Back in the swing of things... with #kinderfriends


I am so happy to be doing a blog hop with the #kinderfriends!  We are giving you tips for a successful school year.  We are also having a SALE!  My tips are about staying balanced, healthy, and happy.  Taking care of yourself is crucial to having a great year.  Happy, healthy, teacher = good teacher!


1.  Breathe.
     Just sit and breathe.

Taking a few minutes out of your day to just simply sit and focus on your breath can make a huge difference in your life.  It helps get rid of the mental "clutter" and can make for more  peaceful and productive time with your students.  We practice mindfulness at our school.  When I say we I mean teachers AND students.   It is a secular practice that research has shown helps reduce stress and increases mental focus.  It also helps reduce conflicts.  It's good for us!  (I used the Buddha photo because I have been wanting to use it for something ever since I took this in SF at the Japanese Tea Garden two years ago.)  Again, mindfulness practice at our school is NOT related to any religion.


2.  Take your supplements!

Germs abound in the early childhood classroom!  Oh my goodness, we have students that are still learning how to blow their noses.  It is just a part of the job... we are constantly bombarded with pathogens!  Our immune systems need as much support as they can get!  These are my two must have supplements.  Those vitamins are AWESOME!  They help my energy levels!  

The other supplement is an amazing Chinese herbal formula to increase chi (energy) and mental clarity.  It is made up of several adaptogenic herbs that fight fatigue, build immunity, and increase mental function.  I just love the name "Vibrant".  My husband says every teacher should take it.  He is an acupuncturist.  You can only get that Evergreen Chinese formula from licensed acupuncturists.  I take these every day I teach and I sure notice the difference if I forget.

What supplements do you take to stay healthy during the school year?


3. Prep ahead!

I like to leave on Friday with my next week completely ready to go.  This tub has two weeks worth of big envelopes that hold my prep for each day.  Each afternoon, I prep for the same day the following week.  It keeps my stress levels down and allows me time to prepare and enlist help for big prep intensive activities. 

4.  My best tip for a successful school year is...

go to Teachers Pay Teachers and grab some resources to make your life easier!  Just search the hashtag #kinderfriends for some great deals on back to school essentials.  We all have items on sale right now.  My most popular back to school resource is Print and Go! Back to School Math and Literacy.  It has loads of  pages perfect for the beginning of the year in kindergarten.  But this is what's new in my store for back to school...


Writing prompts and pages perfect for September in kindergarten or first grade.  I will be making one of these for every month of the school year.  There are loads of pages in here that you can use for writer's workshop, your writing center, assessments, and just for fun during your writing period.  My kids love to write when the pages look FUN!  You can find it right here: Writing Activities ~ Pretty Papers and Prompts SEPTEMBER  It will be 20% off through Thursday September 15th.  Make sure you search the hashtag #kinderfriends on TpT for more great deals from all the fabulous bloggers in the hop.

Keep hopping along and go see my friend Cristina over at The Primary Besties for more great tips.  You can click on the link below her logo.

 

Hope you are back in the swing of things and have the best year ever!
Happy teaching!



Mrs. Byrd's Classroom 2016


I did some work in my classroom this summer because, let's be honest, there is a lot of pressure out there to have an adorable, perfect, Pinterest ready classroom.  After seeing all the gorgeous classrooms on Pinterest and Instagram, I was feeling a bit embarrassed about mine.  I teach in a VERY old building.  I have been in this classroom for over 12 years.  I am STILL throwing out things left from previous teachers.  So, before I tell you about my favorite spaces in my room, lets get a little perspective...



This is what my classroom looked like the day I walked in to get it ready for school.  The "deep cleaning" had been done.  Which really means that the carpets and rugs were shampooed, the tops of the shelves, and the windows were cleaned.  That's it.  There were still cobwebs.  There was still dust in all the shelves, and the old tattered boxes for storage were looking a bit sad.

It's funny because the one compliment I get from parents more than any other is that I am very organized.  But, I don't think you would have known it by looking at my classroom.  It didn't scream organized.  It screamed old and tattered, but she can find everything quickly.  It needed some love and attention. I had a teacher desk that collected piles. Something had to be done...

So, I did a "deep cleaning" of my own.  I was really hoping I could reduce the paper storage in my room to the point where I could get rid of the huge metal filing cabinet.  It takes up so much space and there really isn't a natural spot for it in the room.  I filled three huge recycle cans with old worksheets, thematic printables, outdated workbooks, and other stuff that just didn't need to be there.  I ended up keeping the file cabinet.  But I emptied two others that I was able to use in my...


