Is Your Classroom Your Happy Place?

Hello everyone!

Can you believe that I started school this week? Second grade is surely very different from 1st grade.
I spent the summer reading and learning the new set of standards, creating new materials, and visualizing what my new classroom was going to look like. I love the feeling of an empty classroom, the idea of a new beginning, and the potential and possibilities. More than anything, I kept on thinking (it was more like day dreaming), about a productive, brain friendly, and homey classroom.

It really starts with my classroom library. I have spent years (and tons of money and time) collecting the right books to reach ALL of my readers year after year. I truly believe that the concepts of classroom community and individuality begin with literature.  It is my  first goal, to show and provide my students with the opportunity to explore their own reading interests free from any constraints. 

Or like my little G would say: "for the fun of it!"

I try to build momentum by not opening the complete library to my students on the first week of school.  Instead, I open it gradually:
First the themes
Then the series
After this the nonfiction section
and so on...
 Since we have such a large classroom library, our books are displayed all over the room in colorful tubs that I got from the Target dollar spot!

Having an organized and quality classroom library makes me think that if nothing else, I am attempting  to create the right conditions for reading by my students.

Think about it! A strong classroom library:

  • Supports your literacy instruction in and out of your classroom.
  • Helps your students to learn about books and author's craft.
  • It also provides a central location for classroom resources... hello shared research!!
  • Serves as a place for students to talk about and interact with books
And you might think...
But how does she come up with the money to buy the books?
Well, let me just tell you: Scholastic points, yard sales, and The Goodwill are my friends! Last weekend for example, my local Goodwill had really great books for .50 a piece! It takes creativity and energy!!

Because my classroom is also really small this year, I had to become really creative too on finding a comfortable reading spot:

Two beach chairs, a lamp from the Goodwill, a cute rug from Walmart, some wooden letters and Voila! There you go!

Now, this is something to be really jelly about:
My school librarian is so fabulous and awesome. As this is my first year in 2nd grade, she has given me tons of suggestions about transitioning my students from easier picture books to  a bit-more-challenging chapter books.
One of the greatest suggestions that she gave me is to  do a classroom library scavenger hunt. This, in order to teach my students to identify different series, authors, themes, and topics.
Oh! And also to help my students keep books and display materials orderly!

So I do different types of  scavenger hunts:

Click HERE to download!

Click HERE to download!

Click HERE to download!

Click HERE to download!

Or all of them!

I give the students one bookmark and they explore the classroom library, once they find a book that matches one item on their bookmark, they bring me the book and they get a punch! These bookmarks match my classroom library book bin labels.

What is my goal with this?
I, more than anything, want to get my students motivated to read... and to read for fun. Throughout the year, I want to introduce them to authors, great series, themes, etc. Instead of giving them or leading them to a leveled book, I want them to be able to freely express about their  reading choices and pursue them.

They each will have their own book box. With the book boxes there are a couple of whole group lessons that need to be addressed:

  • Differences between picture books and chapter books
  • Choosing "just right" books (blog post and anchor chart on this coming up next week)
  • Keeping a balance in your book box
  • How to return books
  • Giving book recommendations

I would love to hear and learn from all of you! How do you organize your classroom library? What routines and mini-lessons do you teach to help your students be successful? What things do you do to foster reading motivation??

I can honestly say that there are many happy places for me: my mom's house, my boys' arms, the beach, the mountains, my own classroom!

And take a look at these awesome tips!
Come and enter this rafflecopter for your chance to win  TPT gift cards!
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Websites I Can't live without!

**DISCLAIMER: Before you read, please know that I am in NO way associated or being paid by any of these sites. I am just a classroom teacher writing from experience.

Hi everyone!
Happy belated 4th of July! If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I am moving to 2nd grade next school year. I have been teaching 1st grade for a number of years now, and even though I love everything about it, there is something about new beginnings.
What can I say. I am an animal of change.
This  move to second grade has me really thinking and reflecting about all the possibilities. Someone I respect deeply told me the other day that 2nd grade is the perfect grade to teach. Her words mean the world. Excitement is an understatement.
Moving to a new grade level means a lot of changes. New standards, new team, new classroom... BUT one thing that I am sure will not be changing is how I use my favorite websites.

