Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Classroom Tepee and Other Fun Reading Spots!

This post contains affiliate links.

WE GOT A TEPEE!  That's in all caps because I think I love it as much (maybe more?) than my first graders do!  Anyways, we got the tepee through a very generous donor who is a friend of mine.  I babysat her daughter while I was in college and she donated money for my first year classroom-- she's a total saint, and she understands that kids benefit from re-arranging a learning space and from new and exciting additions!

I have class "jobs" in my classroom, but a few of them are more like privileges!  Getting to sit in the tepee is one of those privileges, along with doing our student-led math calendar on the SMART board.  We have a "Tepee #1" person, and a "Tepee #2" person.  Obviously, #1 gets first choice of the tepee, but the #2 person can be in there if the first student is gone, at the teacher table, or if they lose their privilege.

I originally had my eyes on a chevron tepee, but I decided that might be a little much, so I went with this white canvas one!  The reviews were good, and it shipped SUPER fast.  Likewise, I knew I could figure out something to add to it to give it more color.  You can find the exact tepee HERE on Amazon .  It's currently listed at 89.99 and the colorful fabric triangle banner shown in the picture was included (I just haven't decided what to use it for yet)!

A closer look:

I got these pillow covers for $5 each at Hobby Lobby!
(You know I used that 40% off coupon)!

The 3 fabrics shown are also from Hobby Lobby!  (They are always 30% off)!  I just cut them into strips and looped them around grey rick rack-- it's super easy!

Another reason I chose this tepee is because I can always see students when they are inside (very important for the first grade rascals I round up every day)!  There are ties to tie back the front flaps, and it also has a cute window and two pockets on the side.  I've put two books in the pockets that I am recommending to my kiddos for Black History Month.

If you're interested in a tepee, but not brave enough to tackle white (I don't blame you), here are some other great reading spots you may consider for your classroom!!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my new tepee and looking at all the other cute ones out there!  Let me know in the comments if you have any creative reading spots in your room!

Monday, February 22, 2016

5 Reasons Seesaw Can Make Your Life Easier!

Have you heard about Seesaw?  It's an app that I like to describe to parents as "a confidential Instagram for your students' work".  I've been using it for about 5 months and I haven't talked to anyone who doesn't like it!

Below is a quick video that explains WHAT Seesaw is (probably way better than I would be able to)!

So if you're still curious about Seesaw, download the app and start adding your students.  Here are my 5 reasons why I think it's worth your time:

1.  Connect with Parents
Some families are just flat out busy!  Even as a first year teacher, I have had many instances where I've had trouble getting a hold of a parent.  Seesaw makes it easier to connect with parents because anytime I upload work to a students' "folder" it POPS right up on their phone!  The app shows me who has seen it, and family members can leave comments and ask questions.  It's so easy use, I've had full blown (confidential) conversations with parents about their child's work on it!

Teachers approve all comments before anything is shared with parents.
2.  De-Clutter
Another great thing about Seesaw is that you can document student work without having to hold onto every. single. piece.  I upload my students' daily behavior charts at the end of the week and then send them home.  Basically, if we do something in class that I want to make sure families see, I add it to Seesaw and then send it home.  It's so nice not having a million papers laying everywhere!!!  I would recommend, however, that you make copies or hold onto any student work that you may need for IEP meetings, etc.  But in general, it makes much more sense for families to see everything, than for me to keep it all in a file until the end of the year!

3.  Student Buy-In
When one of my first graders is proud of their work, they always ask, "Can you put this on Seesaw?!?".  They absolutely love showing their work off to me and to their loved ones.  Likewise, I often tell my kids that "This is going on Seesaw, so make sure it's your BEST work".  ---There's just something about the technology component that they love.

4.  Share Reading Progress on Video
I also love to use Seesaw to video record my students.  I may just walk around the room during Reader's Workshop to show families what we are up to, or I may prop my phone (or ipad) up and record a student doing a running record with me.  This allows parents to hear the prompting and wait time that I give their child while reading and I think it helps show families how their child is progressing in reading, instead of just throwing out numbers and reading levels to them twice per year at conferences.

You can take photos, videos, add anything from your camera roll, and much more.
5.  Technology Integration  
Right now, I'm the one who uploads my students' work to Seesaw, but next year I have high hopes for what my students will be able to do with it!  My district is incorporating technology into all K-12 classrooms next year and with that, I'm hoping to have my students utilize Seesaw much more.  I'm hoping to have them upload a picture of the "learning job" they did with a partner or independently during Reader's Workshop and Math Centers.  This would allow for LESS PAPER and more student creativity!  There is a microphone button, so even first graders can describe what they did without having to try and type it.

Overall, I've been loving using Seesaw and I hope to keep expanding my use of it.  It's FREE, it's easy, and it has helped me connect with families more!  Let me know how you use (or plan to use) Seesaw in the comments below!

*UPDATE:  I loved using Seesaw so much, I'm now an ambassador for them!  Feel free to contact me with any questions!!!