Maker Space!!!  I am really excited about this new addition to my classroom.  It is in the space where my old teacher desk used to be.  I think it was a good trade.  My sweet hubby installed the shelf that all the bins are sitting on.  The drawers in the old file cabinets are for cardboard, plastic, paper, and odds & ends.  The space isn't finished in this photo.  I still need two small containers for trash and recycle below the maker space sign.  I also need to finish filling the bins.  I have tape, yarn, straws, craft sticks, and paper shapes in there.  I will be adding more and just need an afternoon where I can go though all my craft supplies to find goodies for STEAM.  This space is meant to be an open ended creative building space using easy to acquire recyclables and craft materials.  I am hoping to fund this with the donations I get from parents for classroom supplies along with donations of "stuff".  I will keep you posted on how this is going.  It will be an adventure and I KNOW management will be the key to its success.


You can see the big file cabinet in the corner of this photo.  It is tucked away behind my calendar divider in the classroom.  I made these cute shape posters because I like to have these up all year as a reference.  I wanted them to go with any color scheme in the future, so they are really simple.  If you want them for you classroom, you can grab them right here: Shape Posters 


This is the new big book cart my sweet husband made for me.  It has wheels on the bottom, but two of them lock so it's safe for kiddos.  This is tucked between the big file cabinet and shelving that holds guided reading books right below the shapes bulletin board.  It is part of the "reading space" in my classroom.  Kids are allowed to read big books every day as a choice in my room.   More on the reading space later...


These colors posters are an essential reference in the classroom.  I wanted these to be simple as well.  I want them to work in any classroom with any decor or theme.  You can find them right here: Color Posters.  I actually improved them for my TpT store, so those are even better.

The color bulletin board is on the other side of my classroom across from the shapes bulletin board.  This is part of a counter where my printer and colored copy paper live.  The white drawers next to it hold craft supplies.  My laptop sits on top of there most days charging when I am not using it.  So far, the classroom space is working just fine without a teacher desk.  I have gone back and forth on having a desk and not having one.  I am glad to be back to NOT having a teacher desk.  My classroom is small, so I really want every inch devoted to kid space.  When I need to work or plan in the classroom, I just spread out on the big back table right next to this area.  It works well and then I don't have a flat surface (my old desk) collecting piles.  It forces me to keep only the essential documents and get rid of the other paper that comes in the classroom. 


OK, so I LOVE my new orange clock.  It replaced the old original clock that was wired into some whole school clock system that had NEVER worked.  I had covered it with this old funky papier mache rainbow smiley face that I made in an art for teachers class when I was getting my credential.  It was old and dusty and  it just had to go.  This is such a major improvement!  This was another little project handled by my sweet husband.  He even picked out the clock.  Makes me happy to look at it.


Since I was going through everything, it was time to get my organization looking more uniform.  I really needed to use available resources, because I didn't want to spend too much money.  These were containers I already had just sitting around.  The tops on them were trashed, but the tubs were still good.  They are my new reading book containers.  I made labels for EVERYTHING like this so it all looks uniform.  I don't have matching containers in a color scheme all over my classroom.  I just try to make choices that are neutral so it all "goes".


This was another DIY project by Duane.  It has been in need of love for a long time.  It is the back of two shelving units that hold toys and wooden blocks.  Now it is a cute chalkboard surface and creates a sweet entry space in the classroom.  Those little banners have kiddos' names on them.



This is my favorite place in the room.  I expanded my library and reading space by removing some furniture and enough "stuff" to not need it.  I also got rid of books.  I know that sounds awful.  But I needed the space!  I am lucky to have so many books in my room that I get to insist on having ONLY  quality literature in the classroom.  I said goodbye to Clifford, Franklin, Disney and other cartoon related books.  Books that were falling apart had to go.  One of my criteria for keeping books was if it had won an award like the Caldecott Medal.  Those made the cut.  It took me half a day to go through all the books.  I did it quickly and was ruthless.  I still have tons of books!  These don't include the shelves of all my thematic books that I store separately out of reach from little hands.  We are truly blessed.  Books are EVERYWHERE!!!

Since that is the case, we needed a more comfortable place for reading.  This is a choice after academics every day in my classroom.  How cute are those marquee letters?  I just had to get some after seeing them in other teachers' rooms on Instagram.  The white dish washing tubs work great for book storage.  This space is being used just as I hoped it would.  I saw three sweeties on the cushions with a big book across their laps.  Adorable!  I am so glad my sweet students have a comfy, cozy space to enjoy books.  The kiddos love it when the lights are on too!  Yay!


