Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Back To School Books Part 1

Hi there!

It's hard to believe that in just a few weeks it will be time to go back to school! I love establishing a strong, compassionate, and friendly classroom community starting on day one. Here are some of the books that I plan on using with my class this back to school season.  Some I've used before, and some are new additions.  I hope you find this list helpful!  I plan on sharing more back to school books next week.  If you do end up using any of these suggestions I would love to hear what you think!  None of the links below are affiliate links. Feel free to contact me at abuckeyeteacher@gmail.com or reach out to me on Instagram! Happy reading!

All Are Welcome 

When I first saw this book -- my expectations were SO high.  After I read the book, it exceeded them! This will be my first read aloud of the year -- and it will hopefully set a tone for our classroom community!  This book is beautifully illustrated and has a great message -- All Are Welcome. The story shows all types of kids going through the school day with each other -- it shows a school community where everyone is accepted and respected. The back of the book jacket is a poster too! 

Alma and How She Got Her Name

I purchased this book for my students last year and my class loved it!  It tells the story of how Alma, a girl with six names, learns all about her names and where they're from. She learns a lot about herself and her family.  After reading this book my students went home and talked to their families to learn more about their own names.  They shared about what they learned the next day at morning meeting.  There are so many ways to use this book, especially during the BTS season! 

I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About A Simple Act of Kindness 

Shoutout to my friend Devin (@starsinsecondgrade) who found this gem while we were at the San Diego airport!  This is an impactful, moving, and wordless picture book.  The lesson possibilities are endless!  It shows how one act of kindness can lead to more. I can't wait to see the discussions that we have around this read aloud! 

Mela and the Elephant

I could hardly wait for this book to be released earlier this year!  My students LOVE the author Dow Phumiruk.  This fable teaches students that they should be kind and helpful to others without expecting something in return.  The fable has Thai customs and traditions -- which my students LOVED learning about.  The author's note at the end of book is lovely and written so that students can easily understand it.  This was one of my favorite read alouds last year -- the message is very impactful. 


The new year can be scary and overwhelming for students (...and teachers too)!  Through words and amazing illustrations this book simply shows kids how they can be brave. The wonderful author, Stacy McAnulty, has great activities that go with this book here.  My class completed this one last year and then put them all together on bulletin board paper. 

Cece Loves Science 

When I was reading this book all I could keep thinking was -- THIS IS PERFECT! It is perfect for beginning of the year when you're teaching students what a scientist does. Cece conducts an experiment to try and see if her dog will eat veggies. There are so many teachable moments throughout this book.   It will be my first read aloud during science this year! 

The Thing Loud Couldn't Do

I love to use this book throughout the year, especially during the fist two weeks of school. In this story Lou is faced with doing something she is afraid of doing -- climbing a tree. She tries to figure out a way to overcome her fear -- something so many of my students were able to relate to. This book led to a great class discussion! 

The Fruit Salad Friend 

In this book the author Maria Dismondy teaches students what do to when a friend isn't being kind.  It gives students empowering strategies and real examples that can be used throughout the school day and beyond. My students were really able to connect to this book last year and I saw many of them check it out for independent reading as well.  We have just about all of Maria's books -- and I highly recommend adding them to your classroom library! 

The Best Part of Me

I saw my friend @aprimarykindoflife share a beautiful project she did with her students after reading this book!  In this book you see children's responses to the question "What is the best part of you?"  I think this would be a unique back to school lesson and a way for students to learn about each other in a meaningful way. 

School's First Day of School

I loved this book because the point of view is from the school! The school is nervous about what it will be like when the students come through the door.  The school doesn't have a great start to the day but it does get better...and you'll have to read it to figure out why!  I think this would be great to read at the end of the first day of school right before dismissal.  It would be a fun way for the students to reflect on their first day. 

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful!  Happy reading! 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Morning Choice Time

Hi friends!

If you follow me on my Instagram (@abuckeyeteacher) you might have seen that my class starts the day with Morning Choice Time.  I get lots of questions about how it works so I decided to dedicate a blog post to it.

My school has a staggered arrival time that spans about ten minutes.  My school offers all students breakfast in the classroom every morning.  Not all students partake in this, but many do.  When my students arrive to school they unpack, fill out their breakfast form, and either eat with their peers or start Morning Choice Time.

