7.28.2014

Welcome Letters for Parents

Seriously!? It's hard to believe August begins this week. Where does summer go?! The first few weeks of summer I couldn't even think about school. Then in the past week as I was on vacation (pathetic, I know) I started to get that itch. I'm not ready to go back yet, but I started to get the itch to get things ready. On our 9 hour drive to Maine, I worked on my laptop the whole time. I know I am not alone! August starting in my school means that letters with teacher placements will go out to families this week and kids are back-to-school shopping. Although my school sends home a letter to inform the families of teacher assignments, I always send home a welcome letter from me. It puts the families at ease to learn a little bit more about the teacher and to feel as if they've been reached out to before the school year begins. Here is a look at what I sent home!

My welcome letter includes:

  • A brief biography and background of me
  • A brief overview of my philosophy of teaching and parent communication
  • A request for a letter back from the parents (this wonderful portion of the letter comes from Beth Newingham's opening letter)
  • A supply list
  • One sheet of Avery labels with the student's name on them (I like everything labeled and this way I know it is labeled to my liking and it also helps the parents out!)
  • An invitation to Meet the Teacher Day (This is optional, but since I teach a K-1 self-contained room, it is helpful for the families and students to be able to come visit the classroom and meet me before the first day of school. This is also a good idea if you have students who have recently began receiving special education services or are transitioning to a new building or special education setting.)
In addition to welcome letters at the beginning of the school year, I have always sent home introduction letters to the families when I was in long-term substitute positions. Families have a difficult time with the transition of new teachers, especially when their students receive special education services. It was always my goal to ensure that my families felt comfortable reaching out to me and understood that I wasn't just a warm body to fill the room while the other teacher was on leave. Reaching out goes a long way with parents!

Here are some samples of my letters:


Welcome Letter for Parents & Meet the Teacher Day:





Supply List



Avery Labels for Labeling Supplies



This is an example of a letter I sent home when I was a long term substitute, introducing myself in the middle of the year.


This is an example of a letter that I sent to my students when I taught resource room and consultant teaching programs.




As I get my letters ready to mail out this week, the most exciting thing is changing my name to Mrs. Hornung on all of them! Have a great Monday!

7.17.2014

Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Nina! Thank you to everyone that entered in the FarFaria giveaway!

7.12.2014

An Open Letter to a Teacher Basher

This week one of our local news stations posted an article "exposing" what a teacher's pension was. I came across the link to the article on Facebook because one of my friends had commented on it. Like any news story that goes through Facebook, there were over 40 comments from people putting in their two cents about the article. Most were teachers saying, "Hey leave us alone for once!" Some comments were from people that were seemingly pleased that this news station "exposed" this public information, as it added fuel to the ever-burning fire that people have against teachers. As I read through the comments, I started getting angry as this person continued to bash teachers, calling us babysitters, overpaid, ungrateful and "simple". Teachers continued writing back to him, defending what we do and correcting his grammar, as to prove a point that it is ignorant people that must hate teachers or disagree with our pay scale and pensions. I attempted to write a response to this internet troll, but found myself not being able to find the right words to explain to him why he was wrong. I kept typing then erasing, editing, typing, erasing. I wanted him to so badly understand that we earn our summer vacations and pensions and incomes just as much as anybody else. My blood was boiling. I wanted to teach him a lesson (no pun intended).

Then I realized that I would be just as much of a troll as him, and I would be just as foolish or ignorant to think that I could change his mind about why teachers are important. Who am I to tell him why he is failing at life because I am angry that he insulted my life choice? What I essentially realized was, who are we to attack others for their life choices?  I would love to be able to submit an expense report for every dollar I have ever spent out of my own pocket for my classroom. I would love to go out to lunch at a restaurant during the day with my coworkers. I would love to sleep until 7:30 so I would make it to work by 9. I would love to work from home. I would love to work outside in the sun. I would love to make $100,000 a year.  I would love to travel and see cool cities. EVERY job has perks and EVERY job has downfalls, but EVERY person makes the choice to do what they do in life. Who are we to tell them they are undeserving of their perks? I would NEVER say to someone "Ohhh must be nice that you got reimbursed for that printer paper you bought for your office! Haha! Ungrateful secretaries." I would love to do a lot of these things but I made a choice to become a teacher and I don't need anybody to validate that choice because I know that what I do every day makes a difference in our world.

