Powered by Blogger.

I feel the need to tell you about my dear friend Alexa. We have become rather close the past few months. It's safe to say I'm pretty obsessed with my collection of Amazon Echoes and Echo Dots. I *may* have gone overboard on buying them for Christmas and convincing others to do the same!

I was so psyched to get an Echo Dot for my classroom! My initial thought was how great it would be for playing music, especially since we listen to music A LOT in my room.

Then I found so many other uses for my Echo Dot!

Here are my Top Ten uses for Alexa in the classroom!

Okay first and foremost I absolutely LOVE using it to play music. I have playlists already set up in my Prime music account but sometimes I just say "Alexa, play Christmas music" and the magic happens. It's so nice to be able to control the volume from wherever I am in the classroom and pause the music instantly when I need to get my kiddos attention. It's also pretty sweet to be able to listen to my music and podcasts during planning time and after school!

Okay what classroom teacher DOESN'T need to set timers?! It's so easy to say, "Alexa, set a timer for 5 minutes." Then my kids know exactly how long they have left to work, and I don't forget to stop them so we can move on to the next activity. Alarms are fantastic for helping to remember when and where you need to be!

Of course I could use my tried-and-true numbered popsicle sticks to choose a student... but how much  more fun is it if Alexa chooses?! Just say, "Alexa, pick a number between ___ and ___."

Who doesn't need a good weather report from Alexa?! Plus, it's verbal proof that it's way too cold to go outside for playtime, LOL!

Alexa can define words and even give you synonyms for them. This is awesome for introducing our words of the week.

Alexa is VERY good at spelling! While I typically encourage my firsties to stretch out a word and write all the sounds they hear, occasionally we ask Alexa for help. My kids feel pretty special when I tell them they can go to my desk and ask Alexa for spelling help.

Again, we typically figure out math facts on our own... but Alexa is great for double checking our answers! So far we've only tried some basic calculations.

It's really fun to ask Alexa for a random fact. Then we can share our new knowledge with others throughout the day. We are going to kill it at trivia night!
Some of the random facts are WAYYY over my kids heads and some are just silly! (Like when Alexa tells us that "Bees never poop in the hive." ~ use this feature with caution!)

Simply say, "Alexa, tell me a fairy tale."

Or, "Alexa, tell me a bedtime story." (You must give Alexa permission to use this feature.)

Not only can Alexa tell us a story... we can help her create one of our own! This is by far my first graders FAVORITE use of Alexa. Just say, "Alexa, open the Magic Door" and your choose-your-own adventure begins! Last week we created a story together as a class. My kids had to be excellent listeners and practice visualizing in their minds. When our story was complete, we drew pictures of what we visualized.

You can even build your own custom skills for Alexa! This is an option I am still exploring.
Fact Skill Tutorial - Build an Alexa Skill in 6 Steps

Do you have Alexa in your classroom? If so, I'd love to hear how you use it!

It's been a whirlwind start to the school year! On September 7th I had 23 bright and smiling first graders that entered my world. This group is going to be a good one for sure! We are a few weeks in and they are settled into our routines and showing their amazing little personalities. I'm looking forward to seeing this group grow!

Here are a few pics from this year's classroom...

Organization is my jam. I just love it. I organize... and then re-organize, and then re-organize until I get it right. Because I'm organizationally crazy, you can benefit!

As you are planning to get your classroom ready for next year, here are a few organizational hacks that I just LOVE!

I have tables in my classroom. I tried a bunch of different ways to keep the materials that my kiddos need most often organized. Leave it to Hobby Lobby and those adorable tin cups to solve my organizational woes. They fit perfectly in the heavy duty paper trays I had from Lakeshore Learning. I popped a Velcro dot on the outside, and the numbers correspond to each student's cubby number. Because they are on with Velcro, it's easy to move them when I change up table seats.

Inside each cup my firsties have their three pencils, purple correcting marker, scissors, glue stick, dry erase marker, and white board eraser.

Pencils are always a hassle. I found that taking a few extra minutes to label the pencils with cubby numbers alleviates a lot of issues! Each student has three at a time. When the pencil is dull, they put in the "Not Sharp" cup. I warn my kiddos not to put all three in at a time, because they never know when I'm going to get to sharpening pencils! I change pencils out each month, so students get a fresh set and I can replace any that they have lost.

I got this organization hack from my sister - lingerie bags! She uses them for toys at her house. I found that they are awesome for storing headphones. The cords don't tangle with the other headphone cords.  The bags are really durable, despite the fact that they are inexpensive (I got these at Wal-Mart). And, of course, I can throw the bags in the washing machine any time they need to be freshened up!

