Wednesday, September 12, 2012

First Grader At Last!!!

First Grader At Last!!!

Junie B.Jones had it right when she was excited to be a first grader at last! Not only am I excited to "be a first grader at last" but I hope my students are too! Within the first two weeks of school I read my students the chapter book First Grader At Last by Barbara Parks. Of course they loved it because they always love Junie B. but also because they could relate to the jitters and feelings of coming to first grade. At the end of the story, I had my students write two sentences about what they've learned so far in first grade. Then, I found a "craftivity" on that allowed them to display their work in a fun and engaging way. 

All of the pieces that went into making this craft were precut and ready for the students to choose to create their character. They were supposed to create the Junie B. character in their image, or if they were a boy, they were supposed to create Herb who is the other main character in this story. It was so precious to see how their self image came out! I was so lucky that I had my dad, uncle and aunt there to help make this craft! I don't think I would have gotten it done so quickly without them!

You can find the template for making this craftivity at  This unit also comes with several awesome back to school activity ideas!

Mrs. McKillop

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Smile File

Smile File

One of my favorite things about being in first grade is that these innocent little children say some of the cutest things that make you smile! One of my goals this year is to add to my Smile File on the blog, so that I can always remember some of the funny things that happen. I keep a Smile File at school of their drawings and work, but sometimes the stories of happenings in class are the funniest!

Student: These are for you Mrs McKillop!
Me: Thank you for the beautiful flowers!
Student: These aren't flowers silly! These are weeds!!!

Mrs. McKillop

Friday, August 31, 2012

My First Week in First Grade

My First Week in First Grade

               Boy has this week flown by! I cannot believe that I have already spent an entire week with my precious first graders! Well, I was right.... I do LOVE first grade! In all honesty, I could not be happier with my grade, teammates, staff, administration, and community that I am now a part of! I really feel that this is where God wants me to be! Which is always a good feeling.

            One lesson that I like to do as an introduction to classroom respect revolves around the book, The Colors of Us by Karen Katz.

This book helps children debunk the stereotype that all people are "white or black." In fact, this book teaches children that there are no white or black people because if you acutally look at the skin tone of an African American or a Caucasion, it is not black or white. This book encourages children to value all different skin tones and view them as unique. The speaker of this story is a little girl who talks about all of her friends and what their skin looks like to her. She comes up with a very creative list like: pancakes, honey, cinnamon, chocolate, peachy tan etc. Then, at the end of the story she describes how unimportant skin color is, but how important we are all as individuals. I love doing this story at the beginning of the year so that my students can learn to look beyond each other's skin color.... I do not want them to look beyond different cultures... only not to stereotype each other based on skin color. After reading the story I have my students write a sentence describing their skin color. Then, I paint their hand the color they choose (I have several mixtures) and put it on a quilt square with their sentence.

When all of the hands are dry, I create a quilt to hang in our classroom all year long. This is a visual reminder for my students that we are a family despite how different we may look. 

While students are waiting to get their hand painted, I also have them complete a page in a class book. It is very similar to the handprint page. Students simply rewrite the sentence at the top of a regular piece of computer paper, and then draw a picture of themselves at the bottom. I put all of these into a class book that students can find in our book shelf. This will help them begin to view themselves as authors!

Mrs. McKillop

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Open House

Love At First Sight!!!

Tonight I got to meet my 21 precious little first graders, and it was love at first sight! Every single little child I met was the sweetest, most energetic and excited child I've ever met! I can tell this is going to be an awesome year!

My room is finally put together... YAY! Just in time for open house! 

This is my computer center! This will be a station during Guided Reading time!

ActivBoard and morning meeting area! 

Math Center
Each day I have a math assistant. In fact, it is one of my classroom jobs! I will have to guide the math assistant for the first quarter until they catch on, but generally by second quarter they are able to do it on their own. The math assistant starts by discussing the days of the week, adding to the calendar, making our weather bears wear appropriate clothes for the weather, and graph the weather. The most important part of my math assistant's job however, is to do the "day of the year." We have 180 total school days in one year. Each day we will do two things in order to keep track of the number of days we've been in school. The first thing they will do is add a base ten block to the red pocket chart. In the past, I would have used straws, and then upon accumulating 10 straws, I would bundle them up and move them to the tens and so forth for the hundreds. However, I have found that if you do this routine using base ten blocks, ones, tens rods, and hundreds boards, they will be able to connect this to place value! As the year progresses, students will begin taking the standard form of the number and write it in expanded notation. The second important part of their job is the tens frame. Students will add a colorful circle sticker to the tens frame. We will keep track of those and connect them to the tens blocks. Since patterns are no longer technically in first grade, I will use the patterns of colors to help further their knowledge of patterns without explicitly teaching it.

