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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rotating Toys

       I love my giant classroom. Last year I decided to rotate the toys in my classroom every month.  The only toys that stayed in our room all year were wooden blocks and art supplies (not really toys but something the kids can use during free play).  I simply couldn't ever part with either of those two things:)
       An essential element of my rotating toy program was that I had far fewer toys in my classroom at any one time.  In the past I always had to deal with kids dumping the bins that had small toys as well as feeling that kids weren't playing with toys I knew they would enjoy because they were stuck always doing the same thing.  Both those concerns were so diminished by having "new" things to play with each month.


       I first decided which "big" items I would have in my class for the month.  Examples of big items would be the  kitchen set, store set, puppet theater, dolls and doll furniture, lego table, dress up clothes, big cardboard blocks.  Our giant cardboard castle would also qualify I guess.  Each month I would set up 2 or 3 of these items on one side of our classroom.  I would then add other toys to be played with on the tables and rugs around the room (such as cars, trains, play dough, doll houses, games, puzzles, etc.) I was careful that I always had different types of toys... toys for imaginative play, toys for building, toys that required small motor coordination and others that required gross motor skills. I also made sure that some toys were appropriate for quiet play or could be played alone while other toys encouraged playing together.

The toys that were out also reflected what unit  we were working on that month.

Lots of retelling materials were out during our Fairy Tale unit.
 We had LOTS of toy dinosaurs to play with during our dinosaur unit.
       I loved the kids excitement regarding the "new" toys each month and their willingness to try new things (and actually play with different kids depending upon what toys were out).  The kids knew that if I had removed a favorite toy it would return in a month or two.

Finally, during the last month, the children got to vote for the toys they wanted in our room.

       I am very lucky that our school has lots of toys (many of which weren't being used before I started rotating toys) and an extra storage room.  However, a lot of the rotating involved sharing toys with other classrooms and that could be done with fewer toys and less extra storage.  This summer, we are trying to work on better organizing our school's toys so that it is even easier for everyone to rotate toys throughout the year.  

       I really recommend that you try both rotating toys and having less toys in the room.  I certainly plan to do it again this year!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tell Me More, Tell Me More

      I have really enjoyed reading about other bloggers who have linked up with Mrs. Lemons' linky, I've finally decided to join the fun (better late than never:)  Here goes:

1.  I've been married for 26 years to a man I both love and respect.  We have four children who are smart, kind and strong (in the stubborn sense:).
Ed is still really cute:)
A couple of years ago we went skiing in Switzerland...actually my family went skiing in Switzerland. I don't like  going fast, being out of control or being cold so I mainly read and ate very well.

2. Teaching is my second (or third) career.  I've also been a lawyer and a stay-at-home Mom.
When my kids were little, I loved planning elaborate birthday parties and making themed Halloween costumes (until my kids vetoed them :)

3. My Mom died almost exactly a year ago and I miss her every day.

4. My favorite place is Keuka Lake in New York State where my family has a cottage.

5. My whole family (my brother and sister and their kids and, until recently, my parents) always vacations at the cottage for the first 2 weeks of August.  For MANY years my nieces and nephews only called me "Pretty, Pretty Princess" because I pretended I didn't like it and I would throw them in the lake if they called me that (I even remembered if they said it at Christmas and would throw them in the next summer as soon as they got off the plane from California) .  It drove my sister crazy that  her kids wouldn't call me anything funny!
This is actually part of the "Pretty Pretty Princess Dance" they composed one year:)
6. We own a big sailboat that I will never learn to sail.  My husband is a wonderful sailor and although I  enjoy being on the boat, I always just tune him out when he starts explaining things.  I really hope he never goes overboard because I would be in BIG trouble..."Mayday, Mayday!"

I love when we get all 4 kids on the's not too often with their busy schedules.
7. Our sailboat is named Lekker which means luscious in Dutch.  
8. I belong to a tennis group that plays tennis once or twice a week and also frequently gets together for drinks and girls weekends. Although I have not played tennis for over 10 years (because I work when they play), I am still part of the group (I never miss the drinks or girls weekends :).  I love these friends.
9. I think my greatest strengths are that I'm easy going and that I recognize and appreciate the many blessings in my life.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Caps for Sale - perfect for whole class retelling