 I had written before about providing intentional screen time to our students. Screen time can be purposeful: an extension of learning, individualized learning, reteaching a concept, etc. Screen time can also be "cute." I have a problem with the word "cute" in education.
Like this:
Oh that website is so cute.
Oh that video is so cute, the kids will love it.
Oh they can make the cutest things on that website.
Yeah, no.
I never send my own boys to school to do cute stuff. Never.
Simple. Every minute counts. 
Let me just begin by saying that  in one way or another, there are payments involved with these websites. They are all worth it though.

Reading A-Z

This is a website that I use every. Single. Day. The membership will get you access to leveled books, lesson plans, and activities. Decodables, fluency activities, close reading, you name it. Any school can build their guided reading program based on this website.The correlation to Common Core and state standards are on point. Be prepared to assemble (or have parent volunteers help you!) the books. But once you make them, you will have them for years to come. Don't even get me started about how you can be able to hit your content area while conducting your guided reading.

Brain Pop Jr.

This is another favorite! I use this website to project and introduce new concepts. Brain Pop Jr is organized by subjects. Within each subject, you can find relevant short clips. Let me say it again: in every single area. Reading, grammar, writing, science, social studies, math.  Every year I take the time to teach my students know how to use it to extend their learning independently  as well. Worth every penny.

Pebble Go

Oh how can I begin. A number of years ago, one of my sweet teammates showed me this website. Ever since, I am convinced that there is no other better  research website for elementary students out there. Pebble Go has different databases. Each database has a great variety of topics. Each topic has text (kids can also click a speaker for students to listen to it) and real life photographs, activities, and short clips. This is the most complete site for young researchers. 

The Mailbox

When I began teaching in the United States, this is the first resource I ever trusted. You know, back then  when you used to get the  actual magazines in the mail? Yep, like that.  About 6  years  or so ago I bought the gold membership online. 
  • When the kids are a mess and you are looking for something fun and intentional? The mailbox has you covered.
  • When it is Sunday night and you are looking for a fun science activity for Monday? The Mailbox has you covered.
  • When you are looking for a treat idea for Valentine's day? The Mailbox has you covered.
  • Do you want to differentiate your homework? The Mailbox has you covered.
  • Want alternatives for morning work? The Mailbox has you covered.

 But why would you take my word for it? Really?!
Well... How about you enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post and you might win  a  year membership for free!

Teachers Pay Teachers

Well, believe it or not there are a lot of new and experienced teachers who still do not know about TPT.  This is the website that will make you sane. This is the website that  will help you go home early to your family. This is also the website that will keep you awake at night looking for that perfect resource. And if you believe it, this is also the website that will change your life! Find a seller (or sellers) that you trust. There are many. Each seller puts their heart and soul into each product. This website will show you that the greatest asset that we have is each other.


How about a website that allows your students to read and learn at the same time? A website that they love and that they can't wait to get their minds to!  My words won't do this website justice. Many county libraries already own a membership. So check with your local library, and ask them if they'll let you use it in your classroom! 

RAZ Kids

Technology meets guided reading in this website. Think about the paper free hassle. Think about extending what you do in your guided reading groups at home. And... that you can track student progress in comprehension!  My words won't do it justice either.Totally worth it!!

Reading Rainbow

A grandparent gifted us  a membership to this awesome website for teacher appreciation week. Late in the school year. When I was going brain dead. And the kids were bouncing off the walls. And testing was upon us.
Shame. (Think Cersei Lanister here)
So even though I did not get a chance to enjoy with my previous students, I will have a chance to with mew group of second graders. Hey some things happen for a reason, and I am glad I had the whole summer to "play" with this site and make sure on how to integrate it. The filed trips alone are amazing! If you are in a Title 1 school, you can apply and get it for free. #TeachersloveLevarBurton

OK so now the best part: The giveaway! Make sure to use your teacher email to enter. Winners will be announced on the 13th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I would love to hear about your favorite websites. I am always on the lookout for good knock-me-off-my-chair technology!
Until next time!