G.R.O.W. Binders!

 I have tried a lot of new things this year, but something that has really gone well so far is the G.R.O.W. Binder.  G.R.O.W. stands for "Getting Ready and Organized Weekly, and it goes perfectly with my classroom theme of the garden and growth and what not. :-)  Each of my students has a binder that they take home with them each night, and they are expected to bring it back with them each day.  We have been in school for 20 days now, and not one single student has forgotten their binder.  Not one.  How awesome is that?  I always have one or two students who habitually forget their folders, but the binders always come back.  They LOVE them.

They love them so much that, when I told one of my students that I was going to replace her binder with a folder if she didn't take better care of it, she said "No!  Folders are weak!  Binders are cool!"  Woot!

I did send home a letter at the beginning of the year explaining what the binder is and why we were using it.  The parent and student had to sign saying they would take care of the binders, and while I can't outright tell them it is their responsibility to replace lost or destroyed binders, I let them know that I wouldn't be.  If they didn't sign the letter, they didn't get a binder.  Some of my students didn't get a binder for a few days after the first group of students, because they didn't turn in their paper.  Seeing their friends get binders definitely helped them remember to get this paper signed!

I purchased the majority of my binders at Office Depot when they were $1 each.  I also purchased the dividers and the binder pockets.  The dividers were 25 cents each at Staples (I used 2 per student) and the binder pockets were $1 at Walmart, though you may be able to find more on clearance right now or ask the parents to send them in!

So, I know what you are wondering: what goes inside a binder?

Well, I took some ideas from other bloggers and created a binder that meets the needs of me and my students.  On the outside, they have a cover page that they were allowed to color and make their own.  Their name is on the front of their binder.

Behind that is the 3 hole punch pocket.  Some of my students keep pencils for their homework in there, which is fine with me, though it's real purpose is to hold money (lunch money, etc... and small notes.)  As I mentioned before, these were $1 at Walmart.  They have 3 colors, so I let the students chose the color they wanted.  The colors are pink, blue, and black.  And I believe they have them year round, because they are in the office supplies section.
Then, right inside the binder are directions on how to use the G.R.O.W. Binder.  This is on the front, and there are rules on the back about how to take care of their binder.


Then behind the rules for the binder are "Homework Helpers"- these are different "helpers" that the students can keep in their binder to help them with homework, practice at home, etc...  These are behind one of the two tabs that are in the binder.

So far, I have a 120 chart, a list of word wall words they should already know (pre-primer and primer Dolch words), a paper about why they can't skip their reading, and a copy of the alphabet Phonics Dance.  The "Why Can't I Skip My 20 Minutes of Reading Tonight" and the Phonics Dance are not mine, so I cannot send them to you.  I don't remember where the reading sheet came from, but the Phonics Dance is an AWESOME program.  You can check it out here.  I made the sheet to go home with the students so that they could practice the dance at home.  There is also a Hunk and Chunk dance that I will send home later in the year once we finish blends and word families.  Other things I intend to put in this area include:
  • List of sight words we've already learned (I update this every 2 months or so)
  • Blends chart
  • Hunk and Chunk Phonics Dance 
  • Maybe something with addition or subtraction facts (I haven't decided yet!)


Behind that is the student's folder.  I don't have a picture of this, because I'm sure you know what a folder looks like. :-)  Inside the folder, I keep their weekly behavior sheet and their reading log.  This is where papers go home as well.  The students are expected to read every night, and I add Saturday/Sunday just in case they read over the weekend as well.  I expect that they only write down one of the books they read.  Then they need to choose one of the books they read that week and write a small book report about it.  I collect these on Monday, as their weekly behavior sheet is on the back of this reading log.  

Behind the folder is the Homework Tab.  This is where their homework packet and word wall homework notebook is kept.  

I use a homework packet each week.  I love the packet because it allows the students to be flexible about when they do their work, and it allows me to keep their work together and collect it at once.  I KNOW I can't collect homework every day- I'd go crazy with all those papers everywhere!  So the students turn in their homework on Fridays.  Period.

The packet has a cover page that explains what their homework is each night.  It also has their word wall words to practice for that week.  We give our students 10 words (I've always given only 5 in the past, but this was a compromise).  5 of the words are new words- words that are from the First Grade Dolch List or other words they don't know yet.  5 of the words are review words- these are words they learned in Kindergarten (right now) and will later evolve into a review of words they are struggling with.  