I might not put my life in danger every day or save people in an emergency room. Sure, I stayed home this entire week and watched Netflix in my pajamas. But you know what? I got peed on 3 times this year! I have a drawer full of letters from parents and students that have told me I have changed their lives forever. These are things that nobody will ever understand about teaching, but we have to stop expecting them to. We have to stop keeping score of what everyone else is doing and start appreciating that these professions that people have chosen are what make our world go 'round.

So, man who hates teachers and thinks we don't deserve our perks: my hope is that someday if you have a child, that your child is in the care of a loving teacher that will show you just how important our job is. Maybe a good teacher will even change the path of life that your child takes. Maybe a teacher did that for you and you just haven't realized it yet. Maybe you never will. But I'm sure when you are not on Facebook and you are at work, you are really good at what you do. I think your job is important and has value in our world too, whatever it may be.

7.08.2014

My Favorite eBook App- and a Giveaway!

Last summer while I was setting up my new classroom, I wrote this blog post, searching for input on a great program or app that has audiobooks for kids. I used Storia from Scholastic, but it was expensive and I couldn't justify buying books after a while. I loaded up iPods with audiobooks from the library, but my kids got sick of the same twenty books. My school subscribes to Raz Kids, which my kids loved this year. Raz Kids is nice because it is from Reading A-Z, so I can print the books and resources for my kids for guided reading, and they can read the books on the computer on their own. I still didn't have an app that I loved for centers/Daily Five on the iPad though, because I liked to reserve Raz Kids for my direct instruction and guided reading only. I wanted my kids to have an app they could go on and just explore books with no assignment or guidelines. I also wanted them to feel like it was a game or a reward. Then I found FarFaria! You guys know how much I love a good app and bringing technology into my classroom.


FarFaria is an app for Apple and Android devices. It's $3.99/month and it is TOTALLY worth every penny. I use the iPad app and it's amazing. FarFaria has over 600 books for kids ages 2-9. They add five new books each week. Here are some of my favorite things about it!

When you open the app, this is the home screen. It is extremely engaging and looks almost like a game because of the different "worlds" that you can enter. I love the way they group together the stories because I have some students who love animals, princesses, music, etc. They have favorite worlds to enter and read. 


When you click on a world, it filters you to all of the stories that belong in that category. For example, the Animal Kingdom world has all stories about animals- fiction and nonfiction. You can then sort by alphabetical order, reading level, newest and most popular. How cool is that?




You can also browse books by What's New, See the World and My Favorites. "My Favorites" was the best part of this entire app because my school didn't have Wifi this year, but if you favorite a book- you can read it when you are not on Wifi! Woo hoo!



Alright, so here is the thing I was really thrilled about. I strongly believe that eBooks and audiobooks should highlight the words when they are reading aloud to kids. Since my kids are in kindergarten and first grade, this is something that really helps them build pre reading skills. It is essentially the same thing as a shared reading experience where I point to words while I read aloud. FarFaria has the option to read aloud for EVERY story, and it will highlight the words as it reads. You can replay the story as many times as you want. 






To celebrate summer vacation and all of us teachers that don't really stop working in the summer (who's with me?!), I am giving away a 3-month subscription to FarFaria for an iPad or Android user on my blog and on Instagram. You can enter below, or follow me on Instagram (@misseager) and share my photo! I will choose a winner on Saturday, July 12th. Have a great day, friends!   

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5.11.2014

Let's Hear It For the Moms!





Happy Mother's Day to all of the wonderful moms in our world! Being a teacher is a lot like being a mom. Although I don't have my own children yet, I got a taste of that proud mother feeling on Friday when we hosted a Mother's Day Tea. I was so proud of my kiddos for all of their hard work and how well behaved and polite they were to our classroom guests. Here are some of the snapshots from our week of MOM!



We wrote out invitations to invite the mothers to tea.





Haha! Mother's Day writing never disappoints.