Classroom Jobs

I have 10 classroom jobs. I tried to do a classroom job for each child, but it got overwhelming and since most of the jobs ended up being unused, I decided to only do the jobs that were really needed. My jobs are: 
Line leader, door holder, 2 lunch helpers (sweep and clean tables), teacher's assistant, scrap monster (cleans up at the end of the day), electrician (turns out lights when needed), P.E. equipment (responsible for taking recess equipment outside and inside), math assistant and caboose. They students' names are on the hands as well as their number. This just helps me keep track of the order they go in. My students are assigned a number and they will always stand in line according to that number, however, just like the jobs rotate once a week, the line order will rotate once a week, with the line leader becoming the caboose and each student moving up in the rotation of jobs.

This is my reading area for SSR during guided reading!

Again here are my birthday bags, but my favorite part of this room is my craft area! I found that over the years I was buying craft items over and over again that I already had! So in the process of changing schools and grade levels, I cleaned out and organized my craft supplies. The white plastic bins next to the sink house all of my craft supplies with labels so I know what materials I already have! To add some color to the white bins, I simply taped a piece of colorful card stock to the inside of the drawer!

Teacher's Desk
Well... not really! We all know that teachers generally don't sit down unless they are doing a Guided Reading lesson! So here is where I will be doing those lessons, as well as planning when the kiddos aren't around! On the yellow paper behind my chair, I have the Beanie Baby reading strategies on display, with each beanie baby stuffed animal beneath it. While teaching students to sound out unfamiliar words, I will have my students tell me which strategy they are going to use! You can find these beanie baby reading strategies for free at They are free!!!

Writing Center
My favorite part of my writing center is the poster that is stapled in the middle of the bulletin board.  It has words and pictures associated with each month. It allows students to use words that they may want to write about, based on the month, in their writing without having to ask how to spell them. It gives them enough to jump start their brains on what to write, without giving them all the words... because they still have to practice sounding out unknown words they want to write!

Open House Treats

 When each student came into my classroom, this is what they found on their desk! Inside the red folder was all of the paper work that the parents would need throughout the night. I hope that by giving parents a folder, they can keep all important documents from class in one central location! I also had an apple on their desk. This is to go with my theme about parents being teachers too! You can find this poem at The poem template cost $.75, or you can use the poem and create your own picture! This is a well known poem that a lot of teachers use, so I don't think there is any copyright on it!

This picture shows the gift that I gave to the students. It is a little bag of "Jitter Mix" or UTZ party mix from Walmart :) It also has a poem with it that talks about eating this mix before going to bed the night before school so the butterflies in their tummy will go away! You can find this poem at

My mom has finished my wonderful chair covers, so I will post step by step instructions on how to make them tomorrow!

Mrs. McKillop

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parents Are Teachers Too!

Refrigerator Magnet

One thing I really want to focus on this year is making a solid connection between school and home to help my children grow both academically and socially. My theme for parents this year is "Parents Are Teachers Too!" I want my parents to know that I am going to do everything in my power while their precious little ones are in my care, but together with their input at home, we can make the biggest impact. One of the things I am going to do to begin this adventure with my parents is to give them a visual reminder each day! I created a "picture frame" below that students will use their first day of school to take a picture.

I will glue the picture onto a clothes pin that has a magnet on the back of it like this:

I got the clothes pin idea from 

This way every time I send home the packet full of work for the parents to sort through... the kids can help them and pick their favorite piece of work to display at home!

Tonight is open house! My open house blog will be out tomorrow!

Mrs. McKillop

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Pinterest Ideas

 For "the New Kid"

This past Monday was such an awesome day because I got to meet my new Sedge Garden teammates and coworkers! My new school is so inviting and welcoming that it is making this transition to my new school and new grade amazing! Because I was "the new kid" to the school it got me thinking about how to make new teachers or first year teachers feel welcome when coming to school. It is inevitable that each year there is either a new member to your team, or a new person to your school. When I was a first year teacher, I was given a lot of supplies and items that most teachers could want or need in a cute little basket. Then as I became the seasoned teacher and had new teachers come to my school, I did the same thing! The problem with buying teachers little gifts to fill their classroom is that you never really know what they need. Do they need the 100's chart poster, fire drill directions, or the multiplication tables poster? On Monday I realized the perfect gift to give to new teachers, because my new coworker/ friend gave it to me! It is a pencil vase to put flowers in! Laura explained to me that she got a vase from the dollar store, hot glued pencils on it, and a ribbon around it.