I LOVE storing my teacher read aloud books in my file cabinet. They are easy to find and they stay dust-free and flat. You can find out more about how exactly I organize within these drawers in the blog post {HERE}.

This is my Word Work area. My teammate Lindsey came up with this stellar idea... drawers for the copies for each Word Work / Work on Writing activity. I had previously been putting them in magazine buckets, which is no where near as awesome as this! On this bookshelf students can also find the other accessories they need for Word Work, including magnetic letters, headphones, and a bunch of smaller items in the purple bucket.

You can find all my Word Work Activities in my TPT Store.

I came up with this brilliant space saver a few years back - file cabinets under the computer table! My students don't use those computers, and they can still reach the iPads when they need to get to them. Storing these under the table has been a HUGE help in keeping my classroom less cluttered.

This year I decided to put a couple more file cabinets out of the way... in my closet! (I might have a slight problem with file cabinets... I have a total of SEVEN in my classroom. Yikes!) It took a bit of shelf jockeying, but it was worth it. I can hide those when I close my curtain!

Copies, copies, everywhere! Not when you use drawers! We have a copy center in our district, so I often get stacks of copies ahead of time. With these drawers, I can hide them away until I need them.

And, of course, MORE plastic drawers. Everything I have in my closets is in a plastic drawer or a plastic bin. This keeps out the dust and grime.

Of course, everything is also labeled, too. This helps me and anyone else that needs to get something from my closets. You can find my {Editable} Classroom Labels in my TPT Store.

I hope you enjoyed a few of my organization hacks. A little bit of organization goes a long way during the school year! How do you organization your classroom space?

How do you celebrate birthdays in your classroom?

Our birthdays have evolved greatly over the years.

We tried individual celebrations. This takes up a lot of time when you have 20-something first graders.  That's 20-some interruptions to the academic day throughout the year. Not to mention 20-some cupcakes or other sugary treats. It was also hard because some students have parents who can't leave their jobs midday to bring in cupcakes. So... out went the individual celebrations.

Then we tried monthly celebrations. We'd celebrate all the kids who had birthdays that month. We decorated cookies according to the month (we made spiders in October, reindeer in December, etc.). We found that to be very time consuming, difficult to come up with ideas for each month, and ridiculously expensive as we bought the materials ourselves. (I know, I know, we could have asked parents to donate, but we didn't.) So... out went the monthly celebrations.

Many classrooms have parents bring in a book and read to the class on their child's birthday. That would be great... except we have Mystery Readers (parents) that come in every other week or so to read a book to the class. So... that seemed rather repetitive.

Then we caught wind of another first grade in our district that did ONE celebration.

And we realized that birthday celebrations can be simple... and elaborate all at the same time!

Enter... the Birthday Bash! My team LOVES the Birthday Bash. We have one HUGE celebration with all of the first graders in June.  (Because, let's face it, we are looking for ways to amp up the fun in June when we are barely holding it together anyway!)

Families are invited, and we hold our celebration in the cafeteria at the end of the day.  We decorate the cafeteria and bring our own empty goodie bags. Students then go around to each bag in their class and put in an item that they brought. This is a non-food item, like you might find in a bag at a kid's birthday party (pencils, erasers, sunglasses, punch balloons, bouncy balls, etc.).

These boys are checking out their loot! Parents have impressed me with the variety of items they provide for the goodie bags. I love to see what the kids get almost as much as they do!

We enjoy cupcakes, donated by parents. We make sure to have at least three dozen per class, to accommodate any siblings that attend the bash. We also get juice boxes, napkins, and some decorations donated.

Then, of course, we all sing Happy Birthday. That's one powerful song when you have 3-4 classes and parents chiming in!

And then we play. Boy do we play! We blast music and dance and enjoy being 6 or 7.

If you are interested in hosting a Birthday Bash of your own, check out the letters that we sent home explaining what it is and how parents can help. (Feel free to copy any verbiage from the letters!)

Of course, I don't let a kid's actual birthday slip to the wayside.

On a student's actual birthday, I give them a birthday bag and a crown. We sing in Morning Meeting and they get to share what they are doing to celebrate their birthday with their family. Simple, yet it makes the child feel special on their special day.

I prep birthday bags over the summer, so throughout the year they are ready to hand out.

I buy trinkets from Oriental Trading or the party section at Target. I always include a birthday bracelet from Really Good Stuff. 
(I keep extras of those on hand for when former students drop in on their birthday!)

How do you celebrate birthdays in your classroom?

Back to Top