Are you looking for ideas for your first week back in the classroom? I'm excited to share my top 5 "Must Do" back to school activities in this fun linky party with my friend Stephanie from Mrs. D's Corner!
Because I teach kindergarten, I think it is SUPER important to snap a first day pic of each kid.  These are always loved by parents especially if their morning was too crazy to take one of their own), and are perfect for the end of the year slideshow.  If I don't write it in my plans however, I always forget to do it.  And lets be real 99% of the time I take them in the last 10 minutes of the day as I panic that I forgot to fit them in during all the first day routine teaching, kid wrangling, parent comforting, crazy that is the first day of K.
One thing that helps is having a little sign printed ahead of time.  I made a few quick options for pre-k through fifth grade for you that you can print and use today, did I mention they're FREE.  Happy Back to School, check that off your to do list. ;)

While we're talking cute kid pictures...I also snap a picture of each kid for our birthday board.
I don't print anything special for these ones, I just write the number for each kids birthday day on a dry erase board, put a crown on them and hope I didn't miss anyone.  I make small prints of each photo and display them by month on our board.  It makes a cute display that's a little more personal than just writing down their names.  The kids love looking at their pictures and seeing which friends have birthdays close to theirs!

Okay so lets get into some actual teaching. Read alouds are a must the first few days because most kindergartners have sat and listened to a story before so thankfully I have attention for longer than 7 seconds.  One of my newer favorites is Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale. Clark is an excited little shark that zooms into school, crashing through the classroom, and acting wild at recess.  Luckily he has a great teacher that helps him contain his enthusiasm and get down to business. I use this book to introduce rules and I found this awesome freebie from Read with Me ABC. After reading the book we brainstorm rules the students think are important and then make them into a class book.  Check it out here:

My next favorite read aloud has been a staple for me since my first year teaching, and I am sure most of you already have this one in your plans, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  I usually do a ton with this book including a school tour, class book, a craft, and this awesome Venn Diagram activity I found from Erin at Eberhart's Explorers.  Head over to her blog to read more and grab it for FREE!

Last, I need to get down to business and start taking some formal and informal assessments of my students' abilities.  If you teach kindergarten, you know the never ending list of concepts you assess at the beginning of the year.  We are not lucky enough to have students come in before hand to get these done, and usually do not have anyone to help us with them so we have to get real creative with ways to fit them in while students are learning the first few weeks. One of the ways I get these assessments done is by using interactive emergent readers.  After introducing the first one, each book follows the same pattern so students easily adapt to the routine and know what to do.

With these readers students practice cutting/glueing:
Reading words/coloring:

Identifying letters:
And even get to sing a fun song while they learn!

These books are a great informal assessment of students fine motor skills and give me the chance to assess students one on one while they complete their books independently.

You can find my Interactive Alphabet Readers here:

Whoa, really? It's almost September?!?! If you are a little sad about summer ending and fall beginning, my friends from Teacher Deals and Dollar Steals and I are here to help you out with some retail therapy :)  We're sharing our favorite resources for September with you along with some great deals! Read on to find out more:

I wanted to share why I just LOVE my updated Kindergarten Math Centers.  Are you searching for a set of centers that you can use any time of year, without having to switch out apples for snowmen, hearts for butterflies, etc.?  If you don't want the hassle of keeping up with the ever changing seasons/themes in your classroom, then check out this set of math centers with year round themes to keep your kids engaged no matter what time of year you use them. The concepts included in my number sense set are perfect for those beginning of the year skills kindergartners are working on.

Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what's included and how these centers are organized.

First up there is a teacher info sheet and an "I Can" student sheet for every center.
Next up, the centers each have 2-3 differentiation options. These may be different sets of cards, game boards, dice, response sets etc.  I find this SUPER important so all kids in my class can get the most out of each center. Not every child is working at the same level, but with these centers you don't have to think about having separate centers for students above or below grade level.
 Lastly, there are math talk cards to help prompt students to talk about their learning, and rotation cards to post as a visual for your math block.

