Setting Up Your Classroom Writing Station

Hi Friends!
Today I want to share with you how I set up the writing station that my students utilize during 
reading workshop. Before I get started, I want to be clear about what the writing station is NOT.
My writing station is NOT a replacement for the shared writing and interactive writing that's taking place in your classroom.
And it's definitely NOT meant to replace your Writing Workshop. 

As educators, it's so important that we provide our students with many opportunities to write. My class wasn't lacking opportunities to write, but I felt that they didn't have enough choice. 
Shared and interactive writing are integral parts of the primary classroom but they aren't always student driven. Writing Workshop provides a little bit more choice but only within the unit of study. For example, in kindergarten we spend the first half of the year working on narrative writing. My students just weren't getting opportunities to explore different types of writing.  

I decided to create a writing station to provide choice and encourage creativity during our reading block. The writing station quickly became a staple in our classroom and has remained a favorite over the years. Here is a quick video that will give you an up close look at how I set it up.

The vocabulary cards are attached to ribbon using clothespins, which makes it easy for students to take words on and off. I've stored my writing paper two different ways. The sterilite 3 drawer bins (seen in the video) are perfect to use if you have a table or shelf nearby. In my new classroom, I didn't have any extra bookshelves so I purchased the yellow drawers and shelf (from Ikea) that can be seen in the first picture of this blog post. These have been working great and add a little pop of color to my room too! :) I also like to have lots of different writing tools available at the writing station. Students can use pencils, markers, crayons, or colored pencils. It's also helpful to have the alphabet or an alphabet chart nearby for students to reference.

During our reading block, students engage in literacy stations while I teach guided reading groups. I set it up so that students visit the writing station 2-3 times a week. Students are encouraged to work on any type of writing they would like. The only rule is that they have to be working! 

At the beginning of the year, I introduce the writing station slowly. I begin by teaching mini lessons on how the writing station works. It's important that students know the expectations from the beginning. Take time to explicitly teach where the papers are located, how to put the lids back on the markers, how to remove vocabulary cards, how to clean everything up, etc. I also check the writing station (along with all the others) to make sure that students are cleaning up. If they aren't, they go back and try again until they do it right. I've learned that when I spend the time teaching these expectations and following through with them, the rest of the year goes smoothly. :)

After teaching expectations,  I introduce the list paper.

At the beginning, students often choose the same words that are on the list display poster, but as they become more confident, they choose different pictures and vocabulary. Students feel successful and can remember what they wrote because their pictures match their words.

After a few opportunities practicing list writing, I introduce the story paper.

We learn that we all have stories to tell and that we can tell them using pictures and words (which supports what we are working on in writing workshop). At the beginning of the year, I mostly see pictures and strands of letters. It's OKAY, this is developmentally appropriate. I love being able to see their writing progress as the year goes on!  

The next writing that I introduce to my students is the labeling paper.

Labeling is such an important part of beginning writing and students LOVE having the opportunity to label different pictures. At the beginning of the year I display the labeling poster that has the words. Over time, I begin to display the blank labeling poster that is included in each writing pack. This is more challenging and requires students to either label it independently OR fill it in after they find the matching vocabulary card.

One of my student's favorite choices at the writing station is the recipe cards.

 The recipe cards help my students think about providing information in a sequential order. During the second half of the year, one of our writing workshop units is informational writing. We spend time writing "teaching" or how-to stories. The recipe cards help prepare students for writing "teaching" stories because they've already had practice thinking about the steps in creating something. In fact, some students go on to make their very own cook books!!

The last type of writing that I have available at the writing station is writing letters.

Students LOVE writing letters to their families, friends,  and of course their teacher. In fact, writing letters has a been a great way for students to communicate with me. I get letters telling me about what they did last night, what they like about school and of course how much they love their dear old teacher.  ;)

These writing stations are currently available on TPT in a year long bundle. All months are also available to purchase separately.   Click the picture below to see this pack on TPT.

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading about my writing station set up! I'd love to hear how you create opportunities for writing in your classroom! 

