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Chalkboard Bulletin Boards

I'm not doing a classroom theme this year (shocking, I know!).  I'm really doing more of a color theme of bright colors of the rainbow and a touch of chalkboard.  I wanted my bulletin boards to really pop out, but we aren't allowed to use fabric.  I bought fadeless black paper (you can just use your school's butcher paper). I made them look like chalkboards with a few easy steps!

This is what it looked like before:

Here's what it looks like as I'm working on it (I plan to add wording and more arrows, but haven't done that yet):

Here's what you need:

White Chalk {Wal-Mart}
Eraser {Wal-Mart}
Spray Adhesive {Hobby Lobby}
 *I did not use the adhesive because I plan on erasing throughout the year and doing different designs*

Well... that's that!  Easy way to make your bulletin boards POP!

Maximum Student Engagement!

Hello Blog Hoppin’ friends!  Holly Ehle here, from 
Every summer I strive to set a few new professional goals for myself.  Thanks to the inspiration of Hope King’s “Set the Stage 2 Engage” SDE session in Vegas  and Kim Bearden’s new CRASH COURSE book, I’m so excited about one of my goals that I’m almost bursting at the seams! 

It’s all about improving…

Student Engagement

Now, if you know me at all…you already know that I’m a fan of teaching a little bit “out of the box” at times. My costume closet is packed, and even though I am NOT a singer…I’ve been known to rock out some pretty epic educational rap songs.  I mean, hey.  if we are going to be in a classroom all day…we might as well have fun, right?! 

But folks, it’s SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!

So what is Student Engagement, really?

Pictures from Primary Graffiti's Dinosaur Themed Unit

In education, student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.
Student engagement occurs when students are
·        invested in their own learning
·        taking pride in NOT simply earning “grades,” but in understanding the material
·         incorporating the material they learn into their lives
You know what I’m talkin’ about!!! 
I know you’ve seen these signs of engagement during a project, presentation or lively class lesson you’ve led!  And if you are like me, when you caught those glimpses of the inspired inner-world of a child, you’ve hoped that someday you will find a way to sustain that wonder, enthusiasm and perseverance every single day in your classroom!
So, now that we know WHAT it is…
How the heck do we go about ENGAGING these kids?
Research shows that students are motivated by…

#1 – Success (Students have an internal need for mastery.)

#2 - Curiosity (Students have a need to understand, make sense of and organize information.)

#3 – Originality (Students have a need to express themselves, have choice, and show creativity.)

#4 – Relationships (Students have a need for building satisfying relationships with others.)

BUT…research also reveals that before students will truly even “buy into” or become “engaged” in their work…that they must first be…


Thus… when planning lessons/units, we all need to think about how we “set the stage” for the rigorous content that we want to teach. How are we “hooking” our kiddos into our lessons? 

Visual appeal and real-life connectable “themes” DO MATTER!

Here’s a little FREEBIE I hope will help you become more “intentional” about planning for student engagement.

So enough “teacher talk”…let’s see what an engaging instructional unit looks like in ACTION!  My friend Cheryl knows all about that....

I'm Cheryl Saoud from and couldn't be more excited to share my annual Camping with Books. 

Teaching thematic units can be extremely rewarding. Integrated curriculum reaches a variety of learning styles by helping students to take control of their own learning while having tons of fun. Instruction is planned to accommodate individual interests while fostering teamwork.  The content is centered around a theme with hands on activities and weaving  various disciplines around a central idea. 

Setting the stage provides my students with the magic needed to believe!  We don't mimic camping, we are nestled deep within an enchanting forest with a babbling brook perfectly twisting through our campsite.  Our fire crackles, glowing red, orange, and yellow.  The night animals are on the prowl as we learn by lantern light and listening to nocturnal sounds.

Our learning begins the week prior to our themed days.  We draw upon our schema and build upon our previous experience to learn about forest animals and camp safety.  As the our week long event draws near, the kids collaborate to decorate the campsite. 

