Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely LOVE to take pictures!  Over the past few years I have developed a real passion for photography.  I have quite an array of fancy equipment.  But you don't have to be an enthusiast like me in order to take great pictures in your classroom!

All you really need is a little fabric, a cute prop, and get ready to snap away!
The photo above was part of our Mother's Day gift last year.

It is SO SIMPLE these days to take awesome photos to share with your students' families.

I've purchased fabric in several different colors and designs for my photo booths.  I usually buy two yards of fabric... from the sale rack of course!  I like when the fabric is a solid color with a slight texture.  Sometimes designs can be too busy and take the focus away from your subject.

I always set up my photo booth near a window.  Natural light is your friend!  Just be sure to NEVER shoot directly into the light.  Keep natural light behind you or to your side.  You can see how bright the day was in this picture below.  It was so helpful to have the shades to block some of the light.  You never want direct sunlight on your subject's face!

This is an adorable prop I bought on Etsy from Dandelion Designs.  It's a chalkboard frame and it was around $20.  I did find that when my student's wrote on the board, it was difficult to see in the picture.  I solved that problem by digitally adding the text (keep reading to find out how!).

I bought this wooden frame at Michaels super cheap from the clearance section.  Then I put a coat of aqua paint on it, and layered on some polyurethane to make it smooth.  The frame is a 5x7.  I don't like any prop that's too big for my firsties.  Again, it takes the focus away from their adorable faces!  I got the "first day" sign from Aimee at Primarily Speaking.  {Unfortunately, I couldn't seem to find it in her TPT store anymore!}  And be sure to keep the glass part of the picture frame off, because it could cause a glare. 

Here is a pic from our Father's Day photo shoot.  I used Pic Monkey to quickly and easily add the text to the chalkboard.  I edit my photos in Lightroom, but Pic Monkey has some awesome editing features, too!  And, Pic Monkey is FREE!!!

I typically print my pics at my local Walgreens, because it's quick and easy.  I also like to send a digital file to the student's family.  Parents LOVE getting the pics in their email.  That way they can print additional copies, forward the email to other family members, or post the pic to their social media page.

Happy Snapping!!!

Back to school is often a time when teachers spend A LOT of their own money on supplies for the classroom. 

This year I was so blessed to have some amazing donations to my classroom stash!

First there was a fantastic contest by McGraw-Hill.  They filled a RedCube with tons of goodies that I wanted!

Please note the Amazon gift card in there. I cannot WAIT to attack my wish list - there are a TON of new mentor texts I want to purchase for writer's workshop. 

I can't wait to dive into these books!

My firsties were so excited to see these card games being put in our indoor recess area. 

You can never have enough glue sticks.  Am I right?!  Plus dry erase and Mr. Sketch.  Yes please!!!

I may or may not have opened the Milky Ways immediately.  Just.  Saying. 

I also took part in this years Reddit Teacher Exchange.  What a cool idea this is!  You should definitely check it out next year.  It takes place each year in August.  I got these amazing supplies from an anonymous donor.  What generosity!

Clorox Wipes - because first graders love to share their germs!  I go through Ziploc bags like water, so these will be particularly helpful.  So excited about the thin dry erase and Mr. Sketch markers. Now I don't have to be so stingy when their markers run out, haha.  There are also some Ticonderoga pencils on the way.  Every teacher knows the value of Ticonderoga!

You may not think that page protectors are a hot item in first grade, but I use them a ton!  We are using binders in writing workshop this year.  There are a lot of resources I like my writers to have at their fingertips so they can be independent.  They each need at least 10 page protectors in their binders.  That adds up quickly!

Thank you so much to Tim at McGraw-Hill and my Reddit donor for these generous donations to my classroom!!!

Just a quick post to check in... it's almost back to school time for me!  I know many of you are already well into your school year, and so many schools around me started this week.

I still have some time to get ready... and I need it!  It seems as though no matter how much I cross off my to-do list, I add twice as much more.  Anyone else ever feel that way?!

