Integrating Themes in Your Classroom

Often times when someone sees pictures of the themes and activities in my classroom on Instagram they ask, "how do you fit it all in?" Truth is, it's not always just about finding the time in your day as much as it is about making it work! The answer is yes, I have a curriculum to follow and the demands of the common core. I'm all for challenging my students and ensuring them opportunities to engage in higher order thinking, but I'm certainly not going to stop us from having fun doing so. "Us" meaning my students *and* me. Ha! Let's be honest, it's just as vital for us to be engaged too!

 In order to "fit it in," you have to think of all the ways you can integrate a theme across all your content areas. I'll admit, it may take a little longer when when planning to organize all the worksheets, crafts and activities in your files but after some time, cross curricular integration comes more naturally. Follow along as I share with you how I integrated our "apples" theme across most of the content areas all week long.

One of my favorite ways to integrate a theme is in Math Workshop centers/tubs! We're either learning a new skill or reviewing a previous one and themes allow for fun new math manipulatives. Which of course is the perfect excuse to take a trip to Target- where I found a pack of those adorable chalkboard apple tags on sale for 10 cents! Can you believe it? I didn't know exactly what I would use them for at the store but I knew I had to have them. Just like most things at Target... ha! You can find the recording sheet I made here

We use Everyday Math in our school- which if you are not familiar with, is a spiral curriculum. Each unit has many different skills and focuses, which spirals all year long in order to continue mastery. This compliments a workshop style instruction because the math tubs can be so diverse! In this particular tub we were focusing on "exploring," being exposed to, nonstandard measurement. We used the apple tags as our unit of measure. :) 

There are so many great freebie resources online too! Be sure to always scope it out. I found these great subitizing review centers from a Recipe for Teaching here.  They were so easy to print and prep!

We also had a "data day" in our curriclum. Rather than graphing something general like "your favorite color," look at it as an opportunity to integrate a theme. I added in a "challenge" by first tallying our votes and then turning the tallies into a graph show below. 

I found inspiration for these illustrations from the fabulous Cara Carroll over at the First Grade Parade. We did the graph together in our mini-lesson before practicing the skills independently in centers. One of them included this apple roll and color activity. Our graphing skills will come in a little later in the post in science as well. :) 

When it's apple week, you make everything into apples. Even those cute little ten frame counters. 
You can find it FREE in Cara Carroll's store here. It even includes an apple roll, color, count and tally center!

 One of our last skills in math this week was number stories. For our mini-lesson, I modeled one and then we did one together before turning & talking to share out our strategies. As they shared their thinking, I recorded all their strategies on the chart. Then, in one of the math tubs they practice creating their own apple seed stories to solve.

Each year I conveniently plan apple week around Johnny Appleseed's birthday. In Social Studies we did a read aloud, focusing on the "main topic." After reading aloud, each student wrote a key detail on a post-it to PIN to our Johnny Appleseed anchor chart. 
If you didn't know, I'm a big fan of hats! I thought it would be the perfect lesson to sneak in a little hat making since they all worked *so* hard to write their key detail. I Googled some examples and kind of took small details I liked of each to create our own. I didn't have a temple. I just took a 12"X 24"size gray piece of construction paper and cut it in half horizontally. Then I took strips and free cut the "handle" portion. Whallah! Look how stinkin' cute they look!!

You can find the "Blank Appleseed" name template here.

The way social studies and science are organized into our schedule is that they are taught at the same time but rotated throughout the year. I started off teaching community during social studies at the start of the year and this week we transition to science. I'm excited to be joining many other colleagues at school by implementing interactive notebooks this year. Our science units include Air and Weather and Light and Sound, however we do not start that until later this month. I decided to use this extra "time" to squeeze in teaching into the routines of the interactive notebook. 

Each day had a different focus- apple life cycle, parts of an apple and apple vocabulary. Each lesson we read non-fiction read alouds on that topic and then worked in small groups to complete the interactive notebook piece. 

This was our "input" in the interactive notebook. After each lesson, students took some time reflecting on what they did/learned and students wrote in the "output" section of our notebooks. I too have my own interactive notebook to model for students!

Our culminating activity was exploring apples using our senses! Our high school intern, Mackenzie, was there to join in on the action too! We discussed the meaning of the word adjective and listed words that described apples. We were blown away with the level of their content specific vocabulary. We even go into the discussion of organic fruit!! I've got some smart cookies. :) 

We integrated our graph skills into science as well by graphing our favorite color apple!