How cute! If you want to see step by step instructions you can see them at this blog!

Also, on Pinterest you can find how to make this vase with colored pencils. Both are beautiful, cheap, easy, and most important- useful ways to welcome a new coworker!


The next project on my Pinterest list this week was to make Privacy Sheilds or as I will call them, "offices." You know when you give a test (at any age) and although you tell the kids not to peak, you still see those wondering eyes? Well this is a cheap and easy way to make sure your kids aren't cheating off each other, while making the kids feel grown up by calling them offices. If you were to try to buy these from a teacher store, they would cost about 4 dollars a shield. However, yet again my friend Laura taught me about making these. All you do is buy the 15 cent folders from Walmart and a roll of shipping tape and you are set! Simply tape the two folders together on either side! They fold closed to fit perfectly inside a standard student desk. If you want to laminate them it will help preserve them.

Mrs. McKillop

Saturday, August 11, 2012

First Grade Jitters

Well the dreams have already started! You know the ones right before school begins where you show up to school not wearing any pants, or you somehow cannot manage to control your students on their first day? Yup, here they are, invading my peaceful slumber! But OH how these dreams are welcomed because this year I will be starting a new grade at a new school, and I couldn't be happier! I've spent the past three years teaching third grade and although I loved my children, I couldn't wait for the day that I could teach first grade. So now that I am in first grade, I am excited to start a new adventure using glitter and glue as much as possible. 

To start off I wanted to share a few things that I've stolen from various people and places to implement this year. You know how you get on Pinterest and plan to only spend a couple minutes surfing what your friends have recently pinned, but somehow end up spending hours repinning 35 education pins to your boards only to never look at them again? Well, I've decided to go through all these pins and pick out the really cute ideas and get a head start! 

Displaying Student Work

So one of the things that I find to be very important as a teacher is to make a conscious effort to display current student work outside the classroom and inside the classroom. The catch here was the word "current." There is always a beautiful art project or A+ paper to hang out in the hallway, but the problem is taking the time to get the staples out of the previous paper from the cork strip then staple a new piece of work onto the wall for all 20 children. This takes more time than I normally have and is normally the first thing to get pushed to the side when I don't have any time. So I decided to brainstorm a way for students to be able to choose and hang their own work outside the classroom when they get back a paper they are proud of. Because clipboards are safe for students to clip their paper to, this is something I can make them responsible for and it saves me time! Plus I think it adds color to the hallway with a cute display too!

Teacher Information Card

This is another idea that I saw on Pinterest and then remembered to do it when one of my friends Laura showed me her teacher information card! I created this card using a Microsoft Publisher business card template. I simply put my information on the card and clicked print! Then, backed it and laminated it to make it look more professional. Finally, I added a magnet to the back so that parents can stick this on the fridge and always have easy access to my contact information. 

Birthday Balloons

When I was in elementary school, some of my best memories were when my teachers gave me a special treat on my birthday. One of my teachers used to buy us our favorite candy bar and it would be sitting on my desk when I walked in on my birthday. So, for the past three years I used this idea in my classroom. However, the only problem was when I forgot to buy the candy bar the night before, or it accidentally melted in my car, or my husband ate it for a midnight snack. This broke my heart the next morning as I had to scramble to find something to give the child, and sometimes it ended up not being so cool, or special. When I saw this idea on Pinterest I decided this was the perfect way to give a special gift to the kids on their birthday without ever having the chance to miss it! This way, kids can look at the balloons all year long and it will be special when the day comes that they can actually pick out their birthday treat! I found this idea from the blog Teaching in Flip Flops. The link to her blog is

Birthday Bags 

Now that I have the birthday present solved, I have to make sure that I remember their birthday to begin with! I used to have a poster hung on the wall that categorized the children by their birthday month. The problem with that was it was so small and sometimes I would forget to even look at it! Well, another teacher friend Samantha introduced me to the idea of birthday bags! I have hung these super cute bags at the top of my wall. On each bag I will add the student's name and the date of their birthday. This way it is a colorful and big visual reminder of each child's birthday. It is also big enough that the students can see the date and help remind me!

More to come when my room gets finished!

Mrs. McKillop