Sunday, May 24, 2015

Summer Ready: Keeping It Together During the Last Days of the School Year

I was thinking earlier this week, what time of the school year is busier?...the beginning of the year or the end of the year.  I honestly don't know, but one thing I do know is that I enjoy the end of the year business a little more because it means summer break is right around the corner.

There are so many extra details to consider at the end of the year.  Grade cards, records (records and more records), special days, award ceremonies, class gifts, closing down your classroom, and more.  It's really important to get an early start on all of these loose ends or you will find yourself staying up for some late nights trying get everything finished.

One way you can help get yourself organized is by setting up some end of the year totes during the last couple of weeks.

The totes I set up were complete, donate, put away, toss.  In each tote I placed items or notes for myself to deal with as soon as possible.  My goal was to take care of everything in the totes before going home that day (although some items stayed in the totes for a few days).  
But even if the tote wasn't cleaned out before I left for the day, having everything I needed to do together in one spot really helped me stay focused on getting my end of the year tasks complete.
By the way, if there was something in the tote I needed to complete outside of school, like getting gifts for the students, I took a picture with my phone to reference when I was out running errands.
This system really helped me get things accomplished before the last day of school.  And while I was  not able to walk out the door after our end of the year teacher luncheon, I had all my "have to's" finished and had a chance to work on some bigger organization projects.

One item in my complete tote was a summer review packet for our rising first graders.  I sent our new firsties (and a few of our rising second graders) a supply list and a review packet.  If you would like a FREE copy of this summer review packet with your students, click on the picture below.

Another to do before wrapping up for summer break was to get my students a fun little end of the year gift.  In the past I've given books, candy, sidewalk chalk, and framed pictures of the class.  Student gifts this year were bubble wands.  I really love sending my sweet students out the door with a small treat.
If you are thinking of sending bubbles with your students and need a label for them, click on the picture below.  I've linked an editable (and FREE) version of the labels I used.

Our sweet girl is totally ready for summer break too.  She will be in second grade.  Am I a bit choked up?...yes.  It is just crazy how quickly she is growing up.  D and I love seeing the person she is becoming, but that doesn't stop me from wanting slow down time.

The last days of the school year are super busy.  But, with a little organization, you can end the year with plenty of energy to enjoy the summer.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tips for Prepping and Organizing Partner Activities

If you were to visit my classroom, you would see lots of collaborative groups throughout the day.  I often like my students to work in pairs.  Since we do a good bit of training at the beginning of the year about how to work well with other students, most of the time partner work goes really well.
Working with a partner provides students with a chance to move away from their seats to work, which they love.  It provides them the opportunity to target talk about a specific skill, which I love.  And it seems to help the time move fairly quickly, which we all love.
Everyday my young learners work with partners during The Daily Five, during math centers, and during literacy centers.  Sometimes I like to put together partner activities we do as a whole group.   

Like anything else, setting up whole group partner activities requires some prep and organization on the front end.  But, once you put your materials together in a thoughtful way, you will always have that activity to use with future students.

Here is how I prep partner activities to use in a whole group setting...
First, I get a colorful set of markers.

I print half as many copies of the activity as I have students.  This year I have 22 students.  So, I print 11 copies of the matching activity that the students will complete.
After printing the activity cards, (and before I laminate or cut them) I mark on the back of each set with a different color of marker.

After I mark each set with a different color of markers, I laminate the pages.  
And yes, I laminate before I cut.  I do a lot of laminating and I do not have problems with the film peeling.  Cutting once saves me a ton of time.  (If you are cutting, laminating, and cutting again, you may want to experiment with your laminator to see if you can get away with laminating the whole page and cutting once.)

Cutting is the time consuming part.  Parent volunteers can be very helpful with this job, if you can get all your materials ready early enough to send them away for a few days.

After the activity cards are cut out, I sort them into stacks based on the marker color on the back.  This picture shows the fronts of the cards.

This is what the backs of the cards look like.  The reason I mark the cards with different colors is just in case some cards get left out, I know exactly which set they belong to.  

The last step in organizing the partner activity is to put each set of cards in a bag.  I use a large envelope to keep the cards together.  I also put in the printable recording sheet that goes along with the activity.
On the outside of the envelope, I write the name of the activity, specify that it is a partner set, and (if applicable) what packet the activity came from.

Like I said, prepping these partner activities does take a little time.  But, I love having these resources available to me.  Next year when we learn about the diphthongs AU and AW, I'll go to my literacy partner work tote, pull out this thick envelope of goodies and be ready to go.