Organizing Home Communication Materials

It's Day Four of Organizing Week at Mrs. Patton's Patch.  I must say that Parent Home Communication is pretty simple in our classroom.  

moreviews.jpgTo start with, I use these folders.  Our school orders them for us.  They are durable and if taken care of last the entire school year.  I label the left side with Return to School and the right side with Keep at Home.  The students bring their folders in daily.  Homework is given on Friday and due the following Friday.

When they arrive in the morning, they drop off their folder in the white tub.  This is located immediately as you come in.  I also drop off any notices from the office or myself into this tub.  This way, I don't forget to send important paper home!  As students leave in the afternoon, I check the folder for anything important.  Yes, I wait until the end of the day.  REALLY, REALLY important things,  I ask for as they enter the room.  

Excuse the mess. It's conference week.  
 I'm returning student work that I no longer need.
Directly under the white tub are the kids' cubbies.  I have had this my entire teaching career!  It has moved locations, rooms, and even schools.   It is nothing fancy at all.  The slots are cardboard.  Each year, I change out the names which I  labeled with my P Touch.  I teach the students to put their paper there as they complete it.  

Important work that I want to grade or keep as a portfolio piece goes in the I'm Done Box.  This is just a letter tray that sits on top of a shelf.  I have my name on it because it's my cubbie.  Homework on Friday is also turned in there.  Later that day, I go over homework with each student 1-1.  Since, I don't check everything and I tend not to use that many worksheets, this pile of paper is somewhat manageable.  If it gets out of hand, it usually means paper needs to be filed.    

I also communicate with parents via email, our classroom website, and on an individual basis.  I see many families on a daily basis so urgent matters can be handled personally.  

Thanks for taking a glimpse into my classroom.  

Happy Teaching and Learning!


Math Organization

It's Day 3 of Organization Week.  Today's topic is Math.
Here is an overview of my math program.  I must say that I do not like this format but because of our pacing schedule (5 lessons plus a test each week), this is the one that is working.
Math Routines:
We start math with Math Routines.  It may be a song, a mini-lesson or review. (10 minutes)

Teacher Led Lesson:
Early in the year, this portion is long.  As the year progresses and students have more background knowledge, this portion is less.  (15-30 minutes)
Skip Counting by 2s
Independent Work:
Usually students complete a workbook page.  I do try to incorporate some hands on learning as well.  (Henceforth, why I am always behind in my pacing!  Makes hard to discuss data results when you are still teaching the content.  The teacher in me hates to move on when students are not ready.  I like them to guide my teaching.  Not a pacing guide!) I will work with students who need extra help. (varies based on student's skill level)

Math Centers:
Here is what we currently have in our math centers.

 Currently, most of the games are to practice addition and subtraction facts.
As you can see, I purchased most of the games.  I got the Teacher's Helper set towards the end of last school year on clearance through Scholastic.  The other games were purchased at my local teacher supply store.
Some games, I put in a box; actually a planter from the Dollar Store.  The kids favorite game is Roll Mr. Potato Head which I found of this site.

Here is a glimpse into how I organize my teaching of math.  I can't wait to hear from you!  I love comments!

Happy Teaching and Learning!


Patton's Patch Organization Week - Literacy Centers

It's Day 2 of Organization Week.  Today's topic is Literacy Centers.

Literacy and Math Closet
As a looping teacher, keeping materials organized is a challenge.  When not being used by students, centers (math and language arts) are stored in a closet.  In kindergarten, I tend to change the centers more frequently; about once a month.  In first grade, I change the centers every trimester.  When selecting materials, I think about what we are learning and what are the needs of the students.  Since many are games, I teach them to a few students.  They teach them to others.

                                                                                                         Daily 5 Center Rotation Pocket Chart     

This is the chart that I use to manage students while centers.   It is an old weather pocket chart that I cut in half.  Depending on the class, I either choose for them or they pick their center themselves.  Center time is at least one hour to one and half hours.  During that time, I meet with literacy groups.  In the beginning of the year, we get to 2 rotations.  Now, we are up to three.  Each center lasts 20-25 minutes.

