Saturday, July 20, 2013

Something to Hoot About...

After going back and forth over this all summer, I've finally decided to change my classroom up  from the beach. I love the beachy feel, but going into my 7th year of teaching I feel like a change is due. The entire first grade hallway is getting new carpet (insert kart wheel and fist bump combo here) so a fresh and clean design scheme fits into the brand new classroom feel that I've been dreaming of ever since I got the "stay out of your classroom until carpet is installed" email. The only thing that could make it better would be a fresh coat of paint on the walls...and I know that ain't happenin. I considered changing things up last year and chickened out. I had a new design scheme picked out and everything...just didn't have the guts to part ways with the beach. So this year when everywhere I went had "so cute I can't stand it" owl stuff I took it as a sign and rolled with it. I held back for a while, but finally the cuteness became too much and I said yes to the dress...I mean owls. This year in B-104 First Grade Will Be a Hoot! I'll be keeping my bright tropically colors, my chair pockets, my umbrella tree, my rug...all the big stuff. I'll just be putting the ocean stuff away and replacing with cute hoot not a big deal right?? If I can handle moving to a different grade level and putting my classroom together perfectly in 2 weeks I've so got this change-a-roo in the bag...easy as pie.

The first item on the re-do list: F.I.S.H. Binders. You can't have fish in an owl themed would be like eating peanut butter and tuna fish sandwiches...ain't nobody got time for that! A couple blogs ago I mentioned the F.I.S.H. Binders that I used in my classroom to help keep homework organized and in one place. It's a simple yet amazing concept that I found through a Google search (years before Pinterest was born). There are thousands of different acronyms out there to fit the theme that you've assigned your classroom so no worries if fish or owls don't cut the mustard for your classroom. F.I.S.H. stands for Family Involvement Starts Here and O.W.L. stands for Organized While Learning. The concept is simple: everything that goes home or comes to school is kept in the binder.

To make this happen, there are a few quick steps to take: 

Step 1: Get a Binder for Every Child
I buy binders (1 inch clear view) for each of my kids. You could definitely ask your students to bring one in on their own, but that approach hasn't been very successful for me. Plus I like for things to match && buying them myself ensures that it happens. Inside the clear view pouch I slipped a cute owl cutout. Student names will go on the owls so you can keep track of which random binder found hanging out on the floor by the door belongs to which sidetracked happens...and it happens a lot. After a class set of binders is collected and labled...BOOM!  Step 1 is done!

Step 2: Label the Pockets
 Inside the binder I label one side “Return to School” and the other side “Keep at Home”…pretty simple concept. Just handwrote it with a Sharpie...nothing fancy. Homework and forms that need to be filled out/signed would go in the return to school pocket and any papers that I don't need back would go in the keep at home pocket.

Step: 3 Pop in a Pencil Pouch
I also bought a class set of pencil pouches. I got the canvas ones from Walmart that were about $1 each. Again, you could ask your kids to bring their own as part of their supply list, but I like for everything to match. Plus they make the super cheap plastic ones that always break within a week of use...and it's beyond frustrating to me when things don't work/break so I buy the good stuff from the get go. Any money, notes, and duh, pencils can be stored in the pouch.

Step 4: Coo-Coo for Communication Clip Ins
Communication between home and school is a requirement for a functional/successful classroom. If your parents don't know what's going on, the kids won't know what's going on and then chances are you won't know what's going on when they hit you up with a "7 A.M. woke up on the wrong side of the bed" phone call. Aye caramba! To keep my parents up to date with what's for homework I put a homework sheet into a page protector. It isn't anything fancy, but you can find a picture of it here. A monthly reading log goes into the page protector as well...this way it stays neat, clean, and wrinkle free (not crumpled up at the bottom of the book bag). A school agenda completes the communication round up. The agenda is where the daily behavior reports are recorded. It's also where any notes that I write home go. A kid can easily throw away a note written on a seperate piece of paper, but when a page from the agenda goes missing it sends up red flags (or at least it should).

&&& that's how simple communication binders are to put together. I've used them for six years and couldn't imagine running a classroom without them. It takes all of the guess work out of the equation when everything is laid out for the person helping one of your students with their homework. They go home with the kids every day and come back to school the next morning with them. My kids drop them off in a basket by my desk so I can go through them and check for homework/notes/money/etc. Of course I send home a letter && a contract at the beginning of the year. The letter explains the purpose and the expectations for using the binders. I only buy 1 binder for each student...if it gets destroyed their parents are responsible for replacing it. In six years, I've only had one binder get completely destroyed to where a new one was purchased. Some of them get pretty raggy by the end of the year, but miraculously they hold it together until the end. The contract is something that I keep on file just in case anybody gets crazy and demands a new one...afterall my money tree died a few years ago && binders are expensive when it's not back to school time. I'll be uploading my letter and contract to TPT as a freebie so if owls are your thing, feel free to grab yourself a copy!

Until next time friends... find something to hoot about! :)

1 comment:

  1. I bet the owl theme will be so cute! I had a beach theme for a while too when I taught 2nd grade!
    A Tall Drink of Water