Merry Christmas...may the magic of Christmas stay within your heart today and always...count your blessings and remember to be present and stay is a gift...Enjoy it, treasure it and make it a great memory! My wish you is to stay healthy, happy and to have a whole bunch of fun with friends, family and all those special people in your life! Since many of you are still relaxing and enjoying your Winter Break, let the experts at TpT do some work for you! Why not pick up an idea or 2 to use when you go back to your classroom or simply post a New Years idea or 2 and give your ideas a shout out to ring in the New Year?
Hi there...I am back again with my first segment of Tried and True Activities and Ideas that I KNOW you cannot live without!! If you are a teacher or have been a teacher, which I am pretty sure you fit that mold if you are reading this, then you all know the challenges we face with classroom management. A long, long, long time ago when I first set foot in my very first classroom after subbing for 9 years( DID read that correctly), I learned and researched how to improve focus with kiddos and keep them on task. Five very important concepts I learned and remember are:

 1. Give your students choice activities first thing in the morning, which is why one of my first activities in the morning was a soft landing time for students to chat, wind down, get ready for learning, take care of the business kinds of things that they need to do with calm classical music playing.( If you have read any of my other posts, you know ow much I am a believer in this SOFT LANDING TIME!!)

 2. Morning Meeting, which I cannot and will not ever say to stop doing as it builds community and again makes everyone feel welcome and supports the idea that each child has something good to offer our classroom family...diversity is the one thing we have in common! Check out this Responsive Classroom website for Morning Meeting Ideas, Games and Activities

3. Having Choice stations, Daily 5 or whatever you choose to call it first thing in the morning, if possible right after your morning meeting as choice allows your kiddos to take ownership of their academic work and feel like an active part of the classroom community since you are allowing them teacher directed choices during center, stations etc.

4. Giving Brain Breaks as much as your class needs...repeat, giving Brain Breaks as many times as your class needs, not just when you need them...on that topic I used to use snack time as a brain break where students can get up and eat and chat for a few minutes...guiltily I remember only giving those breaks when I WAS selfish!!! I moved this snack time to Station/Daily 5 time..."Grab as you need" idea on an honor system and it really worked fabulously...only a few nibblers nibbled too much and you can be sure the tattle tale squad reported and turned them in or intimidated them to plead guilty!

5. Getting the kiddos up and moving as much as possible through academic type activities such as, Read and Write the Room. These are great ways to get your kiddos up and moving during Daily 5 or Station Word Work. They are like worksheets,but your class walks around the room to jot down the answers and such. These activities teach, reinforce or remediate in a fun and active way!

6.  Having a Quiet Time or a Down Time everyday. The best times are right after Lunch or where there is a natural break in your day. You will be surprised as to how many children share during our End of Day Meeting that "Quiet Time" was their favorite part of the day! They choose what they want to do quietly and some actually choose to catch up on work!!!

 Okay so that being said...check out the Read the Room activities that I have in my shops or any of these types of activities that you find on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter yadda yadda yourself and your class a favor and use some of these types of "worksheets"to reinforce those Common Core Standards and such!!! YOU will see a difference in behaviors, too...but remember to share those expectations and role model first or you might have a disaster on your hands!

Thanks for tuning in and see you next time!

As I was walking around town today, many acquaintances asked,"Oh, are you off today?" That just goes to show you that if you live in a smallish town like I do, everyone seems to know where you are supposed to be at certain times of the day. Yes...usually I would be teaching at 11:00 in the morning. So I answered with a perky upbeat tempo, "I am retired now!" "Oh, really?" The next question is usually always the same. "So, how do you like being retired?" My answer..."I LOVE is fantastic, marvelous, I can get up and do whatever I want or don't want to do every minute of the plans just bliss and happiness! I don't even wear a watch anymore!" They say, "REALLY?" "I mean you are such an active person, don't you get bored or upset that you are not teaching?" Jealous? Perhaps...but why should I feel guilty that I am happy with what I am doing with my that I am retired? I was happy teaching and now I am happy retired.