I found these little treasure boxes at JoAnn Fabrics for 80 cents! We painted them to look like a garden and filled them with Dove Chocolates.




Our classroom all set up for tea!



Our candle holder made of tissue paper and glue!

4.09.2014

Wordless Wednesday: Saving Anchor Charts


I haven't done a linky party in a long time, but I saw this one on Instagram and found it would be a perfect place to ask a question to other teachers. Many teachers that I have worked with in the past laminate and save anchor charts, poems and other visuals that they handwrite or create on chart paper.  I do anchor charts and write out poems for every theme and unit, and now I am struggling with what charts to save and what charts to laminate and keep to reuse next year? I will definitely not save ones that are specific with my students' names and ownership on them.

What anchor charts/visuals do you save and which ones do you make new each year?




3.16.2014

Dealing with Class Behaviors

I didn't know if I would be able to blog about this topic when I was in the middle of dealing with it but now I think it's safe to say we are out of our funk. We have completed a 180 from where we were in January and February. It's easy to think it's always sunshine and rainbows in kindergarten and first grade, but the reality is, we have some really great days and some realllllyyy tough days.

The months of January and February were tough because we were battling cabin fever. We had a snow day (or 2) almost every week. We had February vacation. We had Valentine's Day, the 100th day and many other very "excitable" events in our classroom. I know this sounds like fun. What's wrong with a bunch of snow days and a vacation?! But from the teacher's shoes, snow days, vacations and holidays can sometimes be our worst nightmare. I paid for every single snow day we had. Disruptions in routines are the downfall of my classroom and all of these fun filled and unexpected events caused our class to unravel in the days we were together. Some days it felt like it was September again. My kids were forgetting our simple classroom rules like raising hands, saying please and thank you and walking in the hallway. They were forgetting how to be nice to each other. They were irritable. They were fighting with each other. They were driving each other bonkers!

So what is a teacher to do when her class is unraveling? Well, I'm not entirely sure if there is one answer for this. But here is what I had to do.

I took away everything fun. I KNOW. It seems heartless but all of my other behavior systems had failed me and I needed the shock factor to really get them to understand that I was serious and that we could not go on like we had been.

At the end of what I can only describe as our worst day all year, I took all of our toys out of the classroom as my kids sat and watched. I put garbage bags on all of our computers. I took away our "Scrap Monster" which is really just our recycling bin but the kids have free reign over it to make crafts. I needed them to understand that school is FUN and the things we do and have we are LUCKY to have and we don't just get them because we are supposed to. We get them because we deserve and earn them! It was a sad day and I felt that inner conflict that all teachers are familiar with. Was I being too harsh? Was this going to work? Would they even care?

The lone chair sat where we once had our kitchen, our toy shelf with blocks, Legos, Knex, figurines, etc. Such a sad day!

I sat down with my principal after school and asked her for her support. My kids really respect and love her so I knew if she helped me it would help them. We came up with a plan. She kept all of the toys in her office where we could easily see them every time we walked by. I took photos of the toys and made puzzles out of them. On Monday I told the kids that we had to earn each toy back ONE puzzle piece at a time. The only way to earn a piece was by following the rules, trying our best and BEING NICE TO EACH OTHER!! We talked a lot about different scenarios and how we should behave, how we should treat each other. The kids learned that going on the computer during math or reading isn't just "part of school", it is STILL a privilege. They didn't like doing paper and pencil work during that time!

It took a LOT of management, praise and encouragement but the kids did it. One toy, one day at a time. They worked together to get each thing back. Every time we earned something back, the child who earned the last piece to the puzzle got to go to the principal's office and get the toy. We cheered each time something came back. It took the full week to earn everything back.  I was really, really proud of them and noticed a huge change in behavior. Slowly but surely I had gotten my class back!



Now here's the thing...

More often than not, I blame myself for bad weeks and bad days at school, wondering what I could do differently or how I can improve our class. Although I needed to do something drastic for the kids to make a change, I also used this rock bottom as a way to reflect on the things I was doing each day. I reflected on my groups of students. Was this a bad combination of kids that led to behavior problems? I reflected on my timing. Was I leaving enough time for us to line up for music class quietly or did the kids feel rushed and chaotic? I reflected on my planning. Was I planning lessons that were keeping them interested and engaged? Despite my students needing strict routines, there is something to be said about a change of scenery helping everyone get out of a funk. I decided to rearrange our classroom, reorganize the way we did centers and find some new things for them to work for. 

