Super Quick {and Neat} Postcards for Students

One of my end of summer traditions is sending postcards to my new students. Kids love getting mail- it makes them feel so special! It does take a bit of time to get them done, but it's so worth it!

After trying year after year, I was FINALLY successful in printing directly onto the postcards! Having an awesome printer now helps quite a bit. Now, I know that typing the message is less charming and personal than writing one by hand. I just don't have time for that. (It might also be because my hand is killing me after handwriting that many postcards one after another. Aaaaand maybe also because printing them decreases the likelihood of my making a mistake when my hand starts to cramp and my eyes start to glaze over).

It took a lot of trial and error. Here are some of the many "errors".
Real Life in First Grade: Yikes! Postcard Mistakes

But I did finally get it!
Real Life in First Grade: Print Directly Onto Postcards for Your Students

In order to do this, I created a 4x6 postcard template in MS Word. 
Grab it for your own use by clicking here. It looks like this... 
Real Life in First Grade: MS Word Template for Printing on Postcards

After editing the text with the student's name and your name, you're ready to print. Load the postcards into your printer (I put a stack of 20 in). I used an HP Envy 4500... this configuration may not work for your printer if you have a different one and you might need to play around with it a little. Make sure you change the student's name each time you print! (You need to print them one at a time if you want them personalized).
Real Life in First Grade: Putting the Postcards into HP Envy 4500 Correctly

Here's the finished product:
Real Life in First Grade: Post Cards Ready for New Students!
 
 If you're really bold, you might try figuring out how to print the address on the lines as well. I wasn't about to go that far. Had to draw the line somewhere.Mailing labels will do the trick.

Just an FYI- you don't need to use regular stamps on postcards. You can get special stamps for post cards that cost less. Find them at the post office. :)

Five for Friday 8.15 {On a Saturday}

Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching again for Five for Friday- although once again, I'm getting to it on a Saturday again!

This week I had the AWESOME opportunity to be a part of the Tri-State Blogger Meetup at the TpT offices in Manhattan. The experience was amazing- I met some of the people who work for TpT (they couldn't be any nicer) and so many wonderful Teacher-Authors from NJ, NY, CT, and PA. Everyone was so kind and I learned so much. I have to thank Amie from Glitter Meets Glue Designs for being so unbelievably welcoming and taking me under her wing! You need to check out her store on TpT- her clipart is beautiful and unique! I also had the pleasure of getting to know Danielle from Study All Knight and Christina from School Daisies- just two of the incredible Teacher-Authors I met. It was so nice to be a part of a community of teachers that support and encourage one another. I felt beyond inspired when I went home that evening. So much to learn from these great people!


On Facebook it seems that NAEIR orders are all the rage. Maybe it's because I can't get that excited about laminators and scotch tape or maybe it's because they didn't accept my application yet- but it's just not doing anything for me. My trip to Lakeshore Learning with my closest school friends and BFF however, is another story! There's something about brand new school stuff that makes me JOYFUL. I've been that way since I was a kid. But come on, who wouldn't get excited over strawberry scented stickers and owl certificates?!


Super excited about this. Since my first year of teaching I've wanted curtains in my classroom. THIS is the year it finally happens... my ninth year. Better late than never! My BFF's mother generously agreed to make curtains for my classroom from the fabric I picked up at the store. I couldn't pick just one. Of course not. So I got three. I'm thinking the teal fabric for curtains and the others for pillows in the reading area. (Yes, I may have picked up stuffing, too). Can't wait until it all comes together!


Okay- HP Instant Ink. If you don't know what that is, you need to click here and find out about it. Seriously. This is life changing. You don't pay for actual ink cartridges... you just pay a monthly fee (for example $10.00 a month for 300 pages). It doesn't matter if the page is a full color picture or just text. Then, when your ink is running low- your printer will let HP know to send a new one! (I'm sorry for all the exclamation marks... it's clear I am very excited about this). It only works with certain printers though, so make sure yours is compatible!

Birthday Giveaway 

Yari from Sweet Tooth Teaching is hosting a fabulous giveaway! You can win TpT products from all of the Teacher-Authors in the graphic below (myself included), a $25.00 gift card to Target or TpT, or a set of Flair Pens, Paper Mate Pens, and Sharpies! Any of these prizes would be great to have for the start of a new school year. Click here to visit her blog and enter!