Word Work Centers
This shelf is dedicated to Word Work centers. I like to keep it in one central location so that everyone knows where to go find materials when we get started each day.  Students are responsible for keeping it neat.  There are a few rules as well; two people per game and no changing center activities unless you have finished the game.  This limits the talking and wandering around.  I also have a few independent centers for those who prefer to work by themselves.  

 Buddy Reading
The library takes up a good portion of our classroom.  I traded all my uneven shelves and bought these a few shelves instead from Walmart a few summers ago.  It is much neater and easier to use.  I labeled all the baskets and books using stickers from the teacher supply store.
During Buddy Reading, students read with a friend from the library or read Big Books.  They love to get the pointers and read together.  I tend to have easier Big Books so that my struggling and approaching readers will have more options.  Many of the Big Books were part of our shared reading during kindergarten or early in first grade.  
My other centers are listening and writing.  Read here to see how I use iTunes and two computers as our listening center.  For writing, I keep a tray of paper available to students.  They can write about any topic. Their writing is stored in their writing folder.  I go through them with the students every few weeks.  

Well, that's how I keep my literacy centers organized.  It's a system that works for me.  

Happy Teaching and Learning!


Organizing Daily Materials

Mrs. Patton at Patton's Patch is hosting an Organization Week Linky Party. Today's topic is Daily Organization.  What teacher couldn't use more help/ideas about organizing!  I know I could use a few tips here and there; especially now.  I'm packing up my room for Spring Cleaning.  Yes, I am getting a deep clean. It happens only once a year.

Here is what I do.  I prefer to organize by subject because sometimes what I plan for the day may go onto the next.
Seville Classics Office Desk Organizer, Platinum Mesh 6-Trays

I use this letter tray to help organize by subject.  I actually organize it in the order I teach throughout the day.  Just in case you are wondering, Standards Based Reading and Writing, Math, ELD, Word Study, Science or Social Studies.  As I copy things for the week, I just place it in the appropriate spot.  The bottom tray keeps my Teacher Resource Books that I may need for future copying.

Bigso Fiona Set of 3 Magazine Collector, Black
I am very lucky to have an aide who comes in 3x a week.  She mostly does copying.  To get ready for her, I look at my curriculum map and plan what I may need her to copy.  I have a large collection of teacher resource books such as Mailbox so once every few weeks, I tab what I need and she gets my bulk copying done.  These magazine trays are labeled language arts, math, other.  As I plan for homework, I just grab the copies from here.

Another useful item is my Grab N Go Notebook.   It makes lesson planning easy because it can be customized to your needs.

I hope you'll join Mrs. Patton's Organizing party.  I can't wait to read about organizing for Guided Reading.  I really could use a few tips here!

Happy Teaching, Learning and Organizing!


Clouds, Clouds and More Clouds

It was a great week for cloud watching in southern California!  The kids really loved watching the clouds and naming them using their newly found knowledge.  We created this anchor chart together as we read The Cloud Book.  I also had one of my students take notes for us on a dry erase board as we read.  Some of the work is displayed. As we created the anchor chart, students wrote a fact or two onto their Cloud Book.  

Later in the week, we made cloud mobiles.  Students needed to place the clouds based on where they are located in the sky.   Students also wrote a few facts about clouds. One of my little ones described cirrus clouds as "clouds that look like duck's wings."  Love it!

Lastly, we created a bulletin board displayed based on It Looked Like Spilt Milk.  I turned out so cute and will be a welcoming treat for families as they visit for conference week.  Here are a few up close views.  

  A butterfly                                                                                         An octopus

Happy Teaching and Learning!

P.S.  All the graphics are from Lettering Delights!  Go grab yours today!

Ten Things I've Learned From Teaching

I'm joining Rowdy in First Grade's Linky Party! Here is my list.


  1. Never have cake for birthday parties. Cake is too messy and takes way too long to serve. Always ask for cupcakes and juice.
  2. A bandaid can fix anything. Keep plenty on hand.
  3. Always watch what you say. There have been many times when I tell the kids to follow me and they literally stand up and do what I'm doing.
  4. Always have a Kleenex box on every table. No one wants to clean up a snot filled table. Yuck!
  5. Start the day with a song. Yes, everyday! Nothing unifies a group more than sharing a song.
  6. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Actually, celebrate them. I let my kids know that I will make mistakes. I also let them know I will learn from them too. Mistakes help me become a better teacher.
  7. Say I love you. Many children may not hear this. Let them know they are loved.
  8. Love what you do.  Teaching children is an awesome responsibility.  Love it or leave it!  The kids deserve the best.
  9. Pencils are a teachers worst nightmare. They always need sharpening.  
  10. Start the day with coffee.  On a bad day, treat yourself to retail therapy.  :)

Happy Teaching and Learning!

