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The first day of school is a busy, busy day filled with learning about each other, collecting/handing out supplies, and teaching procedures.  I always try to make it as special as possible for my students by completing fun projects in between all the "business" of the day.

One of my faaaavorite activities is making magic bead bracelets with my kiddos!  I used to make magic play-doh but it involves some prep.  The bracelets are suuuper simple to make, you only need a few supplies, and you don't need to prep much at all ahead of time.

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A set of 1000 magic beads is more than enough for your class.  Each student will need about 20-25 or so beads.  I like to separate the beads into little cups or containers beforehand.  I'm not sure where the pictured containers are from, but these plastic cups with lids would work just as well.  It's also a good idea to use craft trays to help prevent rolling beads, but it's not necessary.

Pipe cleaners are perfect for making these bracelets-- you can use colorful or white stems, it's up to you!  The pipe cleaners are thick and hold the pony beads so they won't roll off the other end.  Both of my girls (5 and 2.5) did a wonderful job making their own bracelets!  I had my almost kindergartener count the beads as she went along.


Once enough beads are on the stems, twist the two ends closed and snip any extra length.  I like to leave a little bit of space so it's easier to slide the bracelets on/off, but not so loose that they fall off.  Then just tuck the ends of the pipe cleaners in so that the pointy part doesn't stick out.

Now if you're wondering what makes these white bead bracelets so magical... the beads are actually color changing UV beads!!  They change colors when outside in the sunlight, just like magic!



Before heading outside, I like to tell my students, "Your bracelets will magically change color if you are going to have a GREAT year in first grade!"  You can then take a little walk outside (if that's allowed at your school) or have your kiddos wait until after school.  They can report back!  I've done this project right at the end of the day so it's fresh on my students' minds as they are dismissed.  The next day they come back and are SO excited to report that they WILL have a great year!!  Some students continue to wear the bracelets day after day, others twist them onto backpacks, and EVERYONE loves it! :)

Feel free to pin the image below to save this post for later or share it with your teacher friends! :)




Setting up or closing a classroom (depending on when you're reading this) can be a stressful time of year... but it doesn't have to be.  It can be fun, too!  Opening your classroom is a fresh start, a chance to try something new and create a welcoming space for you and your students.  And closing your classroom means it's time for summer break, so what's not to love about that ;)

Today I'd like to share a tip that has helped me tremendously over the years.  It's not exactly rocket science and I'm sure many of you already do this, but I didn't think of it my first few times around so hopefully it will help someone out there!

Here's the first part of this brilliant idea: a classroom set-up supply box!

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What goes inside the box? ANYTHING you might need for decorating your classroom!  Prepare your box ahead of time, like when you are closing up your classroom, to make going back easier.  (Or if you have a separate batch of supplies specifically for classroom set-up, even better!)  Your to-do list will be long enough-- you don't want to add searching for your staple remover to the list.

Here's a look at what I put inside my supply box.  I've linked my favorites below each picture so you can easily find something you might need!



stapler (one that opens for tacking) | staples | staple remover | scissors | hole punch
hammer & nails | level (not pictured, but handy for hanging items) | 



hot glue gun & sticks | Scotch masking tape (the best IMO) | tape | velcro



magnet dots | push pin magnets (I have tons of magnets in the red box) | push pins 
Command hooks | Stikki Clips (not pictured BUT SO IMPORTANT) | black Sharpies

Now for the second, very important part of this idea: put the box somewhere you can quickly find and access it!  Take it from me: putting all your supplies in one box at the back of your closet isn't going to help you.  So, as you're shoving things in said closet-- err, cleaning your classroom-- at the end of the year, make sure your supply box is easy to find and easy to grab when you go looking for it in a few months.

I hope this simple tip helps you, whether you're a veteran teacher or brand new to the game!  Feel free to pin the image below to save this post for later or share it with your teacher friends! :)



I'm always looking for ways to make my kids' screen time more valuable--both in the classroom and at home.  That's why I love the idea behind the new streaming service app, Vooks!  Vooks is like the Netflix of children's books, offering better screen time for kids with animated storybooks.
This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