This is what it looked like the day before school started.  I know it's not really Pinterest worthy, but it is a significant improvement.  It's the best I can do right now with the resources I have available.  I wish so much that I could get new tables and chairs... not happening.  I wish I could replace every storage container in my room so they are all color coordinated.  I just didn't have the time or money to take it that far.  The classroom is more open than it used to be, it has spaces that are functional and "kid centered", and it is tidy and organized to start the year.  Now we just have to keep it that way.

 So, that's it... just a few highlights from my classroom this year.  We are off to a good start.  Hope you are already having or about to begin your #bestyearever in your #bestclassroomever!
Happy teaching!

It's the Best Year Ever... SALE!



Hey there,
Just want you to know that Teachers Pay Teachers is having a HUGE site wide sale.  You can get up to 28% off using the promo code: BestYear.  Everything in my store will be 20%off.  Then you just use the promo code during checkout to get the extra 10% off.  It's two days only, August 1st-2nd.  Make sure you grab a few things at these great prices.

It is always so fun getting some new resources at the beginning of the year.  I have already been shopping and putting things on my wish list.  You can find some of my favorite products from my store and other TpT stores on my new Pinterest board: Best Teaching Resources Ever (#BestResourceEver)  Hope you have lots of fun shopping. 
 
If you are on Instagram, check out the hashtag: #BestClassroomEver .  There are lots of teachers showing favorite parts of their classrooms.  It is a great way to get some inspiration for your classroom this year.  You can find me on Instagram here: @mrsbyrdslearningtree

I am so excited to have the Best Year Ever!
I hope you are too.
Happy teaching!

2016 - 2017 Calendars are Posted!




I am so happy to share my new calendars with you.  I wanted to let those of you who own the perpetual version know you can go download your new calendars for the year.  I hope you love them!  I am already thinking of some new art projects to go with them.

For those of you who don't yet own the perpetual version, I just want you to know why these are worth the investment.  They are differentiated to meet the needs of ALL your students.  That means four versions for each month and five for Sept. and Oct.   They are redesigned every year with a fresh look and new clip art.  They also include lots of ideas for art projects with links to blog posts and templates.  This is meant to save you time and give you a great monthly activity that is handled and easy.  For me that is priceless.

I have been doing a little research about my retirement and I think (God willing) I will be teaching until 2028.  So, I will be making the calendars until then and possibly longer.  That means a lot more calendars coming your way.  

Go check them out:  Calendars for Number Writing ~ Perpetual~

Thanks for stopping by!
Happy teaching!

Book Bash Blog Hop with the #kinderfriends - Books about Bugs!


Hi there, I am thrilled to be joining my #kinderfriends for another great blog hop!  We are sharing some of our favorite books for the classroom.  The books I'm sharing today are all about bugs.  I always end my school year with a big unit on insects and these are some of my must have books on the topic.  I also have a great FREEBIE for you, so keep reading to go grab it.


Bugs for Lunch is written by Margery Facklam and illustrated by Sylvia Long.  I love this book because it introduces the concept of predators who eat insects.  It has wonderfully written rhyming text just right for young children.  The detailed illustrations are realistic and easy to understand for the little learners who will be looking at each page.  It has a section in the back of the book with more information about each of the predators including humans with some of the countries and cultures where people eat bugs.  You can go grab this book at Amazon by clicking on the image above.  If you purchase this book through my link, I will recieve a tiny commission for sending you there.  Thanks!  (This is true for any of the links to Amazon on this post or anywhere on my blog.)  All the book images on this post should take you to Amazon so you can get the book.




The Backyard Books series by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries are MUST HAVES for a unit on insects.  I alternate the focus of my unit each year between butterflies, ladybugs, and honeybees.  I have one of these books for each of those insects.  You can also find these books for ants, dragonflies, snails, and spiders.  This book, Are you a Butterfly?  takes your class through the journey of a butterfly's life cycle in a fun and conversational way.  It is loaded with information including food, molting, growth, and also has a section at the end with more interesting facts.  The illustrations are incredible and depict many important concepts you will be teaching your students if you do a unit on insects.  You can grab this over at Amazon by clicking on the image above.

 
Beetle Bop is by Caldecott Honor winning author and illustrator, Denise Fleming.  This book is so much fun!  Her colorful, vibrant illustrations and energetic, rhyming text will keep your little students engaged as you enjoy a variety of examples from the largest group of insects - beetles.  My kiddos were interested to learn that ladybugs are part of the beetle family and we discussed that they are actually named ladybird beetles.  This book is perfect for pre-k and kindergarten students!  There are lots of language lessons you could connect with this book.  It also makes a great five minute filler when you just need something quick. 