So, as I strolled around town stopping at various places: the Post Office, a local health food store, a grocery store, the high school to drop of a letter of recommendation and a few other local spots, I began to look at people's smiles, no upbeat prancing, no laughing, giggling, singing, humming or happiness or if they were happy no one was showing it except for one man who smiled and said,"Hi, how are you doin' today?" I thought to myself; Where's that happy to be alive attitude, time to smell the flowers wisdom, dance like no one is watching attitude..where was it? It was buried deep down in the hecticness of life.

I am a firm believe that the diamonds you look for are usually right in your own backyard (Russell Conwell Acres of Diamonds) Everything you need to be positive and happy is in your own mind or right in your own life (backyard). So let me share with you what I call Mimi's Mini List of Ways to Stay Positive Everyday.

1. Count your blessings and there are many. Everyday before you go to work or get your day going, think of 4 things you are happy about. It can be a small as I woke up this morning and am able to enjoy this beautiful day!

2. Look for the positive in everyone you encounter and give them a smile and a kind word. A smile and a kind word can go a long way and you never know just how important that smile may have been to the person who noticed those pearly whites!

3. Find something positive in what life's journey brings everyday. Even a negative situation can have a positive twist.

My dad was an extremely fast paced type "A" personality kind of guy. He never stayed in the same spot for more than 5 minutes and in fact, if he had something to deliver to my house, he would beep the horn and toss it on the joke! At age 66 he had a stroke, this negative situation was turned quickly into a positive. He was not able to pick up and move around too much after this unfortunate situation, but I got to know him better than ever because he could only sit in his wheelchair and talk. Sitting and chatting in his living room created some the fondest memories I have of him. He expressed his feelings and I really began to develop a friendship with my dad that may not have happened if it were not for this illness.

4. Don't take anything personal. If someone snaps at you and you respond in a negative way then you will feel that negativity long after the incident, but if you respond with a smile and kind will spread positiveness and maybe even make a friend.

I know these ideas seem simplistic, but....why not give it a try? You may just change the way you think and...According to Aristotle: Happiness depends upon ourselves.

Be positive...think positive...stay have nothing to lose!

I am back from Vegas and survived the fast paced whirlwind of a this amazing town...I left the dings and dongs of slot machines and the crooners singing in lounges to come home to the stillness, heat and humidity of PA...overwhelmed, but ready to create, create, create and create more...I am exhausted thinking about it!!  

But, as the saying goes "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."  But, what I say is "What happens in Vegas needs to be shared!"  I have not been to Las Vegas in over 26 years and it has really changed. Over 42 million tourists came through this hoppin' town last year! 

This year my friend Kimberly (Kimberly's Kindergarten) and I hopped on an airplane and flew to Las Vegas to become 2 of those 40+ million people visiting! We attended the Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) Conference for the first time!  

We met fellow shop owners, saw some incredible teacherpreneurs and of course teacher celebs, learned about marketing, blogging, Pinterest and Instagram, which I cannot figure out if my life depended on it...HELP!  Anyone interested in teaching an old dog new tricks????

From left to right...Stephanie, Cheryl, Me, Stacie, Kimberly...Miss you!
BUT...the highlight of our amazing journey was meeting up with Stacie from Teacher Life is GoodStephanie from First Grade Bangs  and Cheryl who is a newbie of our newfound friends. It is rare to meet people and hit it off so quickly, but these incredible women became our partners in crime and it seemed as though we had been friends forever!  We ate, drank,laughed,were merry and were ALL excited to make our first million, which seems a little off in the distance,but we were told that we needed to look in the mirror and say," I want to be a millionaire" and it might just happen. Believe me if it does, you will be the first to know and maybe you'll be coming to Vegas with us next year all expenses paid...well, don't hold your breath...wait that is a negative thought...THINK POSITIVE...You never know!!!

What was the highlight of your trip this year? 

I have decided to write a short...very short blog about organization and then show some photos of ways to organize that are pretty much self explanatory. So here to be ORGANIZED BEFORE THE KIDDOS STEP INTO THE CLASSROOM and ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, LABEL, LABEL LABEL!!! You can never be too organized if you are    a primary teacher!  If you start at the beginning you will feel less stressed all year long.

Writing Station!
A few tips:

  1. Put all game pieces and boards in file folders or if they don't fit in folders, put them in a shelving unit with drawers and make each drawer for each game and label the front of each drawer.
  2. Use a basket to store class books and label the basket.        
    Class books, suggested reading, 
    chair to read, whisper phones 
    all labeled and ready to use!