Tips to Help Classroom Management

Classroom management is essential to learning.  I have high expectations for my students.  I consider myself to be firm but loving.  But, I also understand that I work with kids.  Kids need to be kids.
That said, it drives me crazy to hear my name called at the same time by 20 students.  Here are a few things that help me through the day. Most keep me from losing my mind and save time and energy.

Sharpie Accent Tank-Style Highlighters, 12 Colored Highlighters(25145)
I love highlighters!  This is a must for math time.  I always have the students highlight the directions.  During our math tests, I show them on the document camera where they must place their answers.  Highlighters are also handy during word study.

Manage Your Class Signs by Teacher's Friend
Another favorite are these signs.  I have some posted on my Big Book Center where we do whole group lessons.  Raise Your Hand and the Quiet sign are posted here as a reminder to take turns and to listen.  I also like the Eyes on Me sign.  It's great.  At the beginning of the year, I walk with the Quiet sign as we practice walking outside for recess and lunch.

Learning With Hip Hop (Today's Music Paired With Educational Lessons for Classrooms and Homes, Ages Pre-K - 5th)

Music is also essential.  I love to use music for lots of things (Post to come soon). Music is a great for crossing the mid line.  When taking long tests, I love to have the kids take a break with music.  Currently, Mark D. Pencil Exercise Songs are a big hit.  This is a great CD!

I have recently starting using the term;  My Turn, Your Turn.  This is especially helpful for my special education students but works like a charm for all.   When I get interrupted, I stop and say, "My turn."  In most cases, the student stops talking.  I apply this same language, "___'s Turn" to other students when someone wants to talk in the middle of someones conversation.  I also use this term with my ELD students who I only have 3 days a week for 50 minutes. It has really improved their behavior.  They know that during their turn, they may ask for water but during My Turn I am teaching information they will need to apply during their independent work.

Last year, I became familiar with A Help Box; a simple visual support for students.  It gives them step by step directions.  This really helps with disruptions and allows students to problem solve on their own.  I keep my Help Box posted on the whiteboard.  I also keep a sample of the work posted along with the directions.  Students love the visual reminder.

Another management tip I use is an I'm Busy sign.  I used this cut out and keep it by my table when I am working with students during Guided Reading or testing.  Most will automatically turn around if they see the sign.  If they don't, I hold the sign.  That usually does the trick.

Sign language is also a great tip.  Students sign if they need to go to the restroom.  I love this.  All I need to do is nod my head.

Many of these tricks were learned over time.  I feel that as I've become more confident as a teacher, my reactions to a child's need has changed.  I no longer sweat the small stuff.  I try to focus on what needs immediate change.  I try to keep it simple.

Do you have any tricks of the trade that you would like to share?  I'd love to read your comments and I'm sure others would too.  :)

Happy Teaching and Learning,


Celebrating St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  

It was an exciting day all around our campus!  In our classroom, we celebrated today with rainbows! We conducted an experiment using milk, food coloring, and Dawn dish detergent to see how colors mix and react to one another.  Read more about how to here.



We also practiced for our writing prompt by using these delicious cupcakes as inspiration.

Earlier in the week, we took a break from testing to make last minute Leprechaun traps.  Let's just say we had 40 minutes after 2 hours of testing and they needed a break.  Here is what the kids created with very limited resources, time and no teacher help.
 Notice the Leprechaun hats and the Keebler Elf cookies.
 I love how this group took turns and problem solved.  
They couldn't spell party.  So, someone said, "It's in my book." 
They went and got the book to use.  Love it!
 These kids found a balloon and blew it up to attract the 
Leprechaun.  Inside a sign that reads, "I like gold." They hoped 
to entice the Leprechaun with the sign and balloon.

Happy Teaching and Learning!

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