Have you ever seen HGTV?  At some point the designers kick the homeowners out so that there is an overwhelming emotional connection to the final design.  My units are no different.  To ensure ownership, the kids help with the backdrop and hang the decorations with my assistance, but once the final bell rings, my doors are locked closed where I bring in the necessary props to make this experience authentic.

Students are further engaged when weaving our spring content in this culminating unit.  Insects and life cycles are hands-on and exciting for our young learners.  After eight years, I've acquired a collection of creepy crawlers that captivate my young learners and inspire a full day of themed learning.


Interested in learning more about student engagement? Here are a few GREAT resources to get you started:

Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me
This incredible resource will take you through 17 “courses” that will not only teach you about the essentials of student engagement… but will also teach you priceless lessons about becoming the best teacher (and person) you can be!  Not to mention, you’ll be breaking out in both tears and laughter within minutes!  #so inspiring
Click image to link to my book review of Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me.  Don't forget to grab a tissue!

Hope King has an incredible, BRAND new unit that we highly recommend for learning how to set the stage for high student engagement. 

It's HOT off the presses!  #getchaone

Back to School: Establishing Classroom Community

Outside of teaching expectations and routines to your new batch of kiddos, establishing classroom community is one of the most important things you can do during the first few weeks of school.  Taking time to allow your students to get to know each other as classmates, teaching your students how to interact with one another kindly, and building rapport and respect among your class will benefit you immensely throughout the duration of the school year.  Thus, it's worth the time and effort to do this with intentionality from the moment those new school shoes hit the floor of your classroom.  

Here's a few ways to make it happen in your room...

Bond Over Banners

Roll out some banner-sized paper (mine was from IKEA) and allow your students to work in groups to decorate them.  The banners below happen to have three simple classroom rules on them, and were made following a lesson on expectations.  Stickers, crayons, and markers were writing tools of choice.

Not only will this activity give students a brain and body break while they're still adjusting to being back in school, but it will also foster opportunities to share, learn each other's names, and practice working in a group.  After the banners are complete, have the groups share their masterpieces.  Provide plenty of ooooohs and aaaaaahs, praise their amazing abilities to work together and note samples of kindness (i.e. I really like how Savannah shared her green marker with Evan!), and then hang the banners up in your room.  This will add student personalization to your classroom and show your students that you value their work enough to show it off!


Play a Get-to-Know-You Game

This game is a class favorite!  Pass out a copy of this Find-a-Friend activity to each student, read the descriptions in the boxes aloud, and have students talk to their new classmates to find a friend who fits the description.  The friend then signs their name in the box.  This is a fun and easy way for classmates to get to know one another and an opportunity to practice following directions!  Plus, your kiddos get to get up and move around.  #boom

There are three versions of Find-a-Friend in my back to school packs.  Click the pics below to check them out!


Kick Things off with Chrysanthemum

Reading Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a *must do* in the first few days of school.  I'm not going to spoil this amazing book if you haven't read it, but just know that it lends itself quite nicely to building classroom community and kindness.  {And practicing spelling your name, too!}  Afterwards, we made name maps that we then shared-out with each other.  {This idea was adapted from Teaching Heart and the one below was obviously made pre-Faith, and I was still an avid Diet Coke drinker - which I am NOT anymore!}

Happy Back to School, y'all and come visit me at The Inspired Apple!
Click my button below to check it out :)

Math Tool Kit Freebie

Hey! Yolanda here from Oceans of First Grade Fun! I hope your summer has been fantastic!! I have two more weeks, then it’s back to the grind for me.

Okay it’s safe to say I LOVE teaching math!!!!! This summer I’ve been playing around with creating a math toolkit for my students. In the past it has been such a pain to pull out hundreds charts, or ten frames, not to mention making sure there were enough for everybody in my class! It drove me crazy! So, I came up with this toolkit. The plan is for the students to keep these in their desks, so they are ready to whip out when we need them. Take a look at what’s included below.