Classroom Cornucopia

Do you celebrate Friendsgiving? This year I am having a virtual Thanksgiving Potluck with some of my teacher besties! We have so much to be thankful for, and we wanted share our blessing with you!
We created a FREE Classroom Cornucopia of our best selling resources! These are some of our favorite classroom creations that can be used throughout the year. Here's a taste of everything we shared in our Cornucopia...

Emily from Polka Dots Please shared a Tooth Word Bank that can be used for writing folders, anchor charts, or a creative writing center. There are pictures to match every word so little writers feel inspired and supported! (This is a BONUS word bank that is not included in the original set!)

Alisha from Missing Tooth Grins shared Winter Main Idea Passages. These main idea passages are designed for the winter months and help your students understand and practice telling the main idea and supporting details from a short passage. They are consistent, easy to use, and require no prep!

Jessica from Mrs. Stanford's Class shared Post It Note Reminders! These easy to use sticky note reminders are a great way to keep notes home consistent in your classroom. All you need to do is print the template, stick the post its, and print again. Have them stocked up in your drawer for your next writing checklist! Parents and students will love the consistency these checklists can bring to your classroom! Teachers will love the convenience! 

Katie from Simply Creative Teaching shared Place Value Exit Slips from her Math Exit Slips for every Common Core math standard! You can grab exit slips for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade! They are designed to be completed in 5 minutes or less and there are 4 to a page for quick and easy printing. 
Kelly from Sweet Sounds of Kindergarten shared Kindergarten Reading Comprehension Stories that are so much fun for emergent readers! Students read a text with CVC words and sight words while using the tracking dots to point to the words as they read. Students color a star or symbol at the top of the page each time they read. Four comprehension questions are included (multiple choice and fill in the blank). Additional practice is included on the bottom of the page with CVC words or seasonal vocabulary.

Diane from One Giggle At a Time shared her best selling Joke of the Day Set! It's her favorite part of every school day, and it has been rated by her firsties on the Top Ten List of Bests in her classroom for years! Every day of the school year, her class starts the day with a joke, a fact, and a question to ponder together. It is a great way to join together to share some giggles, some deep thinking, and a little each other. Joke of The Day set includes daily cards that can be printed out or a Smartboard version that can be displayed on the screen each morning as the students come in. 

Amber from A Smiling Teacher shared Editable Sight Word Lists! 
They make it easy for teachers to differentiate sight word and spelling practice while giving your students choice! The pack includes 15 word work activities that require little to no prep and can be used with any spelling or sight word list! Students loves the variety of choices and teachers love that students are working on words that are just right for them! EDITABLE word lists are included and make it easy to personalize learning! 

Elyse from A is for Apples shared differentiated reading logs! They are the perfect way to hold students and parents accountable for reading at home while also making it fun! Students color in a picture every time they read a book, and you can choose from over 20 recording pages to meet the needs of all your learners!

Gina from Teaching with Heart shared Work on Writing. You can easily create ENGAGING and MEANINGFUL writing center activities for your kindergarteners or first graders! The pack includes lots of activities so you and differentiate and scaffold to meet the needs of your students!

We are so thankful this year and happy to share our Classroom Cornucopia with you! You can download the whole 43 page pack here or click on the picture below! Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

*Surprise* Role Models- an EASY Classroom Management Strategy that Works!

Hi Friends!
I'm so excited to share a classroom management strategy that has been successful in my classroom for years! I LOVE learning new tips and tricks when it comes to classroom management because you never know when you're going to need to change it up! It's good to have an abundance of management ideas so that you can whip out a new idea when you are no longer getting the response you are looking for!  One of the most important things to remember is that your class is going to be different every year. A strategy that worked really well one year, may do absolutely nothing for your current class. Don't be afraid to mix it up and try something new!

A classroom management strategy that has worked well in my classroom every year is

I know, I know! It's hard hold back all of your excitement, but hear me out.
A surprise role model is a student that is making good choices, being a role model for others, AND does these things when they think the teacher isn't looking!!

