Monday, December 22, 2014

Fourteen in 14

This is my first time joining a linky party... so, hopefully I don't mess it up too much.

I have a lot of favorite quotes but one that really resonates with me in terms of my teaching is written below. I look back at my first year in the classroom and I shudder. What the heck was I do? Or, better yet, what the heck was I trying to do? Then I remind myself of this quote and celebrate all of the things that I do so much better now... on year 5. I'm sure in a few years I will look back at my teaching now and shudder. It's a learning process and this is a great reminder for us all, no matter how many years you've been in the classroom.

I ordered these bad boys on Black Friday from Macy's. I am pretty obsessed with wearing both black and brown so anytime I can find an item of clothing that works with either color, I am sold! Franco Sarto Clarity Tall Shaft Riding Boots!
Hmm..., my husband and I love going to the movies. I think my favorite this year was Gone Girl. Gone Girl is also one of my favorite books of the year.

I love The Mindy Project. I can't help it. It's beyond funny and after a long day of work that is what I need. 
Fairbanks, Alaska is not the mecca of fine dining, however, we do have some hidden gems. My husband and I love, love, love breakfast so there are a couple of great brunch places we frequent. This year though, I've discovered that I like Korean and Vietnamese food. There is a tiny new restaurant called Aha Oriental Kitchen and it is amazing! Lots of vegetarian (well technically a pescetarian... I eat fish) options for me!
I opened up a TPT store and started blogging this year. Those are both very new to me and also big accomplishments for me. I am giddy with the little bit of success I've had so far and I can't wait to continue. Not only does it bring in some extra money, but it's making me a better teacher for sure!
Oh, this is a hard one. I have been really spoiled this year by my family and friends. This precious sign hangs on my classroom door and it's absolutely adorable. My mother in law surprised it with me a few weeks ago. If you're interested in getting your own you can do so here for only $25. 

When I taught in Nashville one of the regular Specials each week for my kiddos was Art. Here in Alaska the classroom teacher is responsible for teaching art. This has been a major adjustment for me. I am not super artistic myself, and I've learned that crafts and craftivities are not art. In any event, I have done a lot of pinning when it comes to first grade friendly art lessons. Last week we did one of the art lessons I pinned. First, I read aloud Jan Brett's The Mitten.  See the final result below. The link to the actual pin can be found here. Unfortunately, it's all written in French. (Thank God for pictures)
Putting Circle Maps to Work was one of my favorite posts. Last year I learned about Thinking Maps and I can't tell you how much they changed my teaching practice. This blog post highlights one of the 8 Thinking Maps (the circle map) being used in one subject (math). 

See number 9 above. :) Simultaneously teaching, blogging, and TPTing especially, are big accomplishments this year for me. 
What can I say, I am a sucker for my dog. This is my precious greyhound. He is practically perfect.... just like his mom. (Did I say that??!)

My husband and I went to Iceland last summer as a delayed honeymoon. (We got married the summer before). Here we are on a biggie! You can read more about our trip here. 
I have so many goals for 2015. Mostly, I want to continue to work on living a healthier life -- clean eating and lots of working out. Luckily for me I enjoy working out and the friends I've made at my awesome gym. Now if only I could work on the eating part... 
I am so beyond blessed. I need to do a better job of showing the people around me just how much I appreciate them. (Okay, so maybe this is another goal...)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Crafts for Days

I helped my 20 firsties make these today... and now.... I'm going to bed. It was ambitious, but it was worth it. We used sponges to make the tree and star and then finger painted the ornaments on. We did these onto extra big bags that will eventually dry (I think...) and hold all of the goodies we've been busy making this week.

My favorite is the ornament with the kid in the snowsuit walking away. We used Ezra Jack Keat's The Snowy Day as inspiration for that particular ornament. It's such a cute read aloud and the kiddos love it! The two ornaments and the door holder can be found here and the reindeer bag has "reindeer food" in it. PS "reindeer food" is just oats and glitter!

Say it with me... three... more... days....until break!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Let It Snow

There are so many good things about teaching in Alaska. One of those is having snow on the ground for 7ish months. It takes "winter art" to a whole new level. Yesterday my kiddos made the snowy scene you see below.

The key, in my opinion was the bubble wrap! I cut small sections of bubble wrap and gave each student one. They pressed the bubble side into the white paint and then dabbed it all over their paper.