This pack features the following centers: 

• Mousey Memory Match (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5)
• Here Fishy Fishy (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5)
• Super Sticker Number Lines (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5)
• Roaring Roll & Write (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3)
• Sundae Sorting (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5)
• Climb to the Top (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5)
• Race to Trace (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3)
• Animal Actions (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5)
• Carnival Counting (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5)
• Buzzing Before & After (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.2, K.CC.A.3)
• Picnic Puzzles (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.2, K.CC.A.3)
• Order Up! (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3, K.CC.C.7)
• Monkey Mysteries (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.2, K.CC.A.3)
• Clever Comparisons (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3, K.CC.C.6, K.CC.C.7)
• Surfing Sort & Compare (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3, K.CC.C.7)
• Spiders Spin to Win (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.C.6, K.CC.C.7)
• Royal Numberland (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5)
• Dragon Dump (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5)
• Ninja Number Toss (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.A.3, K.CC.C.7)
• Build a Picture (K.CC.A.1, K.CC.B.4, K.CC.B.5) 

You can check the complete set out in my store here:

I am in the process of updating all of my centers to match this set and those will be available soon here.

Want to try them out? Check out this FREE Roaring Roll and Write Center.

Check out more great resources for September at Teacher Deals and Dollar Steals! 

So I must confess...I haven't cooked single meal this week... Hey I warned you last week that I don't cook remember? Lets be real, sometimes life is crazy and this week was one of those weeks.  So much on the to do list, a husband away at training, and the big WI blogger meet up this weekend means lots of take out around here for me and Miss Madelynn. But don't worry I still have a fun recipe to share with you!

Although I don't love cooking, I do love making cute pinteresty treats :)  I found this adorable idea from Make Bake Celebrate and knew it would be PERFECT for our blogger meet up this weekend. If you are looking for a treat to give your students, parents, coworkers or even your own kids' teachers, these are really easy I promise!!
 Its actually pretty simple, here is all you need:

 And it really didn't take long to make them at all! It actually took longer for me to package them up than to make them.

To package them up, I put them in clear bags with green paper crinkle and a little ribbon to dress them up fro Back to School. Hopefully you love them as much as I do!

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As you head back to school I wanted to share a quick little freebie and tip to help you keep track of parent communication.  My school district places a huge emphasis on making positive contacts with parents. I find it is so easy to lose track of all the day to day interactions with families, so I wanted to keep track of POSITIVE contacts only.  Any time I interact with parents to celebrate and tell them something awesome about their child I write it down.

There are always a few kids that I feel like I'm having so many not so fun conversations about (for behavior, academics, etc.) that they really really need to hear the positive.  I really do want parents to know how much I love and care for every one of my students regardless of the challenges.

Here is the spreadsheet I created to keep track of these POSITIVE contacts that I find quick and easy to use.
I keep it on a clipboard on my desk so I can quickly add the date and code for any interactions I had that day. I find it really holds me accountable and is a great reflection on my own teaching. Grab a copy for FREE here!

Check out all of the other awesome ideas for building relationships here:

Wow this summer is FLYING by! Here in Wisconsin, most teachers don't go back to school until September, but that doesn't mean we don't all start stressing thinking about back to school the second we flip our calendar over to August. I'm here to share some tips and ideas for back to school/meet the teacher/open house or whatever you may call it at your school.

Tip #1 - Snacks!

I don't know about you, but we do NOT have air conditioning in our school. Which means cramming 20 ish students and their families into my classroom in late August = one hot mess! Cooling everyone down with some beverages and filling the kiddos up with sugar usually breaks the ice and puts a smile on all of our faces.

Tip #2 - Labeled bins for student supplies
If you are lucky enough to have students bring supplies before the first day of school I recommend having a place for students to drop off any shared items.  My kiddos share most supplies in the classroom so its so much easier just to have them drop them in one place so there aren't piles all over the room. I usually store them in the drawers and cupboards you see below so having them presorted into boxes saves me TONS of time! As an added time saver I will usually ask parents to take glue sticks, pencils, dry erase markers, etc. out of the packaging so I don't have to waste time doing it later.