          One of the first books that I read to my class each year is Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. I love the book because every time I read it, I think of my Mom reading the book to me and then my reading the book to my own kids.  It's also a great book to introduce retelling. After I explain what a peddler is and read the book one time,  I pick a volunteer (from my pick me cup) to act out the part of the peddler.  The rest of the class plays the part of the monkeys.  I reread the story (giving directions as necessary to the "reach your hand up and feel for the what would your expression be?).  The "monkeys" love their fist shaking, stomping and "tsz, tsz, tsz" role.  The kids ask to do the retelling over and over.  I usually do it one more time and then suggest they can do it themselves during free play (and they do!)  
"But the monkeys only stamped both their feet back at him and said, "Tsz, tsz, tsz."
          Caps for Sale is also great for introducing sequencing. After we act out the story, I ask about what happened at the beginning, middle and end of the story.  I then have the children choose one "scene" from the book that they want to draw.  They then dictate a sentence about their picture that includes what part of the book they illustrated. For example, "At the beginning, the peddler called out 'Caps for Sale. Fifty cents a cap!'" Later, they each come up and share their illustrations (in order).

          Barbara at Grade ONEderful is hosting a "drama queen" linky party. I like introducing retelling and acting out a story with Caps for Sale because it is such a simple story.  We can easily retell it without any props and everyone gets to participate.    Check out other clever acting ideas at Barbara's site.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Whole Year of Bulletin Boards

         *If you're new to my blog, I'd love if you could follow me.  Also, there are even more bulletin board ideas (particularly farm bulletin boards and fairy tale bulletin boards) that you can find if you click on "bulletin board" on the labels section on the side or search for the word "bulletin board". ( I promise I'll update this post to include everything as soon as I have time:)

I love both putting together bulletin boards and looking at other teachers' bulletin board ideas.  When my computer was stolen last spring I lost all the pictures that I had not printed or backed up.  That really is the most horrible feeling! Today I found a pile of photos that I had taken a couple of years ago of some of my bulletin boards.  I decided to scan the photos and put them on my blog (so at least they can't be lost or ruined).  I added the few pictures of bulletin boards (or walls since I don't have many bulletin boards in my classroom) from this year that weren't lost.  I hope you can find some good ideas.


I am using Barbara Gruener's book What's Under Your Cape to teach character with superheroes.  I took a photo of each child with a mask on for this cute board.

Students' pictures and an About Me form that we filled out on the first day are on this board. The kids also decorated the first letter in their name the first day.

Self-portraits. Read more about this wall of smiling faces here.
Photos were added to the stars. See more about my classroom setup here

10 Apples Up On Top.  See more apple ideas here.

Green was done with marble painting on day 1.  On second day, children cut out the tree (I drew the shape), glued top and trunk pieces on blue paper and then used pencil eraser dipped in paint to add apples.

This is a description of the apple smiles that we made with apples, peanut butter and mini marshmallows.


5 Little Pumpkins (we used popsicle sticks to make fence and then drew faces on orange circles)
Haunted House, Haunted House, Scary as can be! How many spooky things do you see?

pumpkin glyphs

monster glyphs.  See more monster ideas here.


I always do a big unit on The First Americans
The labels on the board always start "Some or Many Native Americans." For example, "Some Native Americans lived in teepees made from animal skins." 

November Words

turkeys made with coffee filters

Our Thankful Quilt
Thankful Poems. Read more about these here.

The bricks were sponge painted, the wreath was collaboratively made with scrunched pieces of tissue paper and the flames were made by squishing paint between folded pieces of paper (like you do for the symmetry lesson:)

gingerbread glyph

The children used paper and scissors and were told to make the same design on both mittens...harder than it sounds:)


New Year's Resolutions written on party hats

Animals in Winter

The children wrote about the snowman they created.

Martin Luther King's Birthday.

I want to follow in the footsteps of ___________because__________.


100th Day Self Portraits (from Finally in First)

100th day 20 high fives

Valentines Day

"_________ is a good friend because_______"
Math Words. See more about this bulletin board here.

Donosaurs (mainly from paper plates)

Read more about St Patrick's Day here.

If I were the principal...

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Princess and the Pea

See more about the 3 Little Pigs here.

See more about our Fairy Tale castles here.


See more mud activities here or here.

muddy footprints led to this fun poem
Egg Books about oviparous animals. See more about oviparous animals  here.


Students wrote about something they were proud of

Large flowers in our window


Reading Garden - Watermelons have similes, carrots have word families on them. The flowers are cut from color copies of kids' book covers.  The children's names are written in the centers.

Kid Writing

Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and Corduroy.
Art Museum - inspired by a trip to the Brandywine River Museum


See more about King Bidgood here


Mouse Paint. See more Mouse Paint activities here.
See more about Kandinsky here.

Harold and the Purple Crayon.  To see more about this activity see here.

To see more about our portrait studies see here.

See more about our quilt here.

drawing to different classical music
See more about our Seurat's Dots here.