'd use the first 20 minutes after we walked into our classroom to unpack and work on writing sentences correctly and comprehending what we read by drawing a picture to match.

Read. Write. Illustrate. was born. My kids absolutely EXCELLED the rest of the months when we were reading. The first week of introducing it, we did it together. I put my own copy under our document camera and they all sat on the rug with clipboards and their paper. We practiced writing our letters from top to bottom, making fingers spaces and focusing on what we actually read. The next week, most of them were ready to independently work on these. I had time to sit with the two that needed a little reinforcement from me.

Comprehension fluency, morning work, reading comprehension, sight words

Each of the sentences are short enough where they are not overwhelmed. They are able to easily practice their handwriting, correct sentence structure and they're also able to practice comprehension. My students LOVE coming in each morning to see what their sentence will be.

comprehension, fluency, morning work, reading comprehension, sight words

This year, I moved to 1st grade. I only have one of my previous students from last year so this was new to most of my kiddos. We struggled with remembering what a sentence was and how it should look. This helped us to quickly get our minds in the right state as we got started for the day. They write their sentence, we discuss it, and we're ready for the day in 20 minutes. I also love that most of their high frequency words are used over and over again. They're able to read words that we are constantly practicing.

comprehension, fluency, morning work, reading comprehension, sight words

I never read them any of the words or give any hints. I do allow them to help each other if their is a difficult sight word. However, that is very rare. It's a lot easier for a 1st grader than it is for a kindergartener. We also discuss details of illustrations. It starts with random pictures with most of them "floating", but as we progress, discuss, and think about what real life looks like, they are able to adjust their illustrations.

comprehension, fluency, morning work, reading comprehension, sight words

I created a mixed short vowel version as well as each short vowel set separately. Want to remember this post? Pin the image below to save it for later.

Help your students gain confidence with quick and easy reading fluency. These Read. Write. Illustrate. sheets have a checklist built-in to each activity for easy checking.

Pre-Kindergarten - 1st Grade Classroom Tools

9 ways to fit technology into your schedule

Do you ever feel like you're rushed for time when it comes to using technology in your classroom? Are you unsure how to incorporate it into your busy day? Well, I'm bringing you 9 ways to use technology in your primary classroom.

1. Self Checking QR codes
QR codes have been around for a while. Many of you may know how to use QR codes and how to use them in your classroom. One way that I LOVE using QR codes is as a self-checker.

Have you ever held a small group at your table? Yes? Then, you should relate to this. Think about a time when your students were all working so quietly and your group with you at your kidney table were reading with ease... are you there in your mind?

It is a picture perfect day and then - a child walks up to you from their word work center and wants to either
a) show you their work
b) ask you if their work is right

Do you scream in your brain? Do you point at your crown that means you cannot be disturbed? Do you point for them to return to their area? WHAT DO YOU DO?

Well... if you had a QR code on their recording sheet or in their word work center, you wouldn't be bothered. Here's how it should work when Johnny wants you to see check his work. Johnny stops. He grabs his iPad. He brings up his free qr reader app and scans the code on his recording sheet (like below).

Then, Johnny checks his recording sheet to make sure it is correct. You are able to continue working quietly with your small group without distractions or being interrupted.

This is from my Learning my CVC words bundle.

2. Research Capabilities
Another aspect of QR codes is allowing your students to be able to conduct research. Let's pretend you're working on a farm lesson. Your students have a project. It includes researching one animal and finding as much information as possible. You could create QR codes to link to videos, pictures, websites and books that either take them directly to that animal OR to places about farm animals.

Kindergarten and first graders will be allowed to research on their own. They will be proud of their work and their capabilities by being able to scan a code, listen or read the information and provide the information back to you in some form.

3. Whole group for reading
Reading is a really TIGHT schedule in my classroom, but at least once a week I like to use technology whole group. We've used the Osmo with one iPad whole group. I usually make two teams and allow the students to compete against each other. Last year, our favorite was the pictures and we had to figure out what the word was. They got REALLY good at this one.

Since I moved up to first grade this year, a few things have changed. For one, it seems that my reading schedule is not a flexible as kindergarten. We've started a new routine where Tuesday or Thursday is our whole group tech day. I plan for 15 minutes or less to allow them to have a little fun together. We've started using these powerpoints to help encourage our writing. I started them with easy cvc words. Each week as our focus has been a short vowel, we complete just that set of powerpoints that focuses on that skill.

How does technology play into this you ask? Well, my kiddos see a picture on our smartboard and say it out. Then, they sound it out and write it on their iPad. We use an app called Doodle Buddy. It's really easy and can be used for an endless amount of ideas. I like this option because I don't like using dry erase boards any more and don't like to waste paper on things like this. Here's a little snippet of how it works.

See it. Write it.

You can find See it. Write it. available in my TpT shop. I have a growing bundle available. You can buy in now at a lower price and receive all of the future sets for free. All you have to do is go and redownload with each new addition.

