End of Year Fun!

Okay, I admit it, there wasn't really a proper, solemn "ceremonial" attitude during our BragTag ceremony. Instead there were squeals of delight, lots of chatter about the different projects that we did this year, and a ton of time spent making each necklace look "just right".
 Do you know BragTags? I LOVE them! Seriously, the best incentive system I have ever used. I've raved about them so much that our Student Council is buying some for next year to use as rewards for attendance, math club and for our principal and counselor to hand out to those "caught being good"!
 Each year my husband makes my BragTag board match my classroom decor - I seriously loved our Western themed board this year!
Next year we're going to be Space themed, can't wait to see what he comes up with!

The necklaces hang in our classroom all year long. As each homework project is completed, that BragTag is added to the students' necklaces. Since I teach in a Title I school sometimes its difficult to get participation in these kind of projects, but with BragTag incentive, many more students turn in projects than before!
On the last day of school we have our BragTag ceremony. This is also an incentive for everyone to come to school on the last day! I pass out any BragTags that haven' been added to our necklaces yet and then let the kids go to town with pony beads! 
 The kids wear their necklaces for the rest of the day and they are a big hit at recess - all of the older kids wants to see which BragTags my students earned and reminisce about the BragTags they earned when they were in my class! My students take the necklaces home as a great keepsake of the year - some of my former students still have their necklaces 3 years later!

I'm already designing my BragTags for next year! You can check them out at imagestuff.com ~ they run about 36¢ each which is a steal when you consider how much we usually spend on treasure box type rewards!

The other End of Year tradition I have is to send my kiddos off with a parting gift. This year I procrastinated and didn't get my Scholastic order in until the 17th! I was pretty sure my kiddos were going to go home bookless, but Scholastic pulled through! My box was delivered the afternoon of the 22nd ~ our last day! Talk about perfect timing! Each kiddo got a book, a sand pail and shovel, a set of markers, a notebook and a pencil bag with pen, pencils, eraser and sharpener! I have to admit that most of that was extras that I culled from several classrooms! My fellow teachers were digging through their closets so I could have a full set of 26 of everything lol! I purchased the sand pails at Walmart though and let me warn you - make sure they ALL have a shovel attached! I had 4 that I had to run and switch out at the last minute!
My kiddos were so excited to see these lining our windowsill!

Well, that was my last day with the kiddos, what end of year traditions do you have? Please rustle up a comment below and share!

10 Things I Want To Do This Summer

I'm linking up with Mrs. Jump's Class to bring you:

1. Go to Las Vegas for I Teach K! I cannot wait for this! I wrote a grant to Funds For Teachers and my whole team is going! 5 days at the I Teach K! conference (and 5 nights on the town!) I am looking forward to meeting so many of the wonderful people I have formed online relationships with! I know I am going to come away with so much knowledge - and have tons of great memories!

2. Figure out how to do "that pre-k thing"! Yep, I'm being moved to pre-k next year, so I have to start blog-stalking, researching and creating for the little 4's who will be my new friends in August! If you know of any must-have items, must-read blogs or books, or must-do activities for Pre-K, please rustle up a comment below for me!

3. Start a new blog! Yep, this parenting of a baby with multiple allergies is TOUGH, so I want to have a blog devoted to Sullivan's journey as a little guy who can't eat wheat, eggs, dairy, fish, peanuts, or soy! Right now I'm still breastfeeding so I have to watch my diet carefully, I am dreading having to transition my little guy to "regular" food! Of course I'll also be sharing the activities we do (we made the most wonderful sensory bottles and noisy eggs the other day!)

4. Organize, organize, organize! I have to admit, as I was packing up yesterday I started off the right way, labeling boxes, putting like items together etc. However, by the end it was a total free-for-all! Things were crammed in boxes willy nilly, no labeling was done (they would have all said miscellaneous anyways lol!) and all of it was stuffed into my husband's garage. My goal for the summer is to unpack it all, organize it into my theme tubs, and tidy up the section of the garage that my husband begrudgingly allows me!
 This was my office closet this summer - needless to say it doesn't look so neat anymore!

5. Take my kids out more! Last year I was a diabetic, heavily pregnant, 40 yar old woman who FELT every year of that 4 decades! Therefore I spent most of my time resting and we didn't get to do nearly as much fun stuff as I wanted. This year we are pool-bound, zoo-bound, museum-bound, beach-bound and any-fun-place-bound! My oldest goes to college in just 3 short years, I need to treasure these summer days!
 Another thing I need is to get a picture of all 5 of them looking at the camera at once - seriously, in every picture I have someone is always either looking away, has their eyes closed or has a weird expression. How can it be so hard to get one good picture?!

6. Find a show that I can watch that will not get canceled! We started watching Surviving Jack, and it got canceled. I was watching Almost Human on Netflix, and it got canceled. One of my old stand-bys, Raising Hope got canceled this year! And, it seems like Glee is headed in that direction too! I'm thinking I need some kind of sworn affidavit from the network execs that they won't cancel a show, before I start to get invested in it!