If you need something easy this winter... this is it! Students first made individual house scenes and then we loved it so much that we made a joint-effort mural for the hallway.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's hereeeeee! (And...I am alive!)

Wowza! I am still alive. This blogging, teaching, TPTing, taking 2 graduate level classes after school, etc. all at once is a lot harder than I thought! In any event, tomorrow is a big day. For the next 2 days (December 1st and 2nd) TPT is having a sale. In addition, my entire store is 20% off. That's a 28% savings tomorrow!

Thank you to the 3AM Teacher for the absolutely adorable sale banner. Click on the banner to go to my TPT store!

This year one of my goals was to find better ways to make sure my students were learning sight words. One life saver has been Heidi Songs. I'll reserve that for an entire post because she/it deserves it! Another great, yet slightly less exciting improvement that I've made this year is individual sight word flashcard rings. If you teach first grade and use Storytown this could really save your life. For only $3.00 (and much less for the next two days) you can have this and start implementing it in your classroom the next day.

First Grade Friendly:
*Easy to read font
*Lesson number at the bottom of each card
*Circle on each card showing students where to put the hole punch
*Dotted lines showing where to cut
*Paper saving options

Each week simply print out onto card stock or construction paper in black and white or color for each student. Students cut and hole punch and add to their D-ring. 

I quiz my kiddos every Thursday on their sight words and this has been a tremendous help to them --- practice right at their finger tips!

Happy shopping and I PROMISE to do a better job of blogging! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Morning Meeting .... a life saver

Well, we are officially on our third full week of school. All things considered, we are trucking right along and my kiddos and I are fast becoming family. One way I build classroom community is through Morning Meeting. A couple of years ago I read The Morning Meeting Book and The First Six Weeks of School. If you haven’t read these books or been to their website click here for more information. Basically, The Responsive Classroom advocates for not only a culture of learning and high student achievement, but also an improved school climate.  

My Morning Meeting, from start to finish takes about 20 minutes. I timed it every day this week for you and averaged them out.  This is what it looks like in my classroom.

1    Greeting (5 mins)– I have a student leader each day. I’ll blog about that another time. The student leader gets to pick the type of greeting we do. Often students choose “silly greetings” like a witch voice, or whisper greeting. Always at the beginning of the year we do “formal greetings” which look like this “Good morning _________! My name is ____________.” Students also shake hands. (It’s to die for adorable) Always, we sit in a giant circle on the carpet and we go one at a time watching and listening to our friends greet one another. We practice this chant (and do little hand motions) before we begin each day.
1.     Do a full turn.
2.     Make strong eye contact.
3.     Speak in a strong, clear voice.
4.     Don’t shake their hand off, don’t let your hand flop.

       Share (5 mins) – Again, my share has changed over the years as well. When I taught upper elementary, I had students sign up to share and we had three shares a day and you could never share back-to-back days. Now that I teach first grade and I utilize a student leader, I just have the student leader share. I also find that primary students and their parents are looking for a “show and tell” type deal and they like to be able to plan ahead on days that they can bring in something to share. Students know in advance when they will be the student leader so it works out beautifully having them do the share that day.

I’ve learned that regardless of the grade students need to be taught what it really means to share. At the beginning of the year especially, but always really, I model storytelling. I constantly tell little stories about things that happened to me that weekend, or that morning. I tell some big, exciting stories (my husband and I went to Iceland this summer), but mostly I tell simple stories (my dog snuggled up with me this morning while I was drinking my coffee). I am doing this same kind of important modeling during Writing Workshop because I want my students to understand that their lives are interesting and that they have something worthy of sharing. 

Let’s not forget that children need to be taught how to ask questions and give comments. Can I get an Amen? Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times a child will ask the sharer a question that they literally just answered in their share.  Attentive listening is a key focus in our classroom and I am constantly asking a child to repeat what another child said, or add onto something that was just said.

We practice this chant (and do little hand motions) before we begin share each day. It’s a reminder to the person sharing and the rest of the class, too.
1.    This is a community share and not a private share. A community share is a share meant for everyone to hear.
2.    We’ll take 3 questions and comments so listen up!

3     Group Activity (5 mins) – This is anything that gets them UP and interacting! If you had just been sitting on the carpet for 15 minutes you’d need up too! Often it is a Kagan Structure. So far, on the third week of school, my kiddos only know Stand Up, Hand Up and Quiz, Quiz, Trade. We’ve been perfecting those. With Stand Up, Hand Up I’ll call out a question for them to ask their partner and with Quiz, Quiz, Trade they’ve been using a deck of alphabet or number cards. I am also really getting into music in the classroom this year so lately we’ve been adding on a sight word song or two from Heidi’s Songs. (She’s kind of a big deal and very much amazing!)

