I'm excited to link up with one of my faves Tara from 4th Grade Frolics this week for Monday Made It and share a few projects I've been working on. I go back today to set up my classroom, and the kiddos come next Thursday- EEEK! I feel like I'm running out of time! Maybe that's because I am! I am excited to go back and start a new year. I learned so much last year, and I'm excited to put some new things in place for this year. 
I REALLY wanted to find the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese letter pasta I'd been seeing all over Instagram. The Targets around me didn't have them for the longest time! I finally scored three boxes last week, so I thought I would make a fun Macaroni and Spelling activity for my students. Last year my students LOVED activities like this one during my Daily 3 rotations. I know my new class will adore this one too. I've added this to my Spelling and Word Work Activity pack.
FREEBIE Macaroni and Spelling Activity
I used an old thread organizer that I wasn't using anymore.  You can find them at Joann's or other craft stores. There weren't enough spaces for every letter, but I was able to put vowels in the larger space and letters T-Z in the last one. The letters shown above are from one box of Macaroni and Cheese. You could make about two containers of letters from one box of Mac and Cheese. There weren't as many R and S letters in this pack. 
FREEBIE Macaroni and Spelling Activity
I made a label to go on the front of my container and a recording sheet for the students to spell out each word and write each one inside the bowl. You could extend this activity and have them trace over each word with a different writing tool. I'm going to have my students decorate the bowl too. They could write a paragraph or sentences about their favorite lunches using their spelling words on the back, or make up silly rules for the lunchroom.  The possibilities are endless! 
If you can't find the pasta letters, or would like to use the paper pasta letters shown on the recording sheet above, I have made a freebie pack for you. It also includes the label to go on the front of you container. You can grab it HERE
My second project is revamping my Kiddo Cash and Class Passes pack. Last year I had the idea to make coin cards in addition to the classroom cash. My second graders really struggled with counting coins. I knew how motivating the cash was to them, so earning and counting coin cards would really help them with the math unit on counting coins. I made each coin on a single card and a variety of coins to count on one card as they master the individual coins. In CA, second grade is the only grade that has this as a Common Core Standard, so I have to make sure they master it this year. Hopefully this will help! I have more info about my classroom money and passes HERE
FREEBIE Labels for Money Organizer
Since I now have coins in addition to dollars, and I'm also changing my decor colors to primary brights, I had to make new labels to organize my class money. I made a few different options depending on whether I'm using individual coins, multiple coins, or dollars. These labels fit inside or outside of the small Starlight drawers. You can download them HERE if you are using classroom money and would like to make your own money storage drawers. 
FREEBIE Labels for Classroom Coin and Money Drawers
FREEBIE Labels for Classroom Coin and Money Drawers
I can't wait to see what everyone else came up with for MMI!
Have a great week, whether you are still enjoying the freedom of summer or headed back to class like me! :)