I also have bundle with all of the short vowels.

4. Whole Group for Math 
This is an absolutely genius idea. For a quick assessment of math materials and during whole group time, allow students to look around the room for ideas to match the lesson. For example, if you're teaching time to the hour, have students to use a clock that they can change the time on. They will set the time to a time on the hour, either write the time on the clock or use an editing app to add the time. Writing it on something like a white board or a sticky note is much easier. They simply put the clock and the sticky note/white board in view of the camera and snap a picture. Then, you can view their pictures and check their work REALLY quickly without going around the room.

This could be used for a number of skills. Another easy example is colors. After they are given a color to look for, they will go around the room and take pictures of things that are that color. When they are done taking pictures, they add them to a frame. Then, you have "one" picture to look at quickly to check for understanding.

5. Listening
In the past, I've done listening centers several ways. Do any of you own those scholastic books with the cd? They were such a PAIN to have the students pop them in and out of cd players when they wanted to listen to a particular story. I added add the stories to my iTunes account, loaded them on the iPads and then my students had to find the story they wanted in the music portion.

NO MORE craziness! Now, I use QR codes for listening stories. The QR codes link to the stories being read aloud on YouTube or it is a direct link. The direct links are my old scholastic books. The kids pull a book and scan the code that is in the spot where the CD used to be. So simple and so easy. They have two options for listening to stories and neither one of them require cds or cd players or a ton of headphones hooked to one device.

6. Record Reading
This is quite possibly one of my favorite things. It's free. It's easy. The kids love it. I love it. My principal loves it. The other kids love it. Seems like a win all the way around, right? Well, it is. I teach my kids how to quickly get to the camera app by swiping up from the bottom and bringing up the control center. Then, they click on the camera. I taught them how to sit their iPad up so they could see their face clearly or whatever it was that they wanted to record.

They hit record and began reading. I had some that would record their book and others wanted to record their face. I had one sweet girl that liked to do both. She found a nice spot and recorded herself reading and I could see some of the book as she read. They become SUCH great readers because when they're done with a book, they listen to their reading.

I also taught them what a good reader sounds like. This is a great way to show them what robot reading sounds like. They usually learn pretty quickly after I point out robot reading and they're able to tell if they're doing it or not. They can go back and create another version of the book if they'd like. I don't care if they record it five times, I know that they are reading and practicing reading fluently. That is the ultimate goal, right?

Here's a little glimpse at one of them reading.

7. Accountability
Before I was able to assign each of my students their own iPad, we used this method to keep up with with picture taking. Each of them had a student license.

They grabbed it before they headed off for their first math workshop or their first Daily 5. When it was time to transition to the next thing, they put their student license down next to their paper (finished or unfinished). Then, they got an iPad and snapped their work. This allowed me to easily know which paper belonged to who. At the beginning of the school year when you have five or six that cannot write their name and you can't guess - this is HEAVEN SENT. And of course you know those other seven that don't put their names on their paper...

8. Record Stories
Just like recording themselves reading, I have them to record themselves telling a story. For St. Patrick's Day, we read a story about a leprechaun. He was TOTALLY destroying their room. To help stop the leprechaun, we had to figure out something to catch him. They got with their peanut butter/jelly partner and recorded their videos. I eventually made the stories a QR code and added them to our March craft that was hanging in our hall.

She's actually listening to a book, but this is what their iPad looks like when they're recording themselves tell a story.
9. Portfolio
Seesaw is an ah-maz-ing app to use to keep student portfolios. There is a free and a paid version. I suggest playing around with the free version. Our county allows us to download Seesaw to our iPads and it is genius. Students upload their work (you approve or deny it) to their portfolio after they've finished it. Parents are able to see all of their approved work. Students can also take videos!

They just snap a picture of their work and add it to their "account." It's extremely easy!
That's it! I hope you can use some of these ideas to fit technology into your day without it being an ordeal. Find some simple ideas and use those to get technology flowing in your classroom.


Goodies Galore

Hey friends!

I'm dropping in really quickly because the first day of school is tomorrow. I've promised a few people on FB, IG and over on the Elementary Entourage's blog that I would post these goodies.

I've been setting up my classroom and posting an image or two here and there and people have asked for a few things.

My word wall letters are my absolute favorite thing right now! They are simply ADORABLE. They are a remake of something I made two years ago. I updated the kidlettes and none of them repeat each other. How cute are they? ADORBS!

My calendar area is a work in progress. This is some of what's currently up. I'm sure it will shift and change as the year goes on, but this is what I've got so far. The months are cut off in the picture, but they're exactly like the days of the week.

If you like what you see, you can click below to download the word wall letters, calendar files and the book bin labels. The book bin labels also include a blank editable file. If you don't have time to download, PIN it and save for later.