4.     Morning Message (5 mins)-- Over the years, my morning message procedure has looks different based on the grade level I was teaching. For instance, when I taught third and fourth graders my students copied down the morning message as morning work (always a letter from me to the class) and corrected the purposeful mistakes I had made. Capitalization mistakes were corrected in green colored pencil. Punctuation mistakes were corrected in red colored pencil. Spelling and word choice mistakes were corrected in blue colored pencil.

On the other hand, in my first grade classroom the Morning Message looks very different. For one, I decided that I didn’t want my students looking at incorrect writing (we have another time in the day when we correct mistakes) so the message has no errors. Students help me label the 5 parts of a friendly letter and fill in some blanks that I’ve purposefully left. It’s also a great time to practice sight words that we’re currently learning.

I hope that helps all of you! Morning Meeting sure has helped me out over the years!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back 2 School Assessment FREEBIE

I've made it past the first three full days of first grade (and of my 5th year teaching)! On Friday I was feeling brave and we ended up painting! It was a quick lesson on lines and how to properly use our class paints. I've got to say.... my firsties did pretty brilliantly.
While I feel pretty good about the last three days, I'm still feeling anxious about the upcoming FULL week. Plus, new students are arriving everyday still and we all know how a class dynamic can change instantly.

One of my main priorities this week will be doing inventory assessments on all my kiddos. I've made a forever freebie to help us all out with doing simple and quick letter name and sound assessments. I've even included a CVC decoding page. Click on the picture to be taken to the freebie.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Survived Meet Your Teacher Night!

Last night was Meet Your Teacher night! Our school actually calls it the Ice Cream Social. It's a whirlwind!

One thing that helped me survive was my back to school forms. I have a set for Kindergarten and First Grade. There are parts you can edit and other parts that you don't need to worry about personalizing. There's even a cute poem for parents. I always pair it with a fresh apple. It's always been a big hit, and last night was no different.

To get the first grade forms click on the picture to the left. To get the Kindergarten set, click here.

Now I just have to get through tomorrow.... the first day of school!!

And don't forget the ONE DAY ONLY tomorrow. Use the code BOOST. My whole store will be 20% off, so when the code you can enjoy 28% off!

Monday, August 11, 2014

I hung a WHAT on the wall?!

Today, as I was digging through a box of random junk... I mean, so-called-teaching-supplies, I found a plastic tablecloth from Target. I remember getting this tablecloth on clearance about 2 years ago with the thought that it'd be nice to lay out on Field Day for when my students and I had lunch outside. Well, two years and a move to Alaska later, it resurfaced.

I loved the design and my goal for the day was to make an area outside my room to display my first graders' Writing Workshop. My school is kind of amazing in that EVERY single wall is a bulletin board. Hello stapler and goodbye hot glue gun.

I hung the tablecloth! At first it looked kind of sketchy and I was regretting the decision. I scrummaged around and found some border. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough of one kind so I had to use two. (I think it turned out pretty seamless though) Last but not least I hot glued some clothespins to some white construction paper and then stapled it to the tablecloth. The finishing touch was some tissue paper flowers.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back To School Sale

I keep telling my husband that this is our "Last Sunday"... before the madness begins. We went to church and breakfast and enjoyed lounging around in the Alaskan sunshine! He reminds me that technically speaking we have next Sunday, too. What he doesn't quite understand is that getting the keys to my room on Friday is the official end of summer... even if the paid days don't start for another week. Who am I kidding... he knows this. He HAS to know this! He's just in denial.

Speaking of going back to school, tomorrow starts the annual TPT Back to School Sale! Everything in my store will be 20% off and with the TPT promo code BTS14 you get another 8%. 28% off everything = a great Monday (& Tuesday)!

I'm exited about this new product! If you teach first grade, tune in! If you don't... sorry! Basically, this is your Back To School Night go-to! I have made banners, parent poems, and lots of forms. Several can be edited and personalized -- these include Meet Your Teacher & Class Reminders forms as well as a Wish List and Supply List. The packet also comes with a parent sign in sheet, volunteer sheet, contact information sheet, and a parent survey that goes over their child's personality, learning style, and basic skill level. I'm so excited to use it this year and I hope it helps some of you out as well! It is $3.50, but for Monday and Tuesday during the sale you can grab it for only $2.52!