SaveSave
SaveSave
Using Classroom Cash and Passes as a Classroom Incentive
Money is such a great motivator inside the classroom and out! For the past ten years, I have used classroom money and passes as an incentive for my student. It has helped to reduce behavior issues while teaching my students important life skills such as counting, saving, and budgeting money. I know that some people have an issue with extrinsic motivation. I always think about how even adults need a little extrinsic motivation sometimes, (none of us wants to work for free!) so I am perfectly fine using it in my classroom to motivate my students in a positive way. The students buy into it and will work hard to earn it. I save valuable time since I don't have as many behavioral issued to deal with.
Using Classroom Cash and Passes as a Classroom Incentive
My students earn Kiddo Cash for things such as positive behavior, completing their classwork, turning in their homework completed every Friday, and returning important notes. They lose Kiddo Cash for off-task behaviors during independent learning time and receiving yard infractions. I don't take their money away if they don't turn their homework in on time. I feel that second graders still need an adult at home to help them to be responsible, so I don't penalize them for that. 
I used to think that using a money system in the classroom would be too much to manage. Remembering to pay them, giving them time to buy their passes, and redeem them seemed like a huge time waster to me. For over ten years when I taught fifth grade, I passed out tickets for positive behavior and had a weekly raffle. It got expensive to keep my raffle basket well stocked. When I moved to third grade, I had to switch to a money system because that's what the grade level used. Every month we had a day where students bought and sold items with the money they earned. I was surprised the learn how easy and effective it was to use money in my classroom. 
Using Classroom Cash and Passes as a Classroom Incentive
I announce to students when they can purchase passes and redeem them. It's usually before our first recess and at the end of the day. The big motivator is that the classroom has to be cleaned up in order for me to sell passes or open the store. I usually have dependable students to help me sell passes or redeem them when I open the store. I keep a certain amount of passes inside the container above. I like to rotate the passes so students have various choices, but not too many. Some of the passes I use are treats that I buy, such as pencils, granola bars, and stickers. Others are privileges that don't cost anything such as free time, wear flip flops in the classroom, and sharing. Parents always ask me what they can donate, so some of the things I ask for are the treats that I need for my store. I try to keep items stocked inside a basket such as crackers, pretzels, juice boxes, and granola bars since students are often hungry at our first recess and don't always bring a snack to eat. I keep pencils, stickers, and candy inside a set of small Sterilite drawers. 
Using Classroom Cash and Passes as a Classroom Incentive
I charge different prices for each pass. At the beginning of the year, I pass out dollars. I choose how much to give them each day, and they aren't allowed to ask for money or they lose it. I display the price list shown above and students can use it to see if they have enough money to buy the passes they want. 
Every year my second graders have a difficult time when we get to the counting coins unit in math. It's a second grade Common Core standard, and if they don't get it with me, they won't get it again. As the year goes on and we get closer to learning about coins, I plan to pass out the coin cards instead of dollars and change my prices to coin amounts. I will set an end date for redeeming the dollars and everyone will start fresh with coins. To start off with, I have individual coins, then we will move into counting several coins on a card. This should help motivate and help them to learn how to count coins! 
Using Classroom Cash and Passes as a Classroom Incentive
I use the classroom cash and coins in conjunction with ClassDojo and my low-maintenance clip chart. Students pay $5 at the end of the day every time they clip down. If they don't clip down, they get $5 at the end of the day. The clip chart makes it easier for me to keep track of behaviors and ClassDojo is easy for me to update parents at the end of the day or when I have a free chance. 
If you want to see more pictures of my Kiddo Cash and Class Passes, you can click HERE. I also have a two bundled sets HERE and HERE
If you use classroom money in your classroom, how do organize your money? I use the small Sterilite containers above to store mine. They include different coin labels and dollars. You can download them HERE if you would like to make your own set.
If you haven't used class money and passes in your classroom, you should give it a try! Thank you for stopping by and enjoy your weekend/week! :)

Want to save this idea? Just pin the picture below!
Using Money and Class Passes in Your Class


My first day of school twenty years ago looked much different than it does today. Back then, the students would walk into the classroom on the first day of school and find the desk with their name tag on it.  The classroom rules were posted and I taught the students the rules and procedures they were expected to follow. After a few weeks of school, I would form groups and tell students who they would be sitting with. I was the Queen of my Queendom, and the students were expected to obey what I said. I learned over the years that I could accomplish the same goals in an easier and more effective way and empower my students at the same time. Today I want to share my how I changed my ways and enriched the environment of my classroom.
Student Seating
Every year I let the students choose where they would like to sit on the first day of school. When they walk in the door, I tell them to sit wherever they feel most comfortable. It's important from me to observe my students' interactions with one another. This also helps to relieve some anxiety, since they are able to sit next to their friends. I am able to see which students work well together, which students work a little too well together, and which don't get along and shouldn't work in the same group.
The Perfect Classroom
After a few of the typical getting-to-know-each other activities and a tour of the campus, I bring the students back to their seats and ask them to close their eyes and visualize the perfect classroom. I ask them what kinds of things they would hear other people saying in a perfect classroom and what would they see happening in a perfect classroom? I also ask them how it would feel in a perfect classroom. I have them think about these questions for a minute, then I ask them to work in pairs to discuss their thoughts. Next, I have pairs form into groups of 4-5. Each group is given poster paper, and they write down the statements everyone in their group makes. I walk around the room and observe and refrain from commenting on their discussions. After students are finished brainstorming, we post the charts and discuss them. They usually talk about hearing only positive comments being made, no put-downs, students working nicely together, sharing, etc. Everyone comes to the agreement that we would all like to have the perfect classroom, and in order to achieve that, it would involve everyone working hard to create the positive environment we've imagined. I leave the posters up to refer to as I'm teaching the first few weeks of school.
Student Created Classroom Rules
Have you ever had your students create the classroom rules? You have to save your pretty classroom rules posters for the second day of school if you do this! I have students work in groups and come up with the rules they think are important to have in a classroom. After everyone brainstorms and records their ideas, we discuss them as a class. I tell them I will take their ideas and compile them into 5 or 6 classroom rules. Surprisingly, the rules they usually come up with fit into the rules I have already established. We call these rules our "agreements", since everyone helped to make them and agreed to follow them. (I also added these agreements to my Class Dojo behaviors). Students really buy into following the agreements because they helped create them. Empowering our students to have a say in the rules they are expected to follow makes our time in the classroom easier.
Farm Animal Antics Freebie
Forming Collaborative Groups
After a month or so of observing students working in pairs and groups,  I like to form permanent collaborative groups. I ask them to write the names of 5-7 other students who they think they can work well with. I promise them that I will do my best to choose at least one of those students to be in their group. I make a really big deal about their permanent groups. It's always fun to form the groups using candy or some other non-traditional way of grouping. I have also used gum, cookies, and animal sounds to create collaborative groups. Another idea for grouping is to have a picture or sticker of one animal, insect, sport, or any other theme for each group you are making, pass them out, and have students get into their groups by category. Students love variety and novelty!
I have created a pack for you to download HERE if you would like to use some of these activities in your classroom. The picture above is a really fun grouping activity involving farm animals and is included in the pack. 
I hope you've found some ideas you can use for creating a positive classroom community. Be sure to check out the previous posts and freebies in this series by clicking on the pictures below. 