  3. Use a basket for kiddos to turn in finished work and homework and label it.
  4. Use folders with pockets for Daily 5 and stations labeled with YES and NO for completed or not completed work and have a basket for these labeled.
  5. Use can holders rubber or plastic as shown below in the picture for scissors, pencils, markers 
    Organizational ideas from cup holders 
    for pencils to baskets for station, Daily 5 
    and center activities and games.
    etc and label. I usually color coordinate by table by colors and all materials are coordinated for each table.
  6. Use bins and storage for ALL materials and label.
  7. Use shoe boxes or small index card files for sight words or rubber band each set and place in a shoebox and label. this is easy access for your word wall etc.
  8. Use dish drains with slots for storing materials at station with files for differentiation.
Reading Center with reading buddies,
labeled book bins and more!
Color coordinated tables! 

I know you get the idea.  I cannot emphasize enough how important getting your room organized before the first day of school think about it now and be ready for the won't regret it! It will make you feel so much better as the year progresses.  Check out more images for Classroom Organization on My Pinterest Board. I have organizational tips and images from  all over the place...LOL!
Game organization...doesn't have to be
Pinterest fancy...just labeled for identification!

Another game!

Bookmarks so everyone knows just 
where the book they picked belongs! 
A name is on the back of each wand 
and the kiddos place it in the 
basket where they chose the book 
and take it out when they are finished 

Some Fun Ideas to Reinforce Letter Recognition

While working with some students with Special
Education needs, who were having some difficulties with letter recognition, I decided to try this idea and the kiddos LOVED it. They ask if they can trace and say the letter every time I work with them!  I simply took some "sparkle foam letter stickers" and stuck them onto some paper.  As the children look at the random letters, they trace and say the letter and sound.  So for W, they would say, W, /w/, wind or any word that they know that might begin with that beginning sound.

This was so easy to make and the sparkles feel like sandpaper when you trace them so the students are getting tactile and sensory needs met.  Why not give it a try?  ( I now have to find some lowercase letters, but for now this is working quite well!!) ENJOY!

Another Fun Idea to that Really Works Well 

                                                                    We placed wooden or plastic letters in a brown paper bagged. The student reached into the bag AND TOUCHED THE LETTERS WITHOUT PEEKING...then visualised what they had touched!  

After a few seconds of feeling the letter, the students tried to guess the letter that was in the bag!  Sometimes we would pass the bag around the circle and keep our thoughts of what letter it could be a secret until the last person had a change to feel the letter shape!

Another oldie but goodie is to have one student or the teacher use skywriting to make a letter in the air and students can guess what letter was written. in the air.

How about Trying Geoboard Letters?

Kids love to make designs on Geoboards!  So how 
about turning that enthusiasm into creating letters on
Geoboards!  You can call out a letter or pull one out of a jar and have the kiddos create that letter on their board.  Fun for everyone!

Writing Letters in SAND

I have done this with my grandkids at the shore and we have also written letters in the SNOW...yep in the snow!  You can also try shaving cream on a cookie sheet too!  

Clay or Play-Doh Letters

Using clay is always a fun idea when learning to recognize letters!  

You can simply call out a letter and see how creative they can be with making the letter out of Clay or Play-Doh. Easy and very little prep.  keep a asket with clay handy and pull it out as needed.

Make Some beaded Alphabet Bracelet

Call out a letter and have each student or the student you are working with thread the letter on string or a pipe cleaner.  After all the letters are on, ask the students to read back the letters!  EASY PEASY!        

Have you Tried Creating Letters from Magnet Shapes?

Add some fun with magnet tiles. Children try to create letters using these tiles. They come in many different shapes and connect to each other! JUST IMAGINE ALL THE FUN!!!

I hope these Letter recognition activities support your child with getting ready for kindergarten.
I hope you will with these captivating letter recognition activities helpful and FUN! 
These hands-on activities for preschool and kindergarteners will set the stage for literacy success. 

I would love to hear your ideas in the comments! Happy Learning!

