Friday, June 16, 2017

Recycling Crayons

Today I'm going to share something that I started doing last year to stop some of the waste in my classroom: crayon recycling!

I don't know about you, but it drives me crazy every time I see broken crayons in the trash. They still work, but my firsties just don't like using them.

So, I took an old cardboard box and fancied it up with some duck tape (the flamingo kind, of course) and a label. You can get your free label here.

My firsties loved the idea of recycling their broken crayons and were very good at putting the pieces they didn't want in the box. Some of them were too good at it... we had to have a discussion about breaking crayons on purpose. 😒

Once I had a good number of crayons in the box, I started peeling the wrappers off. Not my favorite thing to do. Luckily I discovered that my kiddos LOVED peeling wrappers! I set it up as an option for when they first came into the classroom in the morning. Some of them chose to peel crayons over working with their morning tubs!

Now came the fun part- making shape crayons!

I had started collecting fun silicone molds and ended up with a pretty good variety of different shapes. You can get them on online through Amazon or I also got a couple from Michael's and Joann's with coupons.

I have some mini shapes,

some bigger shapes,

and some that I save for special events. 

(I haven't used the pig mold yet. I was thinking it might be fun to give out a piggie crayon when we finish reading all of the Elephant and Piggie books next year!)

I just found this one at Target last week- hashtags! I think my kiddos are going to LOVE this one next year!

So, here is my process:

I preheat the oven to 225 degrees and get my molds filled on the baking sheets. I use some cookie sheets I got from the Dollar Tree specifically for this purpose. They can get messy and I didn't want to use the same pans I use for baking.

Once the oven is preheated and the molds are filled, I put them in for 20 minutes to start. I check them after the 20 minutes are up. Most of the time, they are all melted, but they occasionally need more time.

Once the crayons are melted and out of the oven, I leave them to cool. To be honest, I don't really keep track of how long it takes, I just check occasionally. 

I love how pretty these ones turned out!

When they are completely cool, I pop them out of the molds and they are done! 

Occasionally, the crayons don't make it out of the mold in one piece. 

When that happens, I just pop them back in the oven and the pieces melt back together.

One thing that I noticed is that different brands of crayons melt differently. Crayola crayons are by far the best for making shape crayons. They melt evenly and the color doesn't separate from the wax. But, let's face it, we don't always get Crayola crayons! Other brands work, but you may need to leave them in longer and there may be a stripe of gray/beige wax at the bottom of the crayon. I was worried that my firsties wouldn't like them, but they love the stripe effect, so no problem here!

Something else to keep in mind is that twistable crayons do not melt. I'm not sure what it is about them, but the few small pieces I tried kept their shape.

So, what do I do with all of these fancy shape crayons? I sell them in my classroom store! They go for three flamingo bucks each and they are the most popular item in my store! Some kids use them, some just collect them. I don't mind as long as they are not being played with. 

Well, that's it for my crayon recycling! 

As you can see, I've got a massive tub of peeled crayon pieces to get through this summer. Gotta get the store stocked for next year! 😄

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mini Lesson: Creating text-based questions

Today I am sharing a mini lesson I do each year to help my students practice asking questions about a text.

One of my favorite yearly purchases at Target is these fun adhesive mustaches:

I buy them every year at Halloween and use them for a mini lesson on creating text-based questions. 

This year, I decided to fancy up my mini lesson and share it as a freebie!

Here's how our lesson typically goes:

We start by talking about question words. We use this quick anchor chart to identify them and discuss different examples of questions.

We add this mini poster into our reading notebooks as a reference, 

then work on a sort to practice putting questions together. I like to have my kids pair up for this activity, but it would also work as an independent sort.

Next up is our read aloud. I prefer to use a nonfiction text for this activity, but a fiction story would work too. 

We read the story together and talk about some of the key details. Then, it is time to start working on some questions!

I have my students work on the questions with a partner. Their job is to create a question for each of the six question words we talked about. 

Once the pairs have their questions ready, we are officially ready for the mustaches! Everyone puts on their mustache (which they think is hilarious!), the pairs make small groups, and take turns asking each other their questions.

Click the picture above to get your copy of this mini lesson!

I hope this has been helpful and that your students enjoy this fun mini lesson as much as mine do!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Morning Tubs

Today I am blogging about my favorite change to my classroom this year, morning tubs!
Before I get into how I am using morning tubs, let me quickly explain how the mornings go at our school.

The kids arrive anywhere between 7:45 and 8:20 and can get breakfast in the cafeteria or wait in holding areas (usually in the hallway outside the classroom). Teachers aren't required to bring the kids into the classroom until 8:20, which is when the morning news starts.

In the past, mornings has always felt rushed. The kids come in and are trying to get unpacked and ready for the day all while the news is playing. There was never any time for morning work as our math block starts immediately after the news.

This year, I decided to try something different. I wanted something that would get my students engaged first thing in the morning, so I decided on morning tubs.

 I got four of these plastic tubs from Wal-Mart.

 I got the 7.2 quart size, which allows for plenty of space for materials, without taking up too much space when we aren't using them.

 labeled them 1-4 with a flamingo that coordinates with a table color. We rotate bins each morning, so having the numbers and color code helps me to remember which bin goes where.

For example:

Green table always starts with bin #1 on Mondays.

On Tuesday, all bins rotate one place, so green table will have bin #2. This continues through Thursday.

On Friday mornings, we are shopping at our classroom store as we come in, so the kids who are done may be reading or taking a test on reading counts.

I wanted to make sure that my students didn't lose interest in morning tubs, so I switch out the materials weekly. 

A lot of the materials that I use are things that I already had around the classroom:

I have also been keeping my eye out for deals! I managed to snag a few things from the dollar spot at Target (lacing cards, alphabet and number puzzles, lego-type blocks) and the Dollar Tree (dominoes and lacing cards).

Here are a few other things we have been enjoying-

*the kids LOVE bunchems, but make sure to stress that they are to stay away from hair... I would say more, but I am still too put out after spending ages picking one out of a little girl's hair!

I also made up some step by step drawing cards from tutorials I found online. I laminated them and put them in the box with some drawing paper.

I have a wish list going (what teacher doesn't?!) of some different things I would like to add as the year goes on. I am pretty fascinated by these plus-plus pieces. Has anyone ever used them?

I am always a little nervous when trying out new routines in the classroom. I usually have this idea of how I want it to work, but it doesn't always pan out!

In this instance though, I am honestly so glad that I decided to go for it! My mornings always used to feel so hectic and rushed with no real transition from arriving at school to learning. Now, we have a quiet time to explore classroom materials and be creative!

My kids are collaborating on bigger projects-

this massive wall was built by two boys out of plastic bathroom cups! (I was expecting a big crash when they started to clean up, but they meticulously took it down, cup by cup! Such a quiet clean-up!)

They are socializing in a positive way- trading ideas, sharing materials, complimenting each other's designs, working together on their plans. 

Yes, I have given up some of my time alone in the mornings, but I couldn't be happier with the choice!

Do you use morning tubs in your classroom? I'd love to hear about it!