A Vooks subscription offers unlimited access to an ever-expanding library of books for kids ages 2-8. My first time scrolling through the app, I noticed the library included classroom favorites such as The Snowy Day and Where the Wild Things Are, as well as at-home favorites like Cinderella. Both of my girls (ages 2 and 4.5) were immediately hooked as soon as the video for Cinderella begin to play.
With words on screen and perfectly-paced animation, this app encourages the development of literacy, focus, and imagination. As a teacher I love that the text is highlighted in bold letters as the words in the story are read. This helps kiddos with tracking (matching the speech to print) as they follow along and listen, which is great for beginning and improving readers. At the same time, the illustrations come to life and jump off the page. The slow-paced animation encourages focus while fostering imagination. If you have access to tablets in your classroom, add Vooks to your center rotation for a fun alternative to library time!
The app can be used anywhere there is an internet connection, and it's accessible on your smartphone, tablet and computer. A huge bonus: you can also download a bunch of Vooks ahead of time and watch them even if you don't have access to the internet! This is an awesome feature for road trips if you're a parent, or spotty internet connections in schools if you're a teacher (you know the internet is down as often as the copy machine is broken... tell me it isn't true).
It is worth mentioning that unlike some other apps and services, there are no ads and Vooks is guaranteed kid-friendly. This is a GREAT feature, because teachers and parents won't have to worry about what their students and children are viewing. Kiddos can move from book to book within the app without possibly clicking on something that isn't age appropriate.

Books on Vooks (isn't that fun to say?) are also categorized in some pretty amazing ways. Be Brave and Be You are two excellent examples. You can also browse by categories like New Releases and Classics, or sort by age range.
Since Vooks is a subscription service, there is a low monthly fee of $4.99 or an annual fee of $49.99. However, everyone who signs up will receive a FREE 7-day trial!  Like most kids, my girls enjoy their screen time very much. So far, they've enjoyed browsing the Vooks app. One of their favorite finds is an animal alphabet book! And since Vooks is a better alternative to screen time, it's both guilt-free for parents and fun for kids--I call that a win-win!

I have always loved giving my students little themed gifts throughout the year.  And now that I'm the mom of a preschooler, I'm also having fun sending in treats for my daughter's classmates!

For Christmas this year, I thought it would be fun to create Play-Doh Christmas tree kits!  Instead of just a little toy or trinket, these kits will allow kids to use their imaginations and create something.  All you need are a few crafty supplies... and I bet you already have some of them in your teacher closet!

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You will need:
star beads or cutouts
FREE bag topper (linked below)

Stuff each sandwich size Ziploc with one can of green Play-Doh.  I found enough individual cans at my local craft store, but you can actually buy a case online.  Next, add your embellishments! I used red and silver tinsel pipe cleaners for the garland.  Cut two pipe cleaners in half, for a total of 4 pieces per bag.  Pony beads make the perfect ornaments-- grab a handful and add it to your kit.  Sequins or rhinestones are other fun options.  Last, add in a few stars!  I found star beads at the craft store.  You could also use a star punch to create stars from card stock.



Once your bags are stuffed, seal them up (push out as much air as you can so it will be easier to add the label).  Cut out the bag toppers (I recommend printing on card stock), fold them in half, place over the top of the bag, and staple on both sides.

I included two versions of the tag in this free file: one has a little heart with space to write your name, and the other does not.  Click HERE to download your copy!


Kids will love this creative gift!  And how cute are the decorated trees?!


Feel free to pin the image below to save this post for later or share it with your teacher friends! :)



Communication with parents is KEY when you're a teacher.  Unfortunately, getting in touch with parents isn't always easy.  Notes get crumpled in backpacks, phone calls home go unanswered, and scheduling conflicts can get in the way of face-to-face meetings.  

This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

Luckily... there's an app for that!  I was recently introduced to ClassTag, a FREE classroom communication app (and website).  I've used other apps in the past, but this one takes the cake.  It has everything you could possibly need in one handy application!  It is available as an app for iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as a complete website.

Through ClassTag, teachers can directly message parents or choose to send a note to the whole class at once.  The private message is great for addressing a behavior issue or discussing a grade.  The class-wide announcement is a quick and easy way to remind everyone about Picture Day, for example.  The app will convert the message to text or email (based on parent preference) and it will *automatically* translate it into 50+ languages.  What?!  It's also worthy of noting that the messages are sent from private numbers, so your information is kept safe.



ClassTag makes asking for volunteers (chaperones for the zoo field trip) and donations (apple juice for the class party) EASIER than ever!  With just a few clicks, teachers can create a "Volunteer Request" or "To Do Item" and parents can sign up right from their account.  Too many volunteers (as if that's possible?) and cupcakes in excess (again, as if that's possible?) are not an issue because limits can be set right in the request.