I started Morning Choice Time in my classroom for multiple reasons.  I believe in the power of student choice.  All my students love STEM, reading, coding, and art.  I wanted to give them a time during the day where they could decide what they wanted to do.  I also realize that not all students start the day off in a positive way.  But with Morning Choice Time, students get 10-20 minutes to explore, collaborate, and be creative.  By the end of this time students are usually more awake, in a positive mood, and ready to start the academic day.  It also gives me time to connect with students and check in.  Sometimes you'll find me building and creating right along with them...and sometimes I'm taking attendance. :) 

During Morning Choice Time students can create and build with STEM materials, draw, code with robots, and/or read.  My kids can work with classmates or on their own. There isn't a *right* way to do Morning Choice Time -- it can be implemented many different ways.  The biggest part is that students get some time to creative, collaborate, and have fun with their classmates.

Below are some of the items that my students love using.  All photos are real photos taken by me or my students. In addition to the resources below, we use Brooke Brown (Teach Outside The Box) STEM task cards! They are amazing and get students thinking about different things to build! Click here for the TPT link.

Like most teachers, I don't have an unlimited budget.  I did not purchase any of these items for my classroom -- I am an avid grant writer!  I use Donors Choose to bring resources -- like what you see below -- into my classroom.

*All links are affiliate links which means I make a small profit if you choose to purchase through them*

Brain Flakes

These things are AMAZING!  They are are a great price and students can build so many things with them!  I have two cans of these in my classroom.  Click here for the link to purchase them on Amazon.   Here are some photos of the cool things my students have made.  

Straw Builders

Straw builders can build BIG things! Students connect them together to build houses, igloos, towers, etc. I have two packs of these in my classroom and my students love using them! Click here for the link. Here are some photos of them in action that I saved from Instagram.

Magnetic Tiles

This is an item that is used by my students every single day.  They LOVE these magnetic tiles.  I will say, they are a bit pricey, but in my opinion, completely worth it! Click here for a direct link to the tiles.  I love this set because it includes wheels, bases, etc that let students create really cool things.  I also have another pack of just tiles which you can find by clicking here.  

Ozobot Coding Robot

These little robots can do some really cool things!  They are user friendly and wonderful for students who are learning to code.  They can be used with or without iPads.  They can be integrated into so many different academic lessons. I got an idea from another teacher to use them during our geography unit.  In the morning my students use them  with iPads or by free hand drawing.  You can use them with Ozobot markers or regular markers.  The pack comes with a sheet of color combinations that get the Ozobot to respond and do different things.  They are very kid friendly and easy to use!  You can find them by clicking here. 


Botley Coding Robot

We recently recieved two Botley coding robots and my students LOVE them!  These are coding robots are screen free and all you need is some AAA batteries to get them going. These robots teach kids basic coding skills and include engaging activities that allow them to test out more advanced coding skills. Click here for a direct link to Botley. 

Coding Mouse

This is a great coding robot for younger kids and/or students who are new to coding! Like the Botley robot, it is a screen free device.  This robot comes with challenge cards that students use to build its' track to cheese. It is great for problem solving!  My students choose to play with this frequently!  You can click here for a direct link.

Marble Run

Marble run brings out some of the best creativity in my students!  They create some super cool things with this!  Marble run is hands on, promotes teamwork, and has students fully engaged in their building. It is one of our most used STEM items! Click here for a direct link to this resource. 

Gravity Maze

Gravity Maze is a game that gets students thinking and makes them use their problem solving skills.  I haven't seen anyone (including teachers) get a challenge correct the first time.  You use the challenge cards to help guide your building and then use the marble to see if you built it correctly.  These is great for 2-3 kids to play together.  Click here for a direct link.

                                             Image result for gravity maze


I can't tell you how many times I would contact parents asking them to borrow legos during the school year!  I was so happy to finally get some just for our classroom.  We use legos all the time -- currently my students are building their own little worlds/houses with them.  We've also used them to build pinball machines!  We also have off brand Legos from Amazon.   You can find the direct link to the first kit of Legos we received here. 

Building Block Bars

My students have made the coolest little things with these!  Mini playground, star glasses, beach chairs, you name it! Another great STEM building tool that allows students freedom to be creative and build whatever they'd like! Click here for a direct link.

These are some of our favorite STEM materials and I hope your students will love them as well!  In a future blog post I'll share the art supplies I've added to our Morning Choice Time to change STEM to STEAM! My students are also able to read or write during this time.  If you have any questions after reading this or need help setting up a Donors Choose account, please email me at abuckeyeteacher@gmail.com

And finally, I'm so passionate about Morning Choice Time because....