In terms of storage, I’m going to give my students a three pronged folder with pockets and a few Ziploc bags. They will keep the cards (skip counting and ten frames) inside the Ziploc bag (which I will probably three whole punch). They will keep the number of the day books, hundreds chart, number line and number scrolls inside the pockets. There you have it! A compact math toolkit with a minimum of muss and fuss…to quote Julia Sugarbaker!

Click on the picture below to snag your free copy!


I hope this is something you can use! Now I’m off to soak up the last lovely days of my summer vacation. Have a great week ahead!

Dollar Store Finds from Kindergals!

Hey! I am Kim from Kindergals here to share some great dollar store ideas with you today!

Are you looking for cheap ideas for bookmaking, number lines, fives frames, read the room, retelling, combinations of 5, subtraction, one less and organization? Then read on, my friend, read on! I went to watch my son race (bicycle) this weekend in this REALLY small town in North Georgia. So after the race, we were looking for things to do and there wasn’t a whole lot of options. So how about a trip to The Dollar Store and Tractor Supply?! Got some cute tractors for the grandbabies from Tractor Supply to put up for Christmas (Shhhhh!) AND here’s what we picked up at the Dollar Store!
Love these little cars for segmenting words!Slide7
Next, we found these little cat toy mice to use with the story Mouse Count. I just painted a jar on a cookie sheet, put magnets on the back of the mice, and made a felt snake.  It is so important to have a conceptual way for children to see what is happening in the story. Books are pictorial, so children who do not have conservation of number have a really hard time grasping the concepts!Slide2
Next purchase, wrapping paper. This is the cheapest way to make scrapbooking paper.
*Just take the paper off of the roll.
*Fold and fold and fold.
*Then put it on the paper cutter and trim the sides.
*Fold the paper in half and add paper!
*You have a little book!
Saw a couple of good options for carpet bags. For more about that, check out this post:
The next purchase was this number line (the one on top). By the way, it went all the way to 50!
*To play the game, just select the section of the number line you want to use.
*Put a small trinket on each of the numerals.
*Start with a “game piece” at the left end of the number line.
*Roll a dice and move the game piece that many spaces on the number line.
*Remove the trinket on that numeral.
*The object of the game is to remove all of the trinkets.Slide5
Love, love, love bulletin board boarder. AND love it even more when I find it for $1! Here are a few ideas:
*Cut the boarder into sections. Have the children think of ways they can sort the animals, or the presents.
*Cut the boarder into sections. Invite the children to make patterns.
Here’s a fun game you can play:
*Glue two pieces together, end to end.
*Put a dot sticker in the center.
*Put a “game piece” on the dot. Sit the children at either end of the strip.
*The first child rolls the dice and moves the pieces toward them.
*The second child rolls the dice and moves the SAME game piece towards them.
*Who can get it off first?
*It is easy to change the standard by simply changing the dice!Slide3
We found these cute duck bath mitts to use for singing Five Little Ducks. This song works perfect for combinations of 5, subtraction, or the idea of one less.
Also found some fun light up wands and magnifying glasses for the read the room center.
Here’s an idea for the pill case.
*First remove the blue lettering with a cotton ball and finger nail polish remover.
*Use a saw and cut off F and S so that you only have 5 compartments.
*Put a 2 sided colored disk in each of the compartments.
*Glue shut with hot glue or E6000.
*Invite the children to “shake it up” and then lay it on the table.
*What combination of 5 do you have?
*Shake it again and again, each time ask them to record their combination.
Here are a few other posts from my Thrifty Thursdays! Look for those posts to start back up now that we are back to school!


Hey gang.  It's Kelley Dolling from Teacher Idea Factory!  I am super excited to be over here . . . causing just a little trouble on the Blog Hoppin' site today.  I must admit that I was racking my brain trying to come up with a savvy back to school topic to share will all you alls.  Like seriously stressin' for a few days. However, my problem was quickly solved when a sweet email from Nancy entered my inbox.  She kindly requested a little insight into the whole parent volunteer thing as she gets oodles of helpers every year.  Uh, Nance . . . you're brilliant.  Thanks for the idea and here you be . . . a little post dedicated to classroom volunteers!  