I also started something new, inspired by a post Erica Bohrer made a few months back about spelling homework in a notebook.  Each student has a 1 subject notebook behind their homework packet.  It lives in their binder.  Instead of copying pages to staple into their homework packet, which is a horrible waste of paper, the students have a notebook that they use for practicing their words.  It saves me 4 pages a week per student, which makes this teacher VERY happy.  That's 80 pages per week!

We have a schedule for our word wall homework.  The students have 1 activity to do each night.  On the first night (Monday), the students write their word wall words 5 times each.  On the second night (Tuesday, usually), the students write each of their words in a sentence.  Then the other two nights a week (on a normal week), they get to choose an activity to compete.
I created a page to add to their Homework Helpers section of their binder.  The front explains how to write their words 5 times each and do their sentences.  The back shows the students how to do each of the activities they can choose from.  I wish it were a little less busy, but this is actually better than my first attempt (which I fixed before sending home!)  I was trying to keep this to one page, front and back.  And the students seem to understand what to do now.  This page shows the students how each activity should look.  I also went through their notebooks the first few weeks and wrote notes about what they were doing right and what they still needed to work on. :-)

I keep forgetting to get the ribbon I bought this weekend to school with me, but I have every intention of placing a piece of ribbon in their notebook so they can keep track of where they are.  Or I'll use binder clips to close the part they've already completed.  Then they will be able to flip to the next page and complete their homework.  And I will be able to find it easier.  We all know how important that is with our jam packed days and limited free time!  

 I have combined some of the resources for setting up your own G.R.O.W. Binder into a PDF file and uploaded it to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  There are 10 pages in the file.  It includes the cover sheet, a spine cover page, the "How to Care for your G.R.O.W. Binder sheet, "How to Use Your G.R.O.W. Binder" sheet, a letter for parents to sign and return that explains the binder, a copy of my Weekly Homework sheet, a copy of my Word Wall Homework page (that goes on the back of the Weekly Homework sheet), the Weekly Reading Log, and the 2 pages that explain how homework in the Word Wall Notebook works.  I hope that somebody is able to use at least some of these resources!

Did I mention it is FREE? :-)

If you download, please leave feedback!  It is greatly appreciated!

Also, a reminder that all of my Visual "I Can" Statements are on sale through Friday!  I wrote a post about them here.  

We're finally over the hump of this full moon week!  I can't wait until Friday!  Have a wonderful week!

Visual "I Can" Statements

I don't know if I have mentioned how beyond excited I am about my newest product.

I am BEYOND excited.



(How many synonyms do you think I can come up with for this?  Um, a LOT.  I'll stop now.)

I don't know about you, but I am TERRIBLE about updating my objectives each day/week.  We are required to post "I Can" Statements each week, but I forget sometimes.  Ok, all the time.  It's just one of those things that I don't find as important because I actually tell my students what we are learning that day before I start the lesson, so I don't think it's as important to post my "I Can" statements as it is to have a well planned lesson that meets the appropriate standards, is rigorous, differentiated, and the materials are all copied and ready so there is NO downtime.  So yes, I always have "I Can" statements posted, but bottom line:  I could do better.  Definitely.

So I created something that I knew I would be excited about, and something that I knew that I would be excited to switch out each week because I worked so hard on them.  Enter: Visual "I Can" Statements.

Basically, I took all of the first grade standards in each subject area, unpacked them so that each standard was broken down, and wrote "I Can" statements for them in kid language.  Then I added a picture to each of the "I Can" Statements that matches the standard that is targeted.  It makes it easier to see what meeting that standard actually means.  The standard number itself is written in the bottom corner of  the poster so that I can keep track of which standard I am meeting.  It also helps me to keep them organized, because I organized them by subject and then by strand.
I have created "I Can" statements for the ELA standards and the Math standards.  Science "I Can" statements for the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as Social Studies standards, are in the works!

My plan is to post these in my classroom, of course, so that my students have access to the standards we are working on and they will know what they are learning that day.  I also started putting "I Can" statements with my literacy centers last year, so I thought it might not be a bad idea to print these off 2 to a page and laminate them.  Then I can put the "I Can" statement with the activity they are doing for literacy centers.  I can also add them to my math tubs.  I think that is a lot better than just typing up the standard and tacking it on the activity!  I will definitely share when I get this done!  

In the Math Standards pack, there are 44 "I Can" statements.  Some of the standards have more than 1 "I Can" statement to go with them.  
Here are a few sample Math posters:

In the ELA Standards, there are 94 "I Can" Statements.  I have standards for Language, Reading Foundational, Reading Informational, Reading Literature, and Writing.   