Do you know these books written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long?  I absolutely adore them.  I own every single one they have created and my kiddos love them too!  A Butterfly Is Patient is a non-fiction introduction into the world of butterflies that covers a variety of interesting concepts.  The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and they will delight your little entomologist's minds.  I consider this book a treasure and I can't recommend it enough.  If you teach a unit on insects or butterflies, you need this book in your collection.  It touches on life cycle, pollination,  protection from predators, food, size (smallest and largest), wing scales, comparison to moths, and migration.  You may also want to check out some of the other titles by this dynamic duo.  My other favorites include A Seed is Sleepy and An Egg is Quiet


After reading an awesome non-fiction book, I like to  record some of the information my students remember or find interesting.  This year we used a tree map to do that.  We recorded information after reading A Butterfly is Patient and Are You a Butterfly.  The check marks on the chart show when a second or third child contributes an idea that has already been recorded.  The tree map becomes a handy reference in the classroom during our unit.  This chart is blank and laminated so I can use it for any topic we are studying.  I use Vis-a-vis wet erase markers to record our ideas.  Then when we are done with our topic, I just wipe it down and tuck it away until we need it again.  That's a little time saver for charts you know you will use over and over. 

I also want to share a fun art project you can do with your students to make the butterfly life cycle come to life for them.  We made caterpillars using egg cartons cut down to four sections.  First my students painted them and then we decorated them another day.  The caterpillars were up on our flower garden bulletin board for several days.  Then, when our live classroom caterpillars went into chrysalises, each of my little students wrapped their egg carton caterpillar into a butcher paper chrysalis.  Then we hung those back on our bulletin board.  Meanwhile, I also had my students paint a set of wings that were perfectly sized for the egg cartons.  I framed this painting activity as a lesson on symmetry and didn't mention that the wings were for our caterpillars.  The kiddos only painted one side of the wings and folded them in half to paint the other side.  If you do that with your students, make sure they use LOTS of paint.

This is the bulletin board with the chrysalises hanging in the garden:


Then...

this is the sneaky part...

on the Friday afternoon before our open house, I take the caterpillars out of the paper chrysalises and glue the wings onto the caterpillars.  I come back in on Sunday, when they are dry, and gently fold the wings around each body as I tuck it back inside the chrysalis and tape it back together.  They go back on the bulletin board so that my little learners don't suspect a thing.  Each student gets to open up his or her chrysalis during open house and discover that the caterpillar grew wings inside!  This project is a bit of a time investment for the teacher, but the payback in joy for children is so worth it. ( It makes parents really happy too.)


Here is another one up close:


Her rainbow striped wings match her rainbow caterpillar perfectly!  I think she knew what the wings were for...     I usually put the butterflies back up on the bulletin board for another week before I send them home.  Here it is:





OK, this is my last book recommendation for you about bugs.  I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe and Ed Young is a fictional story about the littlest cricket at Swampswallow Pond.  The cricket is desperately unhappy because he has taken a criticism to heart and believes he is ugly.  He whines "I wish I were a butterfly" on just about every page of this classic tale.  After lots of great advice from other bugs at the pond, it finally takes a long talk with a dear old spider friend to make him realize that being special is about much more than outside beauty.  The story ends with a fantastic realization as a butterfly hears the cricket's beautiful music and declares "I wish I were a cricket"  leaving young readers to infer how that made the littlest cricket feel and what he might have said next.  The almost abstract illustrations by Ed Young are truly extraordinary and create a pond environment from a bug's perspective that will inspire a young child's imagination.  I adore this book and read it to my class every year.  I would read it even if I didn't do an insect unit.  It's a great story with a good message.  


And finally... here is your freebie!  This story map page can be used in many ways.  Here you can see we used it as a way to record the setting, characters, and plot from the story above.  I have my students do this as a small group activity with an adult to do the labeling and dictation.  It is a great way to check comprehension and extend learning about any piece of fiction.  Students can also use it as a map for their own story writing.  Here is another by one of my little students:


And here is what the blank looks like.  The section in the upper right hand corner is blank so that you can write in the title and author/illustrator of the book you are using before you make copies.  I hope this is helpful to you and your students!  You can go grab this in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Just click on the link below the story map to go get it.





There are lots more great books and ideas from the #kinderfriends.  Keep hopping along and go visit my friend Robin over at Class of Kinders Just click on the link below her picture.






Thanks for stopping by!
Happy teaching!