I would love to know how you create a sense of community in your classroom. Leave me a comment below!

Creating a Positive Classroom Community
Last week in this post I shared how I strive to create a positive classroom community beginning on the first day of school. Right from the start, students need opportunities to build a sense of community and bond with their classmates. One thing I've found that has helped to create a positive classroom community in my classroom is sharing circle. Every morning after I take roll and lunch count, I call my students to come up front to the carpet and sit in a big circle. Students practice thoughtful, attentive listening while their classmates share one at a time. Everyone gets a chance to speak, and I allow them to pass if they would rather not share. Sometimes I have them answer the same question and other times I have them pull a question out of a bag. You can use any questioning prompts to get them to share such as: what is your favorite movie, song, book, food, etc. The ideas are endless! I like to change it up each day to keep it fresh and fun
Another activity for sharing is to have students pass around a card with pictures on it and ask them which picture they are feeling most like and why. There are no right or wrong answers. They always come up with the most unique responses.
If I don't give students a bag filled with prompts or a card to pass around, I give them something to pass around such as a stuffed animal or a plastic toy microphone. All eyes are on the person who is holding the item. 
Sometimes students don't want to share, and that's fine. I allow them to pass. After everyone has a chance to share, I ask if there is anyone who passed and would like to share. Most of the students who pass end up sharing at the end. 
Creating a Positive Classroom Community
What I love about coming together for sharing circle every morning is that I can get a quick glimpse of how my students are feeling. Sometimes students are having a rough morning, and other times they are going through something difficult at home. By knowing this first thing in the morning, I can give those students extra attention throughout the day. It gives me a heads up and I will know to be more patient with them if they are having issues. Their classmates tend to do the same when they are aware. When I consistently do sharing circle, I have less behavioral disturbances during the day. Students get a chance to speak and be heard first thing in the morning and are less disruptive. Sometimes we talk about issues that are going on during recess or lunch. It helps them to resolve their problems so they are better able to focus on their classwork and sets the stage for a positive classroom culture. 

At the end of the first day of school, I like to have my students get into sharing circle and tell about one positive thing that happened to them on the first day of school. It's a great way to end the day and send them home feeling happy about their new classroom. I spend about a week doing sharing circle first thing in the morning and the end of the day. After that, we get together for sharing circle in the morning only. 
I have created a Sharing Circle pack for you. I hope you find the tools included helpful if you begin using sharing circle in your classroom. You can download it for free HERE
FREEBIE Sharing Circle Activities
Thank you so much for stopping by and enjoy the rest of your week! :)