It's also super easy to organize parent-teacher conferences with ClassTag.  I know firsthand how difficult it can be to coordinate meetings with 20+ families and their busy schedules.  ClassTag allows teachers to organize conferences 1, 2, 3 by creating time slots on certain days.  Parents can sign up for a time that works for them, and there won't be any double booking!  The app will also send out reminders so parents won't forget their meeting time, which is great!



Another awesome feature of ClassTag is the ability to share fun classroom moments with families.  Teachers can upload photos of craft projects, videos of the holiday concert, or simply information on exciting classroom happenings!  Parents can then see these notes right on the class page and stay up-to-date with what's going on at school... because every kid says, "nothing," when asked.



Other noteworthy elements include weekly newsletters and a stats page.   ClassTag will automatically send out newsletters with events, due dates and announcements from the week.  ClassTag also keeps an activity record on the "Family Activity" page that shows who is viewing and responding to messages and who isn't.  That means teachers can even check on parent engagement! Can we send them report cards, too?! ;)



Last but not least, ClassTag offers a fun feature called The Marketplace, where teachers can cash in virtual coins, or "ClassTag Coins," for classroom supplies.  Earning coins is easy-- simply use the app to communicate!!  ClassTag Coins are added when teachers send messages, when parents sign up for events, and more.  Rewards in The Marketplace range from googly eyes to books to gift cards!

ClassTag has everything teachers could possibly need rolled into one, easy-to-use app (plus full access on the web)!  It is the perfect tool for parent-teacher communication... it helps turn parents into partners!



Picture it: You're in the middle of a math lesson and you ask your class, "Does anyone know what 10 - 7 is?"  Several students' hands go up, you pick one, and instead of a number you hear, "Can I go to the bathroom?"

As teachers, we all know this scenario too well.  But interrupting learning time is only one bathroom issue that teachers face daily.  I can think of a some more off the top of my head:

-If you say yes to one student, you can almost guarantee 12 other hands will go up.
-There are several "frequent flyers" in your group.
-Your kids think the bathroom is a place to shout and play.
-Your classroom bathroom is a mess by midday.
-The bathroom is all the way down the hall.

Whatever grade you teach, you've faced one or more of these bathroom dilemmas (and probably more).  And on top of those, sometimes it's hard to determine who really has to go.  
For years I struggled to find the right solution, and I have tried a lot of different things.  I weeded out what worked and what didn't, and I put a bunch of them together into a Bathroom Rules & Management Kit!


The ideas presented in this post can be used together or alone.  Use what's right for YOU and YOUR STUDENTS!  Please always keep in mind that some children need to use the bathroom more than others for medical reasons.  Always have an open mind when it comes to bathroom emergencies as well!

* * *
First thing's first, you absolutely need to set rules and expectations for bathroom breaks.  This is important whether you have a bathroom IN your classroom or way down the hall.  I've had three classrooms without and one classroom with (by far my favorite), so I've dealt with both scenarios.

I included nine rules posters that you can display in your class bathroom, near the door as a subtle reminder before kiddos exit your room, or even in the hall outside of the bathroom.  Other reminders (not shown) include knocking first, closing the door behind you, and being quiet/no playing.



I always love to create anchor charts with my students.  Discussing proper bathroom etiquette is no exception!  There are large anchor chart pieces in this set that you can use with chart paper.  List your ideas with marker or use Post-It notes (kids can write their ideas and put them in the correct spot).  Later you can use the editable mini posters to type your answers and create a small visual.  There are two useful topics included: "Is it a good time to use the bathroom?" and "How should I behave in the bathroom?" Students can refer to these all year!




One idea that's always worked for me is the use of STOP and GO signs.  I like to hang them back-to-back right on the bathroom door.  I just punch a hole in the top, tie with string, and hang them on a command hook.  When students enter the bathroom, they flip the sign to STOP so other kids know that it's occupied.  When they come out, they flip the sign back to GO!

You can also use the STOP and GO signs as a "good to go" signal. Create a small display on your chalkboard or whiteboard using the "Is it a good time to use the bathroom?" anchor chart header.  Switch out the STOP and GO signs during the day so your students can take a look and see right away whether it's a good time to ask.