Sweet Tooth Teaching Birthday Giveaway


Ready, Set, STAMP! {Literacy Work Station}

This post includes affiliate links for your shopping convenience. Any purchases made through one of my links earns me a small commission, which helps to support this blog so I can continue to share content like this with you. All views and opinions expressed are entirely my own.
 
The days of summer are slowly slipping away and the new school year is almost upon us! While many of you in warmer areas are back at school a couple weeks already, we still have a couple weeks ahead of us in the northeast.

Before going back to even set up my classroom, I try to do as much as I can at home. Printing, laminating, cutting, gluing- anything to make the start a little smoother. I'm excited to try out some updated literacy work stations in my classroom this year, so I've been busy making materials and gathering needed supplies.

One of my favorite activities (and a tried and true favorite of students) is the Stamping Word Study Station. Anything to do with stamps or bingo daubers and the kids are hooked. When dealing with phonics activities that can be a little tedious, anything that gets children motivated and engaged gets an A+ in my book.


I like stations that are easy to set up and to clean up. The only things I put in this bin are a couple of stamp pads, skinny markers, two sets of alphabet stamps, and a pile of copies for the Stamp it Up! page we are working on that week. My favorite part about stations like this is that you only need to show your students how to do it one time. The activities are consistently the same. Trace, write, color, stamp. The only thing changing? The words. Kids know what is expected and they are able to work without interrupting my small group. YES!

Real Life in First Grade: Materials for Stamping Work Stations

Real Life in First Grade: Alphabet Stamps for Literacy Work Stations

I know some people might think that kids might get bored. Um... MARKERS and STAMPS. Need I say more? No one is bored with this one. The biggest problem is children wanting to stamp beyond the limits of station time. Kids actually do a silent cheer when it's their turn to do this station. Trust.

If you're looking for something new to add to your literacy work stations, click here to grab my Ready, Set, STAMP! pack on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Real Life in First Grade: Ready, Set, STAMP! Literacy Workstation on TpT

Materials You Might Need:

 

I'll be blogging more about my favorite literacy work stations in the future- so check back soon!

Peek into My TpT Cart {Linky Party}

Show Us What You Bought {Linky Party}

The TpT Back to School sale is over and done with- hopefully you didn't miss out! I certainly didn't. :) So many awesome things on sale- I grabbed a bunch of new packs I'm excited to use with my kids this year. I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' to share some of my favorite purchases. Here are my top five purchases (in no particular order).

Note: I do not know any of the sellers mentioned in this post personally, and I have nothing to gain by talking them up. My goal in having this blog is to simply share ideas and resources I think are wonderful! Click the images for more information.

Do Your Personal Best     Flap Your Wings: A Bat Unit

Okay, so I included two products for a few of these, since I bought more than just one from a few of my favorite sellers. I'm SUPER excited to use the with my students the first week of school. Lyndsey Kuster came up with a great way to reinforce the idea of making good choices and engage children in problem solving. I don't have anything else like this, and I know it will help me start the year on the right foot. As for the Flap Your Wings packet- I am planning to do a HUGE unit on bats for the month of October and this will fit in perfectly. It's not always easy to find nonfiction resources in the library that are appropriate for my students, and this pack ensures that we will be able to collect a significant amount of information on the topic. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend any of Lyndsey's nonfiction units- they are wonderful!
Fast Finishers Guided Reading Phonics Activities 

It doesn't take much to get me to buy something from Cara Carroll's store. I've been shopping her TpT store since the earliest days, and I own many of her products. When I read a blog post about these two new ones, I knew I had to have them! Writing Centers for Fast Finishers is exactly what I need for those students who finish a task quickly and need something engaging to move on to. Wish I had it last year! As for the Guided Reading Phonics Activities Bundle, I believe in a balanced literacy approach with a strong phonics component. This bundle has many great activities for small group instruction.