It was a tough winter, but this was back in February and the past two or three weeks have been full of good behavior and I couldn't be prouder of my kiddos for working through it! In many ways it was the spring cleaning that we desperately needed! 

3.11.2014

GoNoodle! A Classroom Website MUST

A few weeks ago my class started our very own GoNoodle account and we are OBSESSED. We can't get enough of it! If you're new to GoNoodle, it's a website that is devoted to brain breaks and movement in the classroom. When I first joined, I was uneasy about when it would be okay to use it and how my kids would respond. We all know that sometimes when you turn on music and have the kids move around, you may be making the craziness worse. That is not the case with GoNoodle.


When you start an account you pick a mascot that will represent your class. As you choose exercises and complete minutes, you move on to new levels and your mascot gets bigger. The kids can't wait to see if we beat another level and they love watching McPufferson grow! It only takes 15 minutes to move on to a new level. When you reach the next level, the background changes too.

Before we started, I told them there were some rules that we had to follow.

  • Everyone has to participate or it won't work (teacher secrets hehe). 
  • You have to stand behind your chair.
  • You have to follow exactly what the brain break tells you to do (no jumping around when you should be doing Zumba!)
I was amazed that my kinder-firsts really follow along with the Zumba dances, the yoga poses and the different movements involved. It is a great way to get up out of our seats and have a brain break! There are a variety of videos on it so you can choose what best fits your class. Before we go to lunch every day, we have a "free dance" to the Happy song from Despicable Me 2, but before we start centers we do yoga to get us ready to focus. 

At this time of year when we are all in desperate need of movement, GoNoodle is a total must. Last week a teacher at my school emailed everyone to apologize that her class may have sounded "rowdy" because they were trying to beat a level! I love it. 

GoNoodle will even send you a class pack of stickers with your mascots face on them! How fun is that?

Here are a few of the great breaks available! Go now and GoNoodle!






3.08.2014

These Things are Fun and Fun is Good!

What a fun week it was! Even if I did have to stay home sick on Wednesday...

We had one of our most exciting weeks by celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday, Read Across America week and by welcoming a new month.  Here's a recap of what went on in our kinder-first world.



One of my little buddies is such a good helper- I snagged this photo last week while he was helping me set up for Seuss week! 



I tried to do one book a day and base all of our activities around it, but when I got sick Tuesday night and had to miss Wednesday my plan went out the window. Monday was all about One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (I Can Read It All by Myself)




One Fish, Two Fish graph from my Read Across America unit.


Morning Work from The Tutu Teacher!


We have been listening to celebrities read our favorite children's books aloud on YouTube lately. If you Google a children's book title you can usually find an audio version with photos. I also search YouTube for them. 






This was our book cover project. We learned about the title, author and illustrator on a book cover! 


Do any other teachers out there get so excited about a Pinterest idea, only to have the kids want nothing to do with it!? That's what happened when I made blue jello with Swedish Fish. They would barely touch it! Oh well..I enjoyed it :)




The Lorax craft..orange paper plates and yellow tissue paper. So simple and so cute!







I have to brag for a minute about one of my moms this year. She is an AMAZING baker- she bakes all organic, natural dyed baked goods and decorates them beautifully. She surprised us with this amazing display of Lorax cookies and truffula tree pops! 


This was another Pinterest flop but they were fun to make- Cat in the Hat kabobs. I suppose they would have gone over well if they were made out of marshmallows and Swedish Fish, but I tried to take the healthy snack approach. Fruit is the first thing to go at our holiday parties but it turns out they didn't go crazy for these! 


Finger painting followed by a writing prompt: "If the Cat in the Hat came to my house we would...."



Green Eggs and Ham sight word game from my Read Across America packet.

For the second Friday in a row my kids have been so good- it makes my weekends much better when I come home feeling on top of the world. I love my little guys so much. Have a good weekend everyone!