I don't know about all you alls, but parent volunteers can be tricky to manage. In all honesty, they make my upper lip sweat a little.  Over the years I have definitely figured out what works for me.  Thought I'd toss it out there meatball-style for you to peruse. 
  • How do you get 'em to sign up? - I put out sign up sheets during the Meet The Teacher event as well as Back to School Night (some of you call this Open House, I think).  The sign up sheet gives me some wiggle room as to where to schedule each parent.  Want a copy?  Sure!  It's part of my For Your InFORMation Packet filled with editable back to school forms, letters, and such.  However, I'm gonna toss it up here for free cuz you are in a very special place today . . . Blog Hoppin'!
The first version is a note that I use with my new crew every year.  
The second is more generic.
The third is editable.  Just drop in a text box and start typing!
  • When do you start parent volunteers? - I really want my kids to feel comfortable with me and learn my "lines" before I ask for parents to come in.  You know how tight of a ship you have to run during those first few days together!  I have found that it is so much easier to start 2 weeks after you get the back to school ball rolling.  All I can say here is don't feel pressured.  Jump on in when the timing is right for you.
  • When do you roll with parent volunteers (days + times)? Obviously, this is what works for you and your classroom.  However, just in case you were dying to know . . . I run with parents during the AM hours ONLY!  What can I say?  I like my babes ALL TO MYSELF in the afternoon.  Parents in my room come in from about 8:20 (school starts) to 11:15 (lunch recess). That takes us through Good Morning Work, reading groups, and a whole class writing period.
  • How many do I take each year? - You get those years where you have 12 volunteers and others where you have two.  Right??!!  I let 'em all come. However, my limit is 2 per day (I definitely prefer one, but sometimes the cookie just doesn't crumble my way).  It gets WAY too noisy and stressful for me if more than 3 adults are in my room.  I get all paranoid {silly, but oh so true}.  On those years where you have more helping hands than you can handle, I suggest assigning every other week to parents.  It makes it much more manageable!  
  • What do you have the volunteers do? - I love to have the volunteer for the day start off by pulling those kids who NEVER read at home or who are really struggling with those nightly phonics readers.  It's a great time for a little extra one-on-one support!  They also help correct Good Morning Work or sit with kiddos who are having a tough time.  Next, we transition into groups.  I always read the parents and give them something that I know they can handle. Usually, they play a reading game or monitor an activity that needs a little extra support. 
  • How do you tell them what to do? - Usually, I am able to catch them in the morning before the kids come in and I give them a verbal rundown.  All of the TPT games and/or activities I make (or others create) seem to always come with a direction sheet.  I put that in the helper bin with all the supplies they need for the rotation.  I ask them to read it over before their first group comes.  The parents also hear me outline the center with the kids during morning meeting.  They know to snag me and ask questions if they aren't quite clear on something.  
  • What do you tell them about discipline?  I let my parents utilize my Super Student Buck System (they give money) and I allow them to use my clip chart (move kids up or down).  However, you can bet your bottom dollar that I am watching like a hawk and will step in when necessary.
Yikes!!!  Look at that cover **sigh**  It's on the re-design list.
The content is good, I swear . . . and it's free.
Just in case you wanted to check out my Super Student Buck System :)
  • What do you do if they overstep?  Sigh . . . this one makes me twitch. Parents who "overstep" and correct kiddos during whole class time are a killer.  I typically don't get these as I strive to address this BEFORE they ever get a group.  On those rare occasions, I do chat with a parent about "why" I may let some behaviors go.  Usually, I wait until the next time they are in so I don't sound like a scolding parent :)   

Alright, my dear friends.  There it is in a nutshell . . . Parent Volunteers in Casa de Dolling.  If you have any questions or would like to share a little tip or trick that you utilize with parent helpers, I'd love to hear it!  Thanks so much for taking the time to visit us today.