       Interactive Reading Journal     Writing Throughout the Year 

You really can't go wrong with things from Deanna Jump's store... If I'm not mistaken, she was the first millionaire teacher on TpT, and for good reason! Her units are extremely detailed! I've been eying the Interactive Reading Journals for a while now, it was time to pull the trigger. I've heard so many good things about her Writing Through the Year units I had to see what the fuss was about! I'm sure I will be back to buy more of them.

     Batty for Bats 

Batty for Bats by Erica Bohrer is going to pair wonderfully with the Flap Your Wings unit I got! Stellaluna is one of my most favorite read alouds- I always cry when I read it. I was thrilled when I found this packet- it has so many bat related activities. I know it will be a hit (especially the cootie-catcher)!

     Word Family Slide and Find 

I was very excited when I found this products from A Cupcake for the Teacher. I don't have anything like this in my literacy workstations- it's perfect for engaging kids with a "new" kind of activity.

I am a new seller to TpT, but I do have a couple products I am proud of. 
See below to check them out! 
(Click the product covers to view them in my TpT store).

Ready, Set, Stamp!



Sight Word Spelling for the Entire Year 


My Sight Word Spelling (For the ENTIRE School Year) pack is part of an awesome giveaway that is still going on! Scroll down to enter!

 

Enter the Rafflecopter below to win!


There are THREE other prize packs being given away as well!
Hop on over to Droppin' Knowledge to enter those!
Good luck!


Back to School Blog Hop & TPT Giveaway

BTS Blog Hop Giveaway

I'm linking up with Heidi over at Droppin Knowledge and a whole crew of other wonderful first grade teachers to share our favorite back-to-school tips and for a HUGE TPT giveaway! There are four different prize packs including our favorite products from our TPT stores, just in time for the start of the new school year!


Click here to check out the sponsors! Make sure to enter then read on for one of my favorite ways to keep kids organized from the start of the year.

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

For the first few years I was teaching, I notoriously over planned the first days of school. I had so many activities I wanted to do- and I would feel defeated when I wouldn't get to everything. It finally clicked after a while, and I learned to prioritize the activities I had  to do (attendance, lunch count, snack, procedural lesson) and save the fun activities for when time allowed it. By the end of each day I would have accomplished everything I truly needed to do, as well as several extra things! Anything I didn't get to? I moved it to the next day.

Truth is- the first day is chaotic. We can't expect to do too much. Keeping it simple is much better! One activity I always do on the first day? The Anatomy of a Clean Desk. Yes, yes- I do realize that first graders have no clue what the word "anatomy" means. But it's the perfect word for this lesson!

The Anatomy of a Clean Desk

Organization is very important to me. I try my best to help my students stay organized throughout the year. In the past I would get extremely frustrated by desks that were in constant disarray. I would have my kids clean them out, help them put everything back- and the desk would be back to its previous state in a matter of hours. Then it occurred to me- maybe some kids don't know how to organize a desk...

I mean- I don't expect kids to just know how to read and write... why would I expect them to know how to keep a desk clean? I decided then and there I would come up with a first day lesson on keeping a clean desk.

After collecting communal supplies (more about that in a later post), I teach my kids exactly how to keep a clean desk. 
  • Talk about what a clean desk is.
  • Discuss why it's important to have a clean desk. (I like to write their responses on chart paper or the Smart Board).
  • Go through identifying each tool and book. (After eight years of teaching first grade, I've learned to assume they know nothing).
  • View and discuss The Anatomy of a Clean Desk on the SmartBoard. (Or print the pages out if you don't have one). It's simple, but effective.


  • Model exactly how to put the supplies away.
  • Guide the students in putting the supplies away, step by step. Some will need more help than others-even after this whole lesson!
  • When everyone is set- challenge them to put things back in the same order. Ask them to take out one or two supplies/books and then put them back in the same place. Do this a couple times.
  • Throughout the rest of the week, refer to this lesson- reminding them to keep their desks neat.
I know it seems like a lot of trouble- but it doesn't take long, and makes such a difference! Be ready to revisit the lesson at different points during the year as a refresher... there will always be a couple of sweethearts that need it. :) Click the image below to grab The Anatomy of a Clean Desk.

Anatomy of a Clean Desk


How do you help your students stay organized?