Thought I'd share one of the items I recently checked off my to-do list... Picture Directions!  I am really excited about these!  I've already laminated mine and put magnets on the back.  That way after I give my students directions, I can put up the matching cards on the whiteboard.  No more "Do I need to get this checked?" or "Where do I put this when I'm done?"

This is a freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers store so feel free to download and share away!

I'll be back next week with my classroom reveal... but for now, back to the to-do list!

My absolute favorite fast and easy way to communicate with all my parents is with Remind!  With the new school year coming up, it's the perfect time to check it out...

You might have heard of it.

You might have even downloaded the app to your phone.

But if you aren't USING it, you are truly missing out!

I have been using this consistently for the past two years and it has been SUCH a lifesaver!  It's a quick way to blast out a message or reminder to parents.  

And it's FREE!  Seriously.  FREE.

After you sign up, you can add your class.  I like to date my class with the school year so that I can add my new class each year.  (Obviously this pic is of last year's class name!)  You can also delete old classes if you want.  

Remind will then direct you how to get your parents registered after you've set up your first class.

Below you can see a few of the messages I sent to last year's class.  One of my favorite things about Remind is that you can schedule messages ahead of time.  This is particularly helpful during those busy months (can anyone say September?!  December?!  June?!).

It elicits an immediate response from your parents.  My reminders help me to get things to school on time.  I have seen a dramatic rate of improvement in getting important paperwork returned to school.  And it saves me from making individual phone calls after school to parents!  

I typically send my messages around 7 or 8pm.  That way, if parents need to send something to school, they remember to put it in the book bag right away that evening.

You can use the app or the website to send messages.  You are limited in the number of characters you can use (140 to be exact), but I haven't found that to be a problem yet.

Remind has a form letter/email you can send to parents.  I created my own letter for parents.  I introduce Remind at my Curriculum Night at the beginning of the year.  I even encourage parents to take their phones out right during my presentation and sign up.  Last year I had every parent registered!

This year I'm excited to try the new feature - CHAT!  You can "text" back and forth with parents.  You can also control what hours parents can chat with you.  I set mine for 9am-7pm on weekdays only.  You can also control whether you are the only one that can initiate a text, or if your parents can initiate a text, too.  

I love that I can text with parents without them having my phone number!

Remind is a must have for every classroom.
How do you like to communicate with parents?

Looking for classroom must-haves for next year?  Definitely check out Toobaloo's.

I absolutely LOVE my Toobaloo's from Really Good Stuff.  They have saved my sanity in small group reading!

When all my kiddos are whisper reading it can be really distracting for some group members... not to mention the teacher!

Toobaloo's allow the kids to hear themselves reading, which is great for their accuracy, self-correcting, and fluency.

They LOVE using their "telephones" during reading group.  While they are all reading at the same time, I can lean in to an individual and ask them to read directly to me.  It's a win-win for everybody!

If you don't want to buy these, you can even make your own.  There are so many versions on Pinterest (check out these Pins) that you can create using PVC pipes.

Happy Reading!

A few weeks ago I was at an iPad workshop and was introduced to this AH-mazing website!

This website allows you to find or create quizzes that your students can take using any device that connects to the internet!  They could use iPads, phones, or even an iTouch.

There are so many quizzes already created out there for anyone to use.  Be sure to search for "educational" quizzes and preview the quiz yourself for content before playing with your class!

I prefer to make my own quizzes so I can focus on exactly what I want my students to review.  For this Kahoot, I was working on the ou/ow sound during phonics that week.  So I created a quick little review game for those sounds and spelling patterns.

You can search "MissDembs" and find any quizzes I have created.  There aren't many now, but keep checking back as I create more!

I initially set this up to use with a small group during reading.  I brought my own laptop.  The students will need to see the laptop screen, because the questions and answers are displayed on the website only.
The students see four color choices on their device that correspond with the answer choices displayed on the website.