SaveSaveSaveSave
SaveSave

It seems like each year summer comes and goes faster and faster! As it's coming to an abrupt end for me, I've had classroom community building on my mind. I wanted to share some ideas I have used, many since I first began teaching, that have helped me to build a positive learning environment from the start.
My mother was also a teacher, and she started the tradition I have done on the first day of school for the past twenty years. When the students come into the classroom for the first time, I have a poster greeting them at the door that says, "Welcome to the Greatest School Year Ever!" They walk in and see balloons around the room and goodie bags on their desks, and they immediately feel excited about their new classroom. This helps to build excitement for the new school year and helps to alleviate anxiety they may be feeling. Basically, we have a party to celebrate the new school year. We celebrate the end of the school year with parties, but what about the beginning? A new school year is definitely something to celebrate! I read the silly story This School Year Will be the Best! Below are the goodie bags I will have sitting on their desks when they arrive. These bags include a bookmark, Pixy Stix with a welcome printable attached, pencil, eraser, and a homework pass. I sometimes add granola bars to the bags, but this year I will pass them out separately. I have these items included in my pack, The Greatest School Year Ever, which is filled with some fun back to school projects, activities, and printables to throw your own Greatest School Year Ever party!  
Choose Your Own Seats
Every year I let the students choose where they want to sit on the first day of school. I don't put name tags on their desks for about a week and a half after school starts so I can observe my students' interactions with each other. This also helps them to feel more secure, since they can sit next to their friends. It lets me quickly see who is able to work with who. After this time period, I ask them to write the names of four other students who they think they can work well with, and I promise them that I will do my best to choose at least one of those students to be in their group. 
The Perfect Classroom
After a few of the typical getting-to-know-each other activities and a tour of the campus, I bring the students back to their seats and ask them to think of the perfect classroom. I say, "Everyone, please close your eyes. I want you to visualize the perfect classroom. What kinds of things would you hear other people saying in a perfect classroom? What would you see happening in a perfect classroom?" I have them think about these questions for a minute, then I ask them to work in pairs to discuss their thoughts. Next, I have pairs form into groups of 4-5. Each group is given a poster board, and they write down the statements everyone in their group makes. I walk around the room and observe and refrain from commenting on their discussions. After students are finished brainstorming, we post the charts and discuss them. They usually talk about hearing only positive comments being made, no put-downs, students working nicely together, sharing, etc. Everyone comes to the agreement that we would all like to have the perfect classroom, and in order to achieve that it would involve everyone working hard to create the positive environment we've imagined. I leave the posters up to refer to as I'm teaching the first few weeks of school.
Student Created Classroom Rules
Have you ever had your students create the classroom rules? You have to save your pretty rules posters for the second day of school if you do this! Students really buy into following the rules because they helped create them. I have students work in groups and come up with the rules they think are important to have in a classroom. After everyone brainstorms and records their ideas, we discuss them as a class. I tell them I will take their ideas and compile them into the classroom rules. Surprisingly, the rules they come up with fit into the rules I have already established. 
Forming Groups
It's always fun to form collaborative groups using candy or some other non-traditional way of grouping at the beginning of the year. Depending on how many groups I want to make, I buy that many different types of candy, and one for each student. For example, if I want to form groups of four, and I have 28 students, I will buy 7 different types of candy. I have students choose one candy from a bag without looking, since I want them to form connections with other classmates, not just their friends who might choose the same candy. Then I say, "Apple Jolly Ranchers, meet at table group 1. Strawberry Starburst, meet at table group 2, and so on, until all of the groups are at their tables. 
Another idea for grouping is to have a picture or sticker of one animal for each group you are making, place them in a bag, and have students get into flexible groups that way. I have found that students love variety and novelty!
Students need opportunities to build a sense of community with their classmates. Every morning I have my students sit in a sharing circle. Sometimes I have a simple question for them to answer, and other times I have them pull a strip of paper with a question on it, as shown in the picture below. 
This next one is a really fun too. Have students use the top card shown in the picture below to share how they are feeling and why. For example, I might say, "I feel like the red smiley face because I'm so excited to be here with all of you." The students are able to interpret the colors and faces however they like. 
The animal card on the bottom is a similar idea, but the students share which animal they feel like and why. Again, I accept all answers they give. Sometimes students don't want to share, and that's fine, since they can just pass. After everyone has a chance to share, I ask if there is anyone who didn't get a chance to share, and would like to, and they can share at that time. 
What I love about doing sharing circle every morning is that I can get a quick glimpse of how my students are feeling. If one student is having a bad morning, I can give him/her a little extra attention throughout the day. 
You can use any question to get them sharing- what is your favorite move, song, book, food, etc. The prompts are endless!
The books below are my go-to books for everything Bucket Fillers! I use all three of these at the beginning of the year. They explain the ideas behind the bucket filling and bucket dipping. 
You can find the Bucket Filler books on Amazon:
The books below are my tried and true first day/week of school books! 
Click on the links below to see the books on Amazon:

The last set of books below are some of my very favorites! They are wonderful for teaching about kindness, tolerance, and friendship. I love to read Cookies to them while I introduce my Character Kiddos and Critters posters. This book also requires students to infer, so I do an introduction to  inferences. After I read the book and discuss what having good character means, I pass out chocolate chip cookies. The kids love it! The other books are equally wonderful. 
Below are the books on Amazon:
If you are doing Daily 5 or guided reading, it's easy to combine a community building lesson and a reading lesson into one with these beginning of the year books. 

At the end of the first day of school, I like to have my students get into sharing circle and share one positive thing that happened to them on the first day of school. It's a great way to end the day and send them home feeling happy about their new year. 

I hope I've given you a few new ideas to try out as you begin your new school year! I have put together a freebie sampler from my Character Kiddos and Critters and Greatest School Year Ever back to school packs.  Just click on the picture below to download your freebie! 





Ideas for Building a Positive Classroom Community
It's on my mind every year around this time... back to school and building a positive learning environment for my students. I really believe it begins on day one. Students come to school full of excitement and anxiety. We want to eliminate that anxiety first thing when they walk through our classroom doors. I have found it helpful to have a kickoff party on the first day of each school year. When students arrive, they are greeted by a sign on the door that says, "Welcome to the Greatest School Year Ever"! I show them where to put their belongings and ask them to take a seat wherever they feel comfortable (I don't assign seats until I have observed how students work with one another for a few weeks). There are balloons scattered around the classroom and goodie bags on their desks. They read their Letter from My Desk  from the previous year's students, which fill them in on our classroom procedures while I take roll and lunch count. They open their goodie bags on their desks, which usually include treats such as a Crazy Straw, Pixy Stix or a pencil with a "Greatest School Year Ever" label attached, a bookmark, homework pass, granola bar, and an eraser. Sometimes I bring cookies and Capri Sun. I usually change it up each year. Some of the resources I use are found in this pack.  
Throwing a party on the first day of school sets the tone for the the year. Students are excited to be in their new classroom and anxiety is alleviated. Sometimes they are shocked that we have a party on the first day of school. I always tell them that we have parties to celebrate the end of the year, and the beginning is something to celebrate too!

On the first day of school, I read a few books before or after transition times such as First Day Jitters, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, and This School Year Will Be the Best!.  I like to collect a writing sample on the first day, and either have students write about what they did over the summer or how they felt the night before the first day. These books are helpful to begin the conversation and get students ready to write. 
My students also participate in many different getting-to-know-you activities in partners and groups. I like to give them lots of opportunities to share and learn about their classmates the first few weeks, since that's how we will build a sense of community.
I've put together some of the resources I mentioned above in a Back to School pack for my readers. You can download your copy here
Be sure to check HERE and HERE for more Back to School ideas and freebies! 

Happy 4th of July! It's hard to believe July is already here. In a month from now, it will be my first day of school! I have so much to do, and I can't stop thinking about school and all I have to do! I have a few projects out of the way that I wanted to finish, but my to-do list is LONG! 
Today I am sharing my project and linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for one of my favorite linkys, Monday Made It!
At my school, we are blessed to have parents who love to donate to our classrooms. I am constantly asked what supplies are needed. Last year I knew I wanted to keep my supply wish list up all year. In past years, I only set out a display at back to school night. My Wish List Selfies Set 1 was a hit with the parents and the students. I was able to easily switch out the supply cards we needed most. 
Classroom Supplies Selfies by Inspired Owl's Corner
Of course this summer I decided to change my classroom colors from aqua, green, pink, and orange brights to primary brights. Everything in my classroom, including this, is getting a makeover! 
Classroom Supplies Selfies by Inspired Owl's Corner
My aqua Selfies frame above is sitting in my classroom right now,  so I used the white one to display my new set. You can see more of the file here. I have a freebie thank you note set from the file that you can grab here
I had a MMI #2 that my daughter helped me with,  but it didn't quite work out the way we wanted. SO I'm hoping to share it next week once we get it perfected! 

There's also a giveaway going on if you want to check out my first post from todayThank you for stopping by! :)

Back to Top