Please NOTE, this download will NOT receive ANY changes. I make this specifically for my classroom and not to sell. The colors will not be changed, I will not add anything to any of it. :-)

Pre-Kindergarten - 1st Grade Classroom Tools

Oriental Trading makes classroom donations EASY!

Hey friends!

So I have to be honest with you and tell you that I didn't realize that you could share a wish list. UM, yes! So I did a little browsing through Oriental Trading over the summer. They have SO many things that I want and knew my firsties would LOVE. I created a wish list which was EXTREMELY easy and then narrowed down what I would get from there. Everything else is still on the wish list for me to share with friends, family and parents during Meet the Teacher. Here's my wishlist to get a preview of what everyone will see.

Oriental Trading sent me these goodies to show you all in exchange for writing this post. I've linked to each of them for easy access.

I have wanted timers for the kids to time themselves reading since forever. I finally have some. I love that these came in different time increments and is big enough so we don't forget what each of the colors mean.

Yep. I have a ten frame stamp. This one I LOVE! WHY? I love that the handle is nice and long. There isn't a reason to get ink all over tiny hands... even though I know it will happen. 

It also stamps very well. I only pushed down hard on the top one. I didn't reink it either. To me, that's a good stamp. The ideas for this are pages long. My first thought was making ten. Kids could work on addition problems with making ten. If they pull a number. Place that many dots or color in that many, then they can finish the problem to make ten. This could also be used twice to make twenty and to work on those pesky teen numbers.

I bought these live photo stickers to put in our writing area. The students will be able to choose some stickers. I haven't decided what the limit is, but I used two. Then, write a story. It came with different rolls of stickers. Some were ocean animals, dogs, cats, zoo animals and so on.

How easy would this be for students that have a hard time thinking of something to write about? They could be inspired by a sticker! I think we may have a Sticker Story day as well when everyone chooses stickers to write about. I love reading stories that they make up.

How amazing is that sticker? There could be some awesome conversation made from these stickers. The students wouldn't realize that they're writing and would just have some FUN.

I also snagged these chalkboard clothespins. LOVE! *insert heart eyes* They are so cute! I already had some chalk markers and used those. I messed up one... or two or three and it wiped away easily with a paper towel and water. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to clean it with, but that's what I've always done on chalkboards.

I can't decide if I want to use them for my focus wall, BRAVO board or for student work. I think I may get some more and use them for all three. They are such a cute idea! I got the idea for the Coming Soon from Theresa at True Life I'm a Teacher.

Use any of the links above to take you to Oriental Trading to create your wish list. Then, you should see a SHARE button on the right side of the screen when you are viewing your completed wish list. Share it with whomever you'd like. It's that EASY.

If you have some awesome finds, tag Oriental Trading on your social media so your friends can create a list as well. I am going to add my wish list link to my parent information and share it in a few days for Meet the Teacher night. Hopefully, I get some things purchased. Have fun shopping!

Pre-Kindergarten - 1st Grade Classroom Tools

How to make parents love you

Yep. You read that exactly right.

Do you have a hard time talking with parents? Well, I do. I'd rather not talk to them on most days. It's hard to carry on a conversation since I'm not the type that starts conversations. It's even HARDER for me to write notes home or even CALL. I just look at them. That sounds so horrible, I know, but it's the TRUTH.

I hope I'm not the only one that struggles with this part of teaching. One thing that worked REALLY well for me last year was writing a note to one child every day. It was a very short note. It wasn't about how they misbehaved or what they could work on. It was a note to let them know how much I appreciate them or to thank them for having an amazing day. This kept parents "in the know" and it kept me from calling parents... which I totally hate.

Positive Parent Communication that works

I chose one child a day. Why one? Well, after they saw that I gave out "little love notes" each day, they worked really hard to get one. They never knew who it would be. It could even be the child that had a terrible day, but he helped someone pick up their crayons from the floor. It could have been a sick child or the child that gets overlooked. It could be anyone. I made it my mission to give out one each and every day. There was a rare occasion where I gave out two or three, but never more than that. I wanted them to always be working hard to get that note home.

Parents loved hearing and getting a little handwritten note from me. Here's what I did:

I printed off each of the notes which are 4/page except for one I made in March for St. Patrick's Day. It has 2/page. Then, I copied them on different colored sheets of cardstock (or colored paper). I cut them out and sorted into these cool little plastic accordion files.

They are the perfect size to hold these. It has 12 dividers. I happened to have three hanging around in my room since forever and put them to use with these. I got them from Target a few years ago, but have seem more this size at Target and Walmart as well.

Near the end of the day when I need one, I just pick a file, pull out a card and jot down a quick note. So easy. Then, I put it back on the shelf for tomorrow. How do you keep your parents happy and provide a positive form of communication? If you need a little help like I did, check out these Positive Communication Notes.

If you're in a hurry, make sure to pin this for later! Have fun writing tons of positive notes this year.

 Positive Parent Communication that is easy to send home daily

Back to Top