Tip #3 - Information, handouts and treats at students' seats
Being a kindergarten teacher, I usually have a short presentation at our Welcome Back Night because for many students/parents this is their first time at our school.  As parents enter, they find this packet at their child's spot which gives them instructions for what to do. After everyone leaves I can easily see which families I haven't connected with yet because their packets will be left at their spots. And of course I can't resist sending the kids home with a little treat ;)

Tip #4 - Have a plan!
Okay, so I know some schools/teachers prefer to have a laid back, informal, drop in and say hi kind of welcome back night, which is GREAT! You are building relationships which is SOOO important. I've tried that before, but that's just not my style. Here is usually how that goes for me...kindergarten parents enter my room looking like a deer in the headlights or they start bombarding me with 7,236 questions. The students, and usually a few smaller siblings, find every fun item in the room. They smush play dough in the carpet, color on the walls, take out 34 books and put them back in random baskets, and otherwise give this OCD teacher a heart attack. (okay so maybe its not that bad, but it's kind of my nightmare...)

So here is my plan: answer questions before they're asked, have parents fill out important forms before they forget, get their help with organizing and keep the kids busy and they won't drive you cuh-razy before the school year even officially starts.

If you need help getting ready for your school’s Meet the Teacher, Open House, Back to School or Welcome Back Night, I have a Back to School Night Pack full of resources to keep you organized and prepared to kick your year off successfully.

Here is what is included: 

• Signs for Welcome, sign in, refreshments, supply drop off, and form turn in
• EDITABLE Signs for your additional needs
• Sign in and Transportation Forms
• Welcome Night Agenda (if you plan to give a formal presentation)
• Welcome Night Checklist (if you plan to have an informal drop in night)
• EDITABLE versions of both the agenda and checklist
• Student Information forms
• Parent Volunteer Forms
• 3 Coloring Page Options to keep little ones busy
• 7 Treat Topper Options for Kindergarten-5th Grade
• 12 Parent Guides to the Common Core organized by grade level for ELA and Math
• Meet the Teacher Sample Letter
• EDITABLE Meet the Teacher Letter
• 12 Supply Bin Labels
• EDITABLE Supply Bin Labels
• Sample Parent Presentation Powerpoint
• EDITABLE Parent Presentation Powerpoint

Do you have a welcome back night before school starts? Are you ready, excited or terrified for the start of the year?

Hopefully these tips will help you get off on the right foot and have an amazing start to the school year.

Hi friends. I'm linking up with Angie and Ashley this month to bring you ideas for your Bulletin Boards.  Now I know there are so many adorable boards out there for displaying student work, but I wanted to bring you something a little different.  I like my bulletin boards to be functional {and cute too} so today I want to talk about how I use my bulletin boards for student goal setting.  

I know many people use and LOVE the CAFE for reading which started me off on this bulletin board goal setting journey.  I used CAFE for 2 years and kept thinking there had to be something out there that was similar for writing and math, but just couldn't find anything I loved.  So I decided to create my own VOICES menu for writing and COUNT menu for math. Here is a quick peek at what the wall where I display these goals looks like at the beginning of the year. (Excuse the disaster, this was taken as I was frantically trying to get everything done for back to school night because that door was being put in over the summer and was finished just a few hours before parents arrived!)
So if you are familiar with the CAFE menu, you know that there are cards that have goals on them that students will choose from (with teacher guidance.) I created a menu and goal cards for math which I call "COUNT."  The letters stand for:

Counting and Cardinality
Operations and Algebraic Thinking
Understanding Geometry
Numbers and Operations in Base ten/Fractions
Thinking about Measurement and Data

Underneath each header are goal cards based on the Common Core Standards for K-3. Student names are displayed on post its next to their goal and can easily be changed as students meet and change their goal.  (To see how I have students set their own goals in kindergarten, check out my post here)
 I also created a menu for writing called "VOICES" I have seen several different versions of this type off menu out there but wanted to create my own based on the Lucy Calkins writing rubrics, and the common core standards that we used.  Here is a glimpse of my board during the first week of school.
And again student names are posted next to their current goal using post its.  This makes it easy for me and students to reference .
It is hard to tell from these pictures, but all three boards (CAFE, COUNT, and VOICES are posted behind my small group table so they are easy to see and reference as I am teaching.  I pull small groups of students with the same or similar goals so we always discuss our goal at the beginning of our small group work.

These personalized goals really make learning more meaningful to students because they feel ownership in what they are working towards and it is specific to their needs. Making even the youngest students a part of goal setting has been a powerful tool in accelerating learning and increasing motivation/engagement in my classroom, I hope you find the same to be true for your students! 
If you would like any of these menus you can find them here:

Thanks for checking them out and be sure to see all of the other great ideas linked up here:

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