 Speaking of content specific vocabulary, Lyndsay from A Year of Many Firsts has a great non-fiction resource, as seen above.  In shared literacy, we spent time going back into the text to find the meaning of words. Then we played a round of a word hunt game I created with her resource. In order to differentiate, I gave students either a picture, word or definition. Then we took turns finding the "matches" and recorded them on the board. They loved this and were so engaged!

You can find it here.

 In readers workshop we happened to be learning the skill of using post-it notes as various think marks in fiction and nonfiction texts. Rather than just choosing any random text, I selected 2 texts that were closer to a "just right" reading level for my firsties about apples.  I meaningfully selected a fiction and a nonfiction text that would have similar stories to use as a model for my mentor text.

Below are the texts I selected, as well as my "think marks."

 Lastly, if you're looking for a simple yet effective way- there's always your bookshelf! :)
We turned this apple craft idea from  First and Kinder Blue Skies into a card for parents for back to school night.

We loved sneaking in a fine motor skill activity for morning work and decorating the class with our apple window hanger- compliments of my friend, Maria Manore Gavin. You can find her resource with specific directions here.

PHEW! I know that was a lot. My fingers are as tired as your brain is from reading! HA! But, I hope you enjoyed following along and this provided you with some inspiration on how to incorporate holidays and themes into your everyday instruction!!

Classroom Reveal

I have been absolutely overwhelmed and blessed with the amount of support I've gotten from readers this past year. So many of you have reached out about my classroom and asked questions or decor advice. You have given me the experience of a lifetime!

I feel it's important that you know before continuing on that it truly takes a village to create my classroom each year. Behind the scenes there are many people who come together to make this possible. Friends and family members help me laminate, cut and even take pictures.  I wouldn't have been able to do it if it wasn't for them and I am forever grateful for them for making all my classroom dreams come true! You know who you are. xoxo

Like most schools, at the end of each year, we are required to pack everything, stack up our bins and take everything off our shelves so that the furniture can be removed from the classroom to be cleaned and floors washed and waxed. I'll admit, it was a difficult thing for me to do last June after spending so many weeks setting it up last summer. I had felt like I finally found a classroom set up that suited my teaching style and a color scheme that allowed me to return to school each morning ready to start the day! That's why you may find most things in my classroom reveal will appear the same but if you take the time to notice the small details, some changes are there. :) 

First up, my desk and small group meeting area. These bins featured here are from Big Lots. They can be found each summer during their college line release, but are not usually restocked. You know what that means, when you buy them- go big or go home! Last year I wasn't able to get all the styles in the bright colors. I was late to the party haha! The green and pink bins on the lower shelves are actually spray painted. I was pleased with the coverage but I have a feeling there will be some chips by the end of the year.

I'm also sure you're wondering where these gorgeous supply labels are from. My good friend Maria Manore Gavin is a creative genius and has a true eye for design!!! They come in an editable pack (also available in white and brights) and can be found here.   

I was excited to add some additional teacher storage to my desk area. Is it just me or does it feel like you have constant piles of paper everywhere you turn, no matter how organized you think you are?  Everything now has it's own specific place. Well, at least for now.... :)

If you're looking to create a space like this, my tip for you is think about your use and practicality. The bins that you will have easiest access too are those on the top. Therefore I chose to store things I am frequently using throughout the day. 

Each year my good friend Chandra Jayne's Teacher Anchor becomes an absolute staple in my classroom!! You'll always find it within reach at my desk. This year's color scheme truly brings out all the colors of my teaching supplies (it started ever since I was a kid and has kind of become an addiction at this point ha!).  More than it's beauty, The Teacher Anchor's effectiveness and practicality is something you can't even put a price tag on. I highly recommend you check out her products over here a C. Jayne Teach !

My favorite spot in my classroom is most definitely my library! It's a place that feeds into my teacher soul and allows me to "get lost in a book." This year I was lucky enough to be able to add to my library space. Previously I had computer tables behind my library. This year, the computers and tables were removed in exchange for Chromebooks. WIN- WIN! :) I ended up pushing my library back closer toward the cubbies and extending the shelves along the wall.

How the bins are organized in my library has stayed the same. The top shelf is home to all the holiday/seasonal book bins (Fly Guy and Mo Willems in the picture to the right has since been moved). The middle and lover shelf are the leveled and chapter books. The shelves to the left feature the theme book bins.