7. Enjoy my kitchen again! During the school year I was so busy, not to mention taking care of Sullivan, that my husband took over cooking duties. He's a great cook, don't get me wrong - last night we had chicken and sausage skewers on the barbecue, with corn and rice and beans on the side! But, I miss being the chef in the house - and all my Food Network watching means I have an ocean of ideas to choose from! My kids always joke and say that Alton Brown is my boyfriend, but Cutthroat Kitchen is showing a new side of him I'm a bit afraid of!
8. Go see some movies! Up this weekend is the new X-Men movie - just because I love Hugh Jackman! Last year we didn't get to see many in theaters cause I couldn't sit for that long, so this year we are going to make up for it! Any summer movies you are dying to see?

9. Sleep! Oh my goodness, this is a big one! This whole last month of school was so busy I was going to bed after midnight and getting up at 6:30 with Sullivan. The bags under my eyes have bags! I will be napping every time Sullivan naps, I swear! I'm investing in a goose-down pillow too!

10. Relax and enjoy my husband ~ he's been a rock for me this past year, and I've taken him a bit for granted, so I'm going to plan some special dates for the two of us!
How sad is it that the most recent pic of us together is over 3 years old?!

Alright, that's my ten! Head back over to Mrs. Jump's Class to read the other blogs linking up - I know I will be reading for more ideas of things I need to add to my list!

Sight Word Videos?!

Have you heard of Have Fun Teaching? They have some FABULOUS videos on youtube that my students LOVE. They asked me to share the following message and I had to agree - their letter songs and coutings songs are great, who wouldn't want them to make sight word songs?! Just check out their message:

Have Fun Teaching needs your help! They have just launched a BIG IDEA on KickStarter that will help kids all over the world learn how to read! Join The Movement - Click Here.

If this project is funded during the month of MAY, Have Fun Teaching will be creating 220 Sight Word Music Videos that will give teachers and parents a fun and effective way to help children become better readers!

Here is a sample video for the Sight Word, "IS":

Every little bit helps and you can even receive awesome Rewards for backing this project!

I'm heading over to help out now, I hope you join me!

Bright Idea for Sight Words

I teach the 220 Dolch Sight Words to my firsties. Each student works at their own pace, studying 20 words at a time. I was struggling with organization to put it lightly. I was taking up valuable time trying to hand out the right flashcards to each student, or wasting time digging through a stack of papers, trying to find the correct word list for a particular student. Plus, students would forget their word list and I'd have to go find my master list to tell them which list they were on.  This year though, I got smart!
 Each list of 20 sight words is displayed on a cupboard door in my classroom. Our theme this year was Western, but the only die cut in our workroom that even sort of matched were tractors lol. Each kiddo got a tractor, put their name on the back and decorated the front as they wanted. Their tractor goes above the word list they are studying, so they can remember which list they're on, but no one else knows.
Next I purchased Command hooks and hung the flashcards for each word list right next to it! The cards are labeled in the corner with the number for the word list just in case someone finds them out of place in the classroom, so we can put them back in their place easily. Now when students have free time they can grab a set of cards and get cracking on sight words without me having to find the correct set of  cards!
I also added a library pocket to hold a mini-list for each set of words. Although I send home a sheet all the word lists to be kept on the refrigerator so that students can practice at home, I found that they liked to have a list they could keep in their pockets as well. Now when I test them on a word list I can quickly highlight any they missed on the mini-list and they can take it back to their seats to practice. It also shows their parents that they were tested that day, but still need more practice.

There you have it - display each sight word list in the classroom with easily accessible flash cards and mini-lists! For more Bright Ideas, check out the links below in this month's Bright Ideas Blog Hop!

Butterfly Life Cycle in Pictures

In our classroom, my firsties and I had a great time witnessing the metamorphosis of our Brassica caterpillars. I am delighted with the way this unit turned out. I used to order the Painted Lady larva, but it was hard for my kiddos to truly understand that caterpillars eat leaves because they came with that brown sludge in the cup instead, plus we never saw the egg part of the life cycle at all. This year I decided to cross my fingers and buy butterfly eggs from Carolina Biological instead. It was actually the same price ($14.99) to buy the eggs as it would be to buy caterpillar larva from another site. In addition, we had over 9 caterpillars hatch, and as of Friday afternoon, we had 9 butterflies compared to the 5 or 6 caterpillars I'd gotten in the past from other sites. I'm definitely doing this again next year!

Here's our Life Cycle in pictures:

When the caterpillars first hatched, they were so small we couldn't see them! We found evidence that they were around though! It wasn't until they were about 3 weeks old that we were able to pick them out with the naked eye:

Although not as colorful as the Painted Lady butterflies, the Brassica butterflies do have striking markings. My firsties loved their eye spots and quickly realized that they would make predators think twice about sneaking up on them!
We released the butterflies at the end of our Life Cycle unit! If you'd like to see the observation journals, labeling sheets and emergent readers that we used in our Butterfly Life Cycle unit, please check them out here.

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