This strategy can be used in any situation at school. I use it during transitions, when I'm teaching whole group or small group, and while my students are at stations. One of my favorite ways to use this is when we are walking in the halls. I may say, "I'm going to be looking for a surprise role model on our way to lunch". Once we get to our destination I'll tell students who the surprise role model is and let them wear the lanyard. I don't always announce when I'm looking for a surprise role model though because I want to catch students making great choices when they don't even know I'm looking. After all we want to encourage our students to make good choices ALL of the time.

You can grab these tags to make your own lanyards for FREE in my TPT store.
Click on the image below!

Of course, it's important to tell students why they became a surprise role model. I like to explain to the entire class what that student was doing to become a surprise role model. Of course, after that we celebrate with a round of applause!  For example, "I really liked the way Corbin held the door for our entire class without anyone even asking him!" And then we would cheer for Corbin!

Families love hearing that their child was a surprise role model too!
These certificates encourage families to ask their child what they did to become a surprise role model at school. These are a great way to build positive relationships between school and home and encourage communication between students and families!

You can grab these certificates for FREE in my TPT store by clicking the image above!

Hop on over to Teaching with Heart and Polka Dots Please for more classroom management ideas! Click the image below!

Have the best week!!

Why I choose Bloomz...and YOU should too!

Hi Friends!
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Today I'm sharing all about how I use the Bloomz app to communicate with families in my classroom. In the past, I've used the Remind app, but it didn't have all the features that I needed to make communicating as easy as possible!
This past school year I decided to try out Bloomz and I LOVED it!!

Bloomz is a FREE communication app that allows you to safely communicate with families!
Bloomz is simple to set up and requires no exchange of phone numbers! 
 It's so much more than a messaging app though! Check out all it can do!

Bloomz is 100% safe to use. 
There is NO exchange of phone numbers. 
Families just download the app and type in the class code to get started.

I love that I am able to communicate with families quickly. I can send a message to just one family OR the entire class. When parents send me a message, I get an alert on my phone from Bloomz, like a text message. Parents can turn on notifications so they are alerted when you send them a message or make a post. 

 I use the Post feature most often. I use this to post every day updates and photos of what's going on in the classroom! Families LOVE to see their children's experiences at school! It also gives families a talking point at home. We know that when families ask their children "What did you do at school today?" that the majority respond with "Nothing". When families see the learning that is taking place or the pictures from recess, they can ask their child more targeted questions about their day! Parents can "like" and comment on these posts too! Of course, you can turn the comments off if you aren't comfortable with that. You can also schedule the post for a certain date and time too!

Perhaps you want to attach a form or classroom newsletter to your post, you can do that too!
Families can also use the post feature!
 We went on our field trip to the zoo this year, and parents took pictures of their groups of kids and posted them so that every one could see! Isn't that awesome?! Have I sold you yet?! 
Keep reading...I can promise you it gets BETTER! 

I can also post Alerts or Announcements in Bloomz. An example of an announcement might be "Please remember to send in your permission slip for the field trip by Friday!" You can also pin it to the top of the feed for a period of time. In looking at that announcement, I would set it up  to be pinned to the top through Friday, so that families see it over and over!

You can also post Alerts in Bloomz. An alert will notify families immediately. An example of an alert might be, "We are on a 2-hour delay due to the hazardous weather conditions!" An alert is used to communicate *urgent messages!

My absolute favorite feature of Bloomz is that parents can communicate with one another on their own!! They can send each other messages!! (if you aren't comfortable with this or it becomes a problem, you can turn it OFF!) You will not see these messages either!  This means that when a child goes home and tells their family about their new best friend, the parent can send a private message to that child's family to set up play dates, etc.
This is a really BIG deal (especially in Kindergarten)!! 

You can also create Events with the Bloomz app. Perhaps your school is holding a Book Fair, or a Craft Show and you want families to have it on their calendar. Just create an event and you can add it to the calendar! There are many options to use within Events. You can require an RSVP,  ask for volunteers or items to be donated. Families can RSVP, sign up to volunteer or sign up to bring supplies for the event all in the Bloomz App!

The Volunteer feature is a great way to get families involved in the classroom. I use this when I need help with classroom parties. You can request items or volunteers, and it generates slots for families to sign up. Another way to use the Volunteer feature is by titling it "Supplies Needed" and asking for items that you need in the classroom. Families are often happy to help, and this is a great way to ask for supplies without making any one feel obligated. Families can sign up if they would 
like to donate, or pass. 