I'm off to organize my own Wish List! :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Small Sterilite Freebie: Coral and Mint Drawer Labels

Have I mentioned how obsessed I am with coral and mint? Well, I am. Here is an organizing freebie that is designed to fit inside the mini 5 drawer Sterilite product that you can find for less than $10 at Walmart and probably a million other places.

I simply printed them off on card stock, then I cut them, and used double sided tape to secure them. Enjoy! Click on either of the pictures to get your copy of this freebie!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Putting Circle Maps to work

Have I mentioned that I love Thinking Maps?

Prior to this year I had only heard about them. In fact, in my former district Thinking Maps training was reserved for ELL teachers only. Whenever I hear that something is reserved for ELL teachers only, I immediately think, that must be a good teaching strategy. Ever heard of the SIOP Model? Same thing – if done right, it’s a best practice framework that basically ensures high quality instruction and big student gains for every learner. 

Anyway, back to Thinking Maps. This year, in a new district, I was able to not only sign up for and take a Thinking Maps course, but also a Write From The Beginning (WFTB) course. For those of you that don’t know, WFTB is a writing program that uses Thinking Maps to teach and facilitate writing. There are grade level specific mini-lessons, goals, and rubrics.  I used it primarily for my nonfiction writing. I am such a Lucy Calkins and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project fan girl that I don’t think I ever could, or ever would want to give up my Writing Workshop. I guess what I’m saying is that my first graders wrote, and wrote, and wrote using both of these models.

With first graders, the Circle Map is your best friend. Circle maps are used to define in context or brainstorm.  They are great for assessing prior knowledge and reviewing at the end of a unit.

Circle Maps were instrumental this year across my curriculum.  In reading, I used it as a way to let students practice distinguishing beginning letter sounds.  I also used it as a way for my students to practice telling the difference between short and long vowel sounds. Notice that you can print them in black and white or color.

Click on the picture to find this in my TPT store.

Another way I love to use Circle Maps is in math. Like most teachers I am constantly spiral reviewing all the math that we’ve previously learned... or at least supposedly learned. (Hence why we review, review, review!) This year I used several different Circle Map templates to help me do this. I started very simple and then built up to some of the more involved templates that you see below.

In the large example below where the number of the day is 8, you can see that I've included a section entitled Hundreds Chart. Because I use the hundreds chart so much in my classroom and it's so important to me that my students understand how to use it, I begin the year by having students simply show me where a number is on the chart. This isn't something that I've seen any other teacher do and I included the example to clear up any confusion. (IE, "What is that blank rectangle doing there?") On a side note, my kiddos loved getting to "scribble-scrabble" out lines for the rest of the chart once they've found and circled where the number of the day is. Of course, it's a rough estimate of where the number would be found. We do a lot of practicing and I do a great deal of modeling my thinking on how I go about figuring out where a number is on the hundreds chart.  This is a perfect time for non-examples and to open up the dialogue around justifying your answer. (IE, "I know that 8 isn't going to be in the middle of the chart because the chart goes to 100. The middle of 100 is 50 and 8 is nowhere near 50.")

Once my students can confidently find numbers on the hundreds chart I bump them up to the map below with 62 as the number of the day. This map requires that students not only find the number, but also the numbers around it.

I've played around with the number lines in these examples just to give you an idea of how you can differentiate. Depending on the level of your students, you can ask individuals or small groups of students to count by 2s, 3s, 4s, etc, while maybe the majority of the class is still working on counting by 1s.

This summer I decided to expand my templates and create some that would work better for middle and upper elementary classrooms. I used to teach 3rd grade (so amazing) and I’ve created a few templates with my 3rd grade hat on. One of my favorite strategies for building TRUE number sense is to have students create their own story problems. We do this orally in my first grade classroom anytime we see an addition or subtraction problem. Back when I taught 3rd grade my students had to generate and write their own constantly. I've included a section in the map above that allows for students to do this. I cannot over emphasize the importance of this skill!

The final map asks students to generate multiplication and division sentences. The rule here is that the answers must all match the number of the day. My Circle Map packet also includes a K-1 friendly version of this where students come up with addition and subtraction number sentences.

All of these maps are great for morning work, a Number of the Day routine, an independent center, number sense assessments, or homework.

Once again, click on any of the pictures to find these in my TPT store. 
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