One of the biggest bathroom issues I've faced is when students ask to use the bathroom A LOT.  It's hard sometimes to figure out who is just looking to escape and who really has to go.  And on top of that, there's so much going on during the day that it's not easy to remember who already went and how many times! (I have a terrible memory, anyone else?!)

 I was looking for a fun way to TRACK and REDUCE bathroom breaks to see who was asking me all the time, while also hoping to cut back on the amount of [unnecessary] breaks.  And so, I created a checkout system that really helped!  I explain the system in further detail inside the Bathroom Rules & Management Kit, but basically I use pom poms to represent bathroom breaks.  I can easily see who's asking and who isn't.  



Another great way to track trips is with a tally chart!  You can use this on it's own, and change the chart out weekly, bi-weekly, monthly... it's up to you!  There's also a black & white version for easy copying.  You can also use the tally chart WITH the pom pom system, which is what I do!  Since the poms will be emptied daily (make it a student job!) the tally chart is a quick way to mark bathroom breaks at the end of the day and have a record on hand.  You can refer to it if you need to speak to a parent.


Individual bathroom passes are another great option.  Give each student three passes (or more or less--up to you) for the day/week and have them turn them in with each trip they take.  Passes can be kept at student desks or in a designated spot (like a pocket chart) and they can be dropped in a specific turn-in bin.



Whichever tracking system you use, I highly recommend adding an incentive!  Candy, stickers, mini erasers, and bouncy balls are all fun ideas!  If kiddos aren't asking or using up all their passes in any given day/week/month (again, it's up to you), they can earn a little reward OR earn tickets for prize drawings.  This will help discourage those unnecessary breaks.

All of the ideas above AND MORE are included in my Bathroom Rules & Management Kit.  You will also find hall passes, a Wheelchair Accessible sign, labels, and various options.  I really tried to include EVERYTHING you need to manage bathroom breaks in your classroom!!  I'm telling you-- these ideas are GAME CHANGERS!!



Feel free to pin the image below to save this post for later or share it with your teacher friends! :)





One of my favorite organizational tools for the classroom is the B.E.E. Book!  B.E.E. stands for Bring Everything Everyday.  It's a fancy name for a take home folder. ;) 

But it's not just any take home folder.  It's the BEST take home folder.  Because it keeps kids organized.  And their parents.  And me.  I call that a win-win-win!

*I'm going to lose the dots and just refer to it as a BEE now, don't judge ;)*
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I purchase and put together the BEE Books for my class.  I like the folders to be uniform and it gives me a chance to have them ready for the first day of school.  I always choose bright yellow folders for my BEE Books, because bees.  Black folders would also be a perfect fit!  I buy the poly portfolios with prongs as they have the best chance of lasting throughout the school year.

You can include as little or as much inside as you want.  I keep mine fairly simple.  On the outside I add a cute label with my kiddos' names (you can add student numbers, too).



On the inside I label the left and right pockets.  The left side is for papers that should be LEFT at home.  These might include completed papers, school flyers... anything that can be taken out and stay at home.  The right side is for papers that should come RIGHT back to school.  These might include notices or test papers that need signatures, homework to complete... anything that you want to see again.


I also include a 3-hole pencil pouch in the BEE that we use for money and notes.  Without it, money for lunch, field trips, and book orders was lost in pockets and desks, and notes to me were crumpled in the bottom of backpacks.  Now we all know where to put and look for these items!



As I mentioned above, I keep my BEEs simple.  Aside from the labeled pockets and zipper pouch, I add in two clear page protectors for our spelling menu and homework/skills assignment sheet.  I also 3-hole punch our behavior calendars and pop them in the BEE, too.  If you use a clip chart, you can even stick a mini version inside so parents are aware of the color code! 


BEE Books go home with students every afternoon, and come back to school every morning.  My firsties know that when they empty their backpacks in the morning, their BEEs go in a specific bin, and that they aren't supposed to take anything out (either myself or my aide will go through it).  If you teach older kids, you can assign more responsibility... or even as the year progresses with the young ones!

If you want to make your own BEE Books for your class, I provided the cover and inside labels in my *editable* Notebook & Folder Labels pack.  There are tons of other labels, too!  You just type your class list in ONCE and student names will autofill on EVERY page of labels.  So easy!  They are made to go on these Avery labels because they are nice and big.



Feel free to pin the image below to save this post for later or share it with your teacher friends! :)




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