Another great feature of Bloomz is that you can set up Parent-Teacher Conferences! And by set up, I mean that Bloomz does all the work for you! You just select the days for  conferences and pick a start time and end time. You can adjust the time slot duration to reflect how long your conferences last. You can even put a break in for a meal or a potty break! How awesome right?! 
Once you set this up, families will be notified that conferences are posted. They can click right on it and sign up for available times. Conferences are set on a first-come, first-served basis. I was blown away that the majority of my conferences were scheduled within just hours of posting this!

So now you're probably wondering how you get started! It's a super easy, and speedy quick process. 
First you are going to click the image below! 

It's going to take you to the Bloomz site, and you'll need to choose Join Bloomz

After selecting to join, you'll need to select your role. 

Then you'll fill in your information and select Sign Up

Next,  you'll have some tasks to complete. First, you'll want to download the app to your phone. Just click on the words and it will show you what to do! Second, verify your email. Third, take a quick  tour. I recommend doing this so that you can see the format and learn a little more about the features! 

The Fourth step on this page is Create a Class. Once you click on this, you'll be able to add your school, (if it's not already on there!) name your class, and allow or disable the parent messaging feature. 

Once you have your class created, it's time to invite parents. There are 3 different ways to invite families. Choose whichever works best for you. I use the class access code. 

If your school has a "Back to School" night or  a "Curriculum Night" I would recommend getting parents to sign up right then and there. You can have the access code displayed somewhere in the classroom. All parents would have to do is download the app and type in the code to join your class!! 

Of course families aren't always able to attend those school events, so you can easily print step by step directions and send them home with their child!

I hope that this post was helpful to you in learning more about Bloomz and setting it up! If you have any questions,  or want to know more about Bloomz put it in the comments below!
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Have a fabulous day! :) 

Back to School Gift Tag FREEBIE

Hi Friends!! 
Thanks so much for stopping by.
 I can't believe summer is coming to an end! 
I know some of you still have many weeks before you head back into the classroom, (so if that's you, save this for later) but if you are like me and some of my other teacher friends,
your summer is coming to a close.
Back to School is one of the most exciting times of the year!

But before you head back into the classroom, you need make sure that you are prepared! 

 I mean once the "Back to School" rush hits, we're lucky to make it home by 7 P.M. 
And lets just be honest, once we make it home we usually collapse on the couch. 
We're lucky if we remember to eat lunch (oh wait, that's not true!)...
what I really mean is that sometimes we're too busy to eat lunch! 
We have black circles under our eyes until November.
We lose our voices,  and
we're a tiny bit cranky because we're sleep deprived.

Back to School is the BEST! 
Is it a bit stressful? 
Are we basically walking zombies?
Is it all worth it?
You bet! 

No surprise that the new crayons and perfectly sharpened pencils get me super
pumped up for the school year!   

I mean look at those colorful things! 
How can you not get excited about new crayons?!
(and no judgement if you secretly like the smell of a freshly opened box!)

Of course I have admit that my favorite part of Back to School is
reconnecting with past students
 meeting my new 5 year olds!

They're  excited! 
I'm so excited!
We're all excited!
Really, we have the BEST jobs in the world.
I mean how lucky am I that I get to hang out
with 5 year olds all day?!
It doesn't get better than that!

Since we're all excited, lets keep it going! 
MR. SKETCH MARKERS (aka smelly markers)!!
We all LOVE them!
Wouldn't it be fun if we gave all of our students their very own to take home?!
Or to use in the classroom?!
Umm yes, we should totally do that! 

You can grab these FREE tags in my TPT store. They are editable too, so you can add your teacher name at the bottom! Click on the image below to grab them now!

I hope that these FREE tags will help make your Back to School time less stressful and MORE  enjoyable! Don't forget to take time for yourself!
 You deserve it and your students deserve the best version of you!
Oh and can someone please remind me of this in about 3 weeks?!
Thanks :)
Enjoy your last weeks of summer and get ready for the best school year yet!