SitSpot Circle

Happy (Almost) Friday!
I am in my third week of using the SitSpots in my classroom and I can already see a HUGE difference with my students and management of routines in comparison to last year!

I figured that the SitSpots would help me keep students in their own personal space. I also figured that they would help me prevent the “creeper uppers” I always have when it’s time for a lesson or story, you know, the kids who end up sitting on your toes as you read.  I really struggled with how to arrange the dots. Would I place them in a circle, which is how we normally sit for meeting (but some kiddos have their backs to the board?). Would I place them in staggered rows, like the students often sit for a story? I’d hate for the kids to be so far away when I am reading a good story to them.  In spite of my worries, I decided to start with a circle.  Boy am I glad I did!

I never imagined how much the simple SitSpot circle would offer me as a teacher.

IMG_93995 Reasons I love the SitSpot circle in my classroom

1. It helps the students know where to go (just like the motto says!). No more crooked circles, with some boys and girls squeezed out, or left behind for morning meeting! I also use these at the end of the day. Once students have packed their things, they find a spot.  Everyone has a place to be!

2. The SitSpot Strategy! They help me, help my students make good seating choices. I’m sure you have it in your classroom too! Johnny and Jeffrey are both wonderful, but they are even more wonderful when they are not seated anywhere near each other. Behold, the SitSpot strategy! I assign both of them to blue dots and VOILA! neither one is next to the other!

3. Students can sit “on” or “inside” the circle. Although I thought originally that having the dots in a circle would limit their use to morning meeting and maybe dismissal, I found that telling the students to sit inside the circle for a story, has been an amazing thing. Every year I have table lingerers. They always slouch away and try to lean on a table, or sit all crouched down underneath  a chair (which usually leads to silly and distracting behavior). Well, problem solved. During  a story, lesson, or any other time I need the students sitting in a group, they all sit inside the circle.

4. I use the spots for other times of day too! We use parts of The Daily 5 approach in my classroom. Read to Self is one of the very important parts of our day. Most of the students know just where their (imaginary) spots are around the room. I do have a few students who really need a literal SPOT in order to know where to stay during this time of the day. Giving them spots on opposite sides of the circle has helped them during that time of day.

5. They brighten up my classroom. I know this is a silly one, but look how bright and fun they are?!?! They are much more inviting than masking tape, that’s for sure!


(You might be wondering about the center spot. We use this for shared materials during math center time. Sometimes I have a group work on the floor, so the basket or bin of shared materials stays on the dot, and the students stay inside the circle!)

So originally I was going to move these spots around as the kids got used to the routines so I could use them for centers and other activities, but I may have to find a way to get myself some different shapes to use for those purposes because so far, I am in love with my SitSpot circle!


Catch an idea- Using a Web to get started with writing!

I am really trying to capture my own ideas here. Most importantly, the ones that are kind of spur of the moment, fun things that come up day to day.

Well, today I was teaching my first graders how to use a web to do writing. Last year, I had tons of kiddos copy the words from their webs on their writing pages in a list, instead of forming sentences with them.

This year I went to teach the same lesson, in the moment remembered that struggle from last year, and thought of how I could help my first graders understand that their web idea was just where they “caught” their small ideas, like a spider would catch a fly.

Today’s topic was writing about a special birthday!

We brainstormed together, students completed their own webs with words like “cake, party, friends,   candy, fun, beach, restaurant”


Then, when it came time to write, I had the students catch their ideas (choose one), whisper it into their clasped hands, shake their hands and ask “What is it I wanted to write about ‘party’? Oh yes, I wanted to write ‘I had a party. ‘ See how my idea grew?”

The students then practiced it, and it was incredible! Each student wrote complete thoughts about the ideas on their web organizers. I don’t know if this will continue to work, but it’s exciting enough to write about.

I tell my class that there’s a lot of magic in first grade. Growing our ideas was one of those first grade magic moments :-)


We also made cute little birthday cakes during the hot afternoon hours, when the main goal is to be still and stay hydrated! I’ll display these on the back bulletin board for the kids to see. It’s a nice addition to our All About Me unit. It’s also amazing how many of them learn their birthday on this day!