Keeping it All in Perspective

Our job is to teach the students we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the ones we used to have. Those we have right now. All of them.

I stumbled upon the above quote on Pinterest a while back. I do not know who Dr. Kevin Maxwell is. Nor do I know in what context he stated these words. All I do know is that these words profoundly impacted my attitude towards teaching, and I haven't been the same since I first read them.

Let me start by saying that I love my job. Teaching is something I've wanted to do since I was a child and every morning I thank God for allowing me to do what I love.

That being said, it hasn't always been easy. As a matter of fact, I think it's safe to say it's never been easy. But there were times in my career when teaching was more challenging than I had ever anticipated.

It was a couple years ago when I found myself crying every night, upset that I couldn't get through a single lesson without "putting out a fire". I won't go into detail, but let's just say I had done a pretty good job handling students who- um, needed a little more guidance and structure than others- therefore I was given a class that truly tested me. It was my fourth time teaching the ICR (inclusion) class, and I started out feeling pretty confident. I had an amazing class the previous year, and I felt like I could handle anything. That year I found out that I was right. I could handle anything. But in handling it the way that I did- I sacrificed too much of myself.

Twenty students. Five with IEPs. Another five that should have had IEPs, but did not. I had a wonderful cooperating teacher that year- who they gave me for a full two and a half hours (spread out throughout the day). LUCKY ME. (I wish there was a font for sarcasm). She really was wonderful (and continues to be wonderful though we don't work together anymore), but the scheduling situation was certainly less than ideal. Having a cooperating teacher with me all day would have helped me meet the very different needs of all my students that year.

I felt like I was drowning that entire year. I felt alone and overwhelmed. Again, I won't go into detail- but I felt that the classroom "situation" was unfair, and begged and pleaded with my principal to change it in order to level the playing field. He would not. I had to deal.

I'm not proud of it, but I'll say it: I did not enjoy teaching that year. I stayed late every day. I worked on things for school throughout the entire weekend, every weekend. I agonized over test scores and obsessed over lesson plans. I never even got a chance to bond with those students. I feel very bad about that.

Looking back- several years later- I realize that I chose to not make an effort to bond with my students despite the challenging circumstances we were in. It was my own fault that I was unhappy. Instead of accepting my situation, and embracing the challenges set forth, I fought against them, resenting them. I felt sorry for myself, complained to anyone who listened. I constantly compared my class to the other first grade classes down the hall- to other classes I'd had in the past. It's no wonder I was so miserable!

Since that year- that year where I questioned whether or not teaching was the right career for me, I've had this intense fear that I will be placed in the same situation again. I've actually had nightmares about it.

But last summer I finally came to the realization that I can't control the issues that my students come to school with- but I can control my attitude and how I approach the situation. Instead of aiming for this idea of a "perfect class", I understood that I should aim to give everything I can to my students to meet their needs- whatever they might be! Every class is different. Each with a new set of challenges. Although some might be more challenging than others, each has something wonderful to offer if you are willing to look for it!

Changing my perspective changed my teaching and the way I run my classroom. Through all the pressure put on us nowadays- standardized tests, common core standards, Danielson-based teacher observation systems, attacks from politicians, constant changes to curriculum, heightened expectations of us and the six-year-olds we work with- I remember why I wanted to start teaching in the first place.

I focus on all the truly wonderful parts! Planning new activities I know my kids will love and learn a lot from, watching the light finally go on for that child who was trying and trying but still having a hard time, getting notes from my kids letting me know how much they love me, having a good, true belly laugh from the hilarious thing one of them said, feeling the tears come into my eyes when listening to one of my students share a beautiful piece of writing filled with their unique voice... THOSE are the kind of things I teach for, the things I live for!  As for the rest? The not so wonderful things? I push them aside. I don't make time for the negativity. There's no room for it in my classroom or my heart.

Teaching is not easy. But it is so worth it.

Do you have any quotes that inspire you? If you do, please share! :)

Assess Me Linkup {8/2} This or That?

The Tattooed Teacher

I'm linking up with The Tattooed Teacher again this week. :) Click the image above to join in. Some of these were tough so I needed to circle both- I couldn't choose!