Both the Math and the ELA standards are available on their own, but I am also offering them as a bundle.  Right now, both the Math and ELA Standards bundle saves you $1.  I am also planning on adding the other subjects to this bundle as well.  Just a heads up. :-)

Here is a little preview of the science and social studies standards:
Social Studies:

Have I mentioned how unbelievably excited I am?  No? Well, I can't wait to get these all finished!  I love hanging up my "I Can" statements now that they are so cute.  I love that they are cute but help my students and I stay focused on what we are learning each day.

This is my new favorite part of my room. :-)  I look over there multiple times per day and get excited over how cute they look.  Wow, I am a nerd, and now you all know it!
Yes, I like my things color coded.

Anyway, I really hate making my blog posts a "commercial" for something.  I had every intention of combining this post with some cute magnets I made for hanging up my "I Can" statement posters.  However, I forgot to take the magnets to school yesterday to hang them up.  I brought them to school today, and I hung them up, but I forgot to take pictures!  Does anybody else do this?  I have to go back to Hobby Lobby tomorrow anyway to get more magnets because I forgot that I had more than 1 "I Can" statement for some of the subjects.  Duh.  So I will take some pictures and share them with you soon, I promise!

The real reason I made this post (if you have read this far down!) is to tell you that I put my Visual "I Can" Statements on sale until Friday!  I have them marked down 20% off.  Click on the banner to go to my store, or click on the preview pictures or the cover page above to go to the individual items in my store.

How do you post your objectives?  Do you post daily or weekly objectives?  Does your school require that you do it, or do you choose to have them posted?

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week, full moon or no full moon!

A Few Quick Tips for Back to School

So the other day, I mentioned that I had more things I wanted to blog about, but I didn't want to bore you all to death with minute details about my school day and projects I've been working on.  So I split my post into a few posts.  This is post 2.  I have felt very overwhelmed with having 2 new teammates who are new to the grade level- we've had to make grade level decisions, and we have very little time to do that!  But we're getting it together!  Thank goodness most of the big decisions have been made!

I said I would show you the G.R.O.W. Binder, so here it is.  G.R.O.W. stands for Getting Ready (and) Organized Weekly.  It's not the best, but I like that it's a grow binder because our classroom theme is a garden and growing and what not, and also because they are "growing" into big kids now.  Big kids get binders.  The cover page makes me want to pull out my colored pencils and color it.  I have had a very hard time resisting. I love KPM Doodles.

I'll do a post on my binder, how I do homework, our weekly behavior chart, etc... one of these days here soon.  I have a whole bunch of pictures, and I'm sure it would include some freebies!  :-)

Anyway... onto the fun stuff!

I  decided to color code my pencils this year!  I got so tired of evenly distributing pencils to each table, just for a student to say "I don't have a pencil!" Then I look at another table and they have 20!  So each pencil has a piece of tape around it that matches the table color.  The "extra" pencils have white tape around them so I know they are extra, pre-sharpened pencils.  I also got some colored erasers from the Dollar Tree, and I put them in the corresponding bin.   No more lost erasers either!  I got the tape at Target in the hardware section.  Though you could probably use washi tape if you wanted to be really cute, this was cheaper!  This is more like electrical tape.  So far, so good!  The pencils have stayed in their bins at their own tables!  Can I get an AMEN?!

I also mentioned that I moved to a clip chart behavior system this year.  So far, I am in LOVE.  To help motivate my students to make good choices, and to keep them excited about moving up their clip, I created these "fancy clips" that I use when it's not appropriate to move up their clip, such as when we're in the hallway, at the bathroom, in special area, or if I'm in the middle of teaching something super important.  They love the "fancy clips"- and it was just a great excuse to buy some washi tape!  But they really work great.  All I have to do is put my hand in that apron pocket, and they all straighten up!  If they're really out of control, I just pull one out and look at it!  I don't have to say a word!  Best motivator ever- and it's a closepin!  I have a few more different kinds of washi tape and I'm going to make a few more.  10 clips aren't enough, apparently!  :-)  

I am beyond thrilled to have this up in my classroom!  I am admittedly horrible at changing my I Can Statements- no joke.  It's just not my thing.  The last two years, I wrote them on sentence strips and they would fall off the board when it got too hot or cold.  Drove me crazy!  I was constantly picking them up and hanging them back up.  So I decided to make something that I thought I might actually use.