Once you find or create a quiz, you will get a unique quiz pin number to use to enter the game.

Students go to on their device and then they will be prompted to enter the pin number.

After entering the pin number, they will be prompted to put in a nickname.  When we work in teams they have loads of fun coming up with their team name!

I created a Kahoot! icon on my iPads so that my kids just have to tap Kahoot!, the website will open, and they will be prompted to enter the pin number.  They were able to easily type the pin and then their team name.  Setup was a breeze!

Once everyone has entered into the quiz, it's time to play!  Here the question and the answer choices are displayed on my laptop.  Students then tap the corresponding color of the answer they want on their own device.

You can see the four color choices the students see in this pic!

You can also play this on your Smart board!  My firsties really got a kick out of this.  I paired them up and they created their own team names.  I really enjoy seeing what team names first graders create.  Some of them (and their spellings) really had me laughing!

These two were seriously concentrating...

Questions have a set time limit for answering.  When you create your own quiz, you can set the limit anywhere from 5 to 120 seconds per question.  

The question is displayed and students all try to answer.  The team that answers correctly the fastest gets more points.

The answer results are displayed after each question with how many teams chose each answer.  Then the top five team scores are displayed.

The cheers were so loud when their team names were displayed I thought we were going to get yelled at for disturbing other classes!!! 

As a little bonus, the kids get to rate the quiz at the end!  They gave me 4.2 stars for this one.  Guess I need to work a little harder to get a solid 5 stars, haha!

Oh and on a final note... there are quizzes for adults, too!  How about that for your next game night with friends?!!!

Happy Kahoot-ing!

My favorite writing workshop guru Susan Jones from T.G.I.F. has done it again.  She has made writing workshop the most fun time of the day!

We recently finished our Let's Write an Opinion! unit by none other than... Susan Jones.  We wrote opinions on our favorite seasons, and fruits versus vegetables.  Then we moved on to writing persuasive pieces.  We each wrote a letter to our principal trying to persuade her to see things "our way."  We asked for more recess time (of course), better food in the cafeteria, and even if we could bring our pets to school.

I thought we had a pretty good thing going.  Then Susan went and made life better.  She came out with a unit on Writing Reviews.  Say what?!!

Writing Reviews.

Well of course I just had to have it.

And I'm never letting it go.

We had a blast writing reviews that incorporated opinions and persuasion and just plain FUN!

First we warmed up our opinion writing skills with some taste testing.  We tested blueberries, Cheez-Its, and Oreo cookies.  Out of the three foods, we chose the best and the worst and wrote reasons to back up our opinions.

The Oreo cookies were the most popular.  Shocker!

Diving into the Cheez-Its...

After a few super fun prep activities, we took a look at some sample reviews provided in Susan's unit.  Then we wrote a review of McDonalds as a class.  We went through each step.  The modeling was such a great foundation for my kiddos.

I had each student write down what they wanted to review.  Then I paired up students who either picked the same exact thing to review, or picked something similar (like two smiliar restaurants).  Students brainstormed ideas together and completed their planning page.

When we actually wrote the reviews we, again, took it step-by-step.  First we all wrote our "catchy leads."  Then we all stated our opinions.  After that, we backed up our opinions with reasons.  Finally, we added our "persuasive ending."  Susan Jones has got this down to a science!

Here are some of our final products...

Friendly's - a kid classic!

Big Hero 6 was a popular movie to review in my classroom.  I love how this lil' reviewer gave it only four stars... because it was a bit scary.

This restaurant has crayons and free menus to color on.  What more could you ask for?!

After we completed our reviews, we just had to show off our skills to the upper grades.  We toured some 3rd and 4th grade classrooms to share our work.  My firsties were so proud of their hard work.  The classes we visited were pretty impressed.  The older students were so attentive and encouraging to my young writers.

If you love writing workshop and are looking for a home run, check out Writing Reviews by Susan Jones.  Your firsties will thank you!

(Like that persuasive ending?!  Happy Writing!)

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