A few weeks back, I was having breakfast with my daughter and granddaughter. We were relaxing and eating chocolate chip pancakes (I am supposed to be dieting, but I couldn't resist...actually it is becoming a Sunday ritual. Well....I probably indulge in pancakes more than I should!)

Anyway, as we were sitting and chatting, a young man looked at me and said,"Aren't you Mrs. Simpson?" I hesitated and replied,"Yes." As he was about to say, "You probab...," I quickly blurted out, " Joseph? Oh my goodness! How are you?"  He then in complete shock," You remember me?  I can't believe it!" I remarked, "Yes, I took away the beard and all the other facial hair, shrunk you down and looked at your eyes!" Somehow in a nanosecond I KNEW exactly who he was!  "Wow, you are good," he responded. He then introduced me to his wife who was expecting in a few months and caught me up on his life since first grade.  I told him how proud I was of his accomplishments and began to share that I had just looked at something that was from him. He interrupted,"It was a Christmas ornament that I made for you!" I answered, "Yes, it was. I still have it and hang it on my Christmas tree every year."  We then chatted about his family and future family.  We hugged and I left one of my favorite breakfast spots feeling uplifted and content.  He was such a nice young man...polite and respectful.  I taught him in first grade about 24 years ago. I thought to myself isn't funny how you can see someone who you have not seen in over 2 decades and recognize him by his eyes?

You know what..teaching is a great profession.  Although it is extremely time consuming, which not one person realizes unless you are an elementary school teacher,  it is also rewarding... especially when one of your students becomes a successful adult and you bump into him or her later in life...what more could you ask for as a teacher?
As I was working with a few children in my daughter's classroom, it was evident to me just how much these first graders and kinders LOVED to play the game BANG, but they hated to put their sticks back when they pulled the stick with the word BANG so.....I came up with a cool idea to make this game a bit more interesting and created a few variations of the game. But before I go an further, I want to make sure that you are aware of the game.  The basic game that I have played with my students over the years is simple:  You write the sight words that you are working with onto some tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks and you add a a few sticks about 1 for every 20 words that have the word BANG written on them.  The players take turns pulling sticks and reading the words, If they are correct, they keep the sticks.  If they are not correct, the sticks go back into the bucket, but if they pull the stick with BANG, they have to put ALL their sticks with words back including the BANG. Play continues in this manner until all sticks with words are pulled or the designated time is up.  All the children LOVE to play this simple, yet educational game and they play it during indoor recess, free time and at home.
Now for the variations to differentiate the game a bit for different levels and also make it a bit more FUN:
  1. Write upper and lowercase letters on the sticks for children who need letter recognition skills.
  2. Put random consonants on the sticks,but make sure you have added lots of vowels so the kiddos can make words with the sticks. As children pull the sticks, they can make words with the sticks.   If a player pulls BANG, they only have to put back the random letters that are not a part of a created word. ( You might want to actually make sure that you enough letters CVC pattern to create many words).
  3. Write sight words on the sticks in sets 1-50, 51-60, 61-70 etc. and label each bucket with the numbers and actually designate who can play which buckets then the children are using words they need to learn or master. Keeping with this idea, if a child pulls BANG, but they can construct a phrase that makes sense with the words, they can keep the words in the phrase and put back the others.
  4.  When you are creating the sticks in addition to the sticks with BANG, add some sticks that have a foam star sticker on the bottom.  If a player chooses that stick s/he can keep it and when they get Bang, they can put the star back with the BANG stick and keep their words! (The kiddos actually like this the BEST!!)
  5. Write numbers on the sticks for a number recognition game.  You can label your buckets 1-20, 21-30, 101-120 or what ever numbers they need to know or with which they need work.
  6. Write addition facts on the sticks. The players pick a stick give the answer to the fact, their partner checks their answer and if they are correct, they keep the stick. If not, the stick goes back into the bucket.  If BANG is pulled ALL sticks go back or add a few star sticks to this as well.
  7. Write CVC words to read on the sticks.
  8. Write CVCe words on the sticks.
  9.  Write words with digraphs, bonus letters, vowel combinations, 2 syllable words or whatever your students need on the sticks that can be written and reinforced in this manner.
So, what are you waiting to Michael's and get some small buckets, sticks and if you are stuck in the snow like I am at the moment, get out your markers and start creating those BANG games!