I have already gotten compliments on my standards from the other teachers in my school, and the first grade assistant suggested putting the paper behind them to make them stand out. What a great idea!  I don't have time to color them all, and I can't afford to have them all printed in color!  Technically this isn't up permanently- our laminator at school is out of laminating film, so I am waiting for the laminator to be ready so I can laminate my subject signs and the colored paper. Chomping at the bit here, I swear.  Too excited!

I created "I Can" statements with a visual example of the standard.  Only the ELA and Math Standards are finished, but I'm working on Science and Social Studies "I Can" statements.  Writing is included in ELA.  I also have a bundle of the ELA and Math Standards.  I LOVE them!  I worked so hard on them, and I am so excited to use them and change them out each week!   You can find them in my TPT Store.


I have so many pictures of our first few weeks, and some other things I want to blog about, but this post is long enough and it's getting late!  Since I hit my head, I have been SO SLEEPY.  So I want to go to bed!  I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week, even if Friday is Friday the 13th!

Going Back to School!- A post full of randomness!

Whew!  We've been back to school for 12 days, and boy has it been jam packed!  Between getting the students to learn the routines and procedures, the Reading/Math/Classroom Management/Growth Plans finished, and sending home and sorting through all the beginning of the year information, I've been super busy and super tired!

My teammate made this for our Back to School Social!  Too cute!

Let me just say, this is one of the toughest classes I've had in awhile!  My toughest was my first year teaching, when I taught Kindergarten.  There were some tough students in that bunch!  And while I've had my one or two tough students each year, this year's class is just ... different.  Tough.  Let me just say I'm already tired of hearing 'I want my mommy' when someone gets in trouble. I've walked 2 students out to their cars to chat with their parents, and called 3 more.  Calling parents is an absolute last resort for me, but our clip chart says red is "parent contact" so I have to follow through!  And with being able to move your clip back up, there is no reason you should end up on red!  They overall are immature and impulsive.  We've got it under control, but I'm giving a LOT of reminders and trying every positive trick I know!

So I am actually thrilled that I made a change in my behavior system. After reading an e-book by Rick Morris, I got to thinking.  And I decided I wanted to try this positive behavior system in my own classroom. So I created a clip chart for my classroom, shared it with my new first grade teammates, and created a version for each of their classrooms. :-)  I really love it so far!  I love being able to "threaten" them with moving their clip UP instead of down!  It's awesome saying "I have clips I want to give out!" and then clipping a pretty clip to an awesome child's shirt.  And they love it too!  For this being a new routine for both them and me, we're doing pretty well so far!  If they get to move their clip up, I can give them a pretty clip I covered with washi tape.  I wear an apron and I have them in my pocket.  During transition periods, they can walk over and move their clip up.  Then they bring me back the pretty clip and I save it for another awesome student!

For the students who move their clip down, they have to go complete a "Think About It" sheet at their seat.  It's a simple half a sheet where they write why they moved their clip down and what they will do better next time.  It helps me keep track of why they moved their clip and helps hold them accountable!  And if they rip it up, I send it home in a baggie for the parent to see.

I was asked to list my clip chart on TPT, so it's available in my store for $2.  It includes the chart, a parent letter explaining the chart, and the Think About It sheet.  There is also an editable parent letter if you need to make changes to it for your own school.  Please feel free to check it out if you need something like this.

I also decided to try the binder idea I've seen going around!  I found some binders at Office Max for $1 and decided to stock up!  I call them their "GROW" Binder, and my students love them!  I just hope they last the whole year!  I'm making it a big deal- I had 2 students who didn't get to take theirs home already.  I made them earn them back.  They had to carry a folder instead.  Who wants to do that when you can have an awesome binder instead!  :-)  I'll have to post a picture of our binders soon.  The kids and I love them!

I have more photos I took of the first week of school, but at our Open House the other night, I decided it would be fun to hit my head on the chalkboard ledge and give myself a mild concussion.  I saw stars.  And my head STILL hurts.  I've spent all weekend on my couch sleeping or playing on the computer, except for yesterday when I went outside to work in the yard and almost passed out.  So I've been trying to take it easy.  Staring at a computer screen isn't really helping.  And if I added those pictures and everything else I wanted to blog about, you'd be reading until next Tuesday!  So once my head stops hurting, I'll get them sorted through and post a bit about our first 3 weeks of school and some other great things I've been working on!

Also, I am FINALLY starting my Family Visits this week, so I will share all about that with you soon!  This is also the first week for Family Journals as well. :-)  I can't wait to see how my students decorate their journals this year!

I hope you all have a great week back at school!