Managing my ToDo List

We are heading into our third week of school. It is still so hot in my classroom ( supposed to be 91 out tomorrow ugh!), so by lunch time I am exhausted. I also get terrible migraines, so this is a super tough time of year in that regard. Any time there is a break, I seek shelter in one of the few air conditioned rooms in the building and sit. At the end of the day, I can’t leave quickly enough… which is a problem! First grade is a busy place! I am finding myself feeling really overwhelmed with all of the little things that need to be done and the piles that are already forming behind and on my desk.

It’s the feeling like all of your tasks are buzzing around your head and distracting you from even being able to speak intelligibly. So, how do you cope? Make a list! We call this a “Bee List” in my house. You get to swat those ideas from around your head and right onto your list.

My bee list, however, has become quite long. This is how I have decided to manage my Bee List…

beelist1I need a “Now” and “Later”. This method has really helped me to sort through the things I need to get done as soon as I have a free minute at school, and the things that can wait, or maybe even be taken home with me ( I know I shouldn’t… but I always bring loads of work home.

When I put that sticky note up on my filing cabinet, I can let it go from my mind, free up some of that working memory, and regain the ability to form complete sentences.


The Summer Slide


My name is Jenn…. and I have teacher guilt.

No matter how dedicated I am… No matter how much time, energy, and resources I pour into my job as a teacher, I often suffer from teacher guilt. I’m going to try to be more candid about it as the year goes on. This is not to be mistaken with “Mommy guilt” which is another very serious condition I often suffer from.

My current bout with teacher guilt has to do with The Summer Slide.

It’s the time of year I start hearing about the summer slide that my former students experienced.

What is the summer slide? It’s dropping reading levels, forgetting their ABCs , not sure how to use a + sign, for example.

This has been weighing so heavily on me today! I know it’s inevitable, expected even, but I can’t help but feel badly about it. I talked with some colleagues and asked a reassuring “We’re good teachers! (right?)”

When I got home I thought more about it.  Thinking about it reminded me of my school year resolution to “Let It Go”… and when I heard that song, I thought about dancing… and when I thought about dancing, it reminded me of the time I learned and taught  the staff  the “Hoedown Showdown” for the school talent show.

I sat in front of videos of youtube stumbling around like a lunatic. Slowly I began to get it. After time I could dance it in my sleep … But then time passed. I heard the song, and sort of remembered the motions, but I certainly was stumbling around once again. This time, instead of taking weeks to learn the moves, it took me just a few run throughs. Don’t know what I mean? Learn  it here! (Yes I was just dancing in my living room).

So i’m just going to say it- Reading is a lot like learning to dance.  The children watch, they follow your models, follow your tips, try it out piece by piece, and before long they’re “performers”. When summer comes and they’re missing out on that direct instruction, daily rigorous practice (we read A LOT in my classroom),they come back kind of remembering the moves, but stumbling to put them together.

So here’s to hoping that after a few run throughs, they are back up to speed…and I’m going to do my best to “Let It Go”.


Teaching Classroom Expectations

So the first day has come and gone, and it’s time to really start discussing classroom and school expectations.

We use the PBIS approach to behavior management in my school (which I love!). This involves really explicit modeling of expectations throughout the school. In our school, we teach students how to be Kind, Responsible, Respectful, and Ready throughout the day, from the bus line, to the classroom, to specials, to the cafeteria!

In the classroom, we do a lot more than just one lesson when we discuss expectations for the year. One of my favorite books and characters is David!

We read No David, and then David Goes to School. We brainstorm advice for David on a chart on the board.

Then, students create their own David’s and write a piece of advice on a sentence strip below! My team has been doing this project for a long time, and the students love it year after year!



Then, we write our Class Promise, using the 4 areas of our school motto.  I like to take pictures of the students doing things that are kind, responsible, respectful and ready the first couple of weeks, and display the photos around the class promise! This is good motivation to be doing the right thing, and is also a fun way to make the children feel right at home from the beginning of the year.


I also read a couple of other great books the first week. The most difficult thing for first graders is to listen to the speaker. They have so many very important things to say! These two stories are great for your interrupters!