The organization of the additional book bins also comes with purpose.

The top shelf of the addition features author book bins, while the lower incorporates characters. I feel it's important students have access to learn to "shop" for books by theme, season, just right level, character and author. 
These library labels also include a matching sticker to place on the books in each bin to ensure student organization. They are one of my favorite products purchased on TPT and can be found in Maria Manore Gavin's store here. Trust me, they are worth every penny!!  
They can also be purchased in white. *Please note they do not include the author and character labels however, it does include an editable template for you to create your own.

My library area is usually my meeting area for reader's and writer's workshop, as well as shared literacy, science and social studies. Therefore I have a chart stand that doubles as a white board. Some weeks I co-teach science/social studies so I find it's important to include enough space to add a space for teachers (or students who share) to join me up front (stool to the right). The stool is from TJ Maxx.

Since our reader's and writer's workshop monthly curriculum units usually go hand in hand, I find it's effective to group it together as one larger bulletin board.  It allows more space for anchor charts and posters.

My  writer's workshop area also includes my writing process posters. This is used as a class clip chart as we move through the writing stages each unit. The pack includes many color schemes to suit your theme. You can find them in my store here!

My library area is separate from my student book bins for reader's workshop. I find this to be effective when we transition from our mini lesson at the mat to independent reading around the room. Students can easily and *quietly* retrieve their bin. The student book bins labels can be found in Learning in Wonderland's store here
With the additional wall space from my library being pushed back, it also allowed extra counter space for me to display themed books. 

 I'm really excited for this space! There are so many possibilities with the extra shelf space. It is also home to our writer's workshop paper choices and writing supplies. Once again, student materials are removed from our meeting area to allow for a smoother and quieter transition from the mini lesson.

If you've been following along since the beginning, you know I'm a HUGE fan of math workshop. I am alllll about making math fun and engaging for our little learners. In order to make this successful in your classroom, you need a special space. I have created a student centered "number corner." Here you will find plenty of anchor chart space and math posters, manipulatives, games, tools and models. 

 I spend a lot of time allowing students to explore this space before moving into teaching into the rules and routines for using our number corner. The key to making it effective in your classroom is clean and clear organization. Share with your students the names on the labels and the purpose for where things are. Don't be afraid to mess it up one day to model how things should NOT look and have them work together to put things back in their place. This will build their comfort with this environment so that students know where to find things. Be sure to encourage them to get and return materials on their own.

The pink bins are our math tubs. To the left are where I store games and math models in pocket protectors. The games featured here can be found in a Math Game Bundle in my TPT store.  They are my most frequently sold product because they are easy to prep and can be used all year long! The small teal bins to the right are where students can find their "tools." I printed Reagan Tunstall's Math Tools on colored cardstock and laminated for durability. They have lasted from year to year and are the perfect support for our little learners! The teal bins and drawers are home to math manipulatives. The labels can be found in Amy Groesbeck's store here.

Many of our math routines are also seen in calendar. If you're looking to find our more about how I run calendar in my classroom, you can find a post on it here. Many of the materials here can also be found in Maria Manore Gavin's store.  What I love is that it includes many different size and colors options for you to create your own calendar space.

To the left you will find my objectives board. You can find these resources over at Amy Groesbeck's store on TPT here. It also is where I am trying out a new class goal setting system, also in her store here

 Next to calendar you'll find my FUNdations space, along with student material bins. As I mentioned last year, I attempt to spice up the FUNdation decor as much as possible. If you teach it, you know what I mean and I'm sure you may fee the same way. Guilty... :) It is not pictured here but I include and interactive word wall pocket chart for students to be able to take and return word cards as need.

If you're wondering how I run and organize my classroom community supplies, view my post here.

Student seat sacks are my savior! They are going on their third year here and are holding up well! Don't worry, they are washed after each year. 

I have created editable name tags to match my theme to use in my seat sacks. They can be found here! They can be scaled to size if you're looking for additional uses for them as well. 

By accident, I was playing around with the size and printed the name tags too small BUT found that they actually made great cubby tags. I wouldn't have ever thought of using them for that purpose but was pleased to see how they came out.  They were printed on card stock and laminated for durability. If you're still reading this and not just window shopping through pictures, I truly appreciate all your support!!!!