Monday, May 2, 2016

Mother's Day Ideas and a {FREEBIE}!

Hi Friends!
   Let me start by saying Happy Teacher's Appreciation!!  It's that time of year when everything starts piling up, and it's really hard to keep up with it all!

   With field day, end of year testing, paperwork, report cards, and of course, TEACHING, it gets a little overwhelming! On top of that, Mother's Day is this weekend, and sometimes we found ourselves scrounging for something to do that's, easy, cute and heartfelt.

   Here are some things I've done in the past, and I thought I'd pass along some ideas that worked for me.

Last year and this year, we made these adorable clay fingerprint necklaces.  I got the idea from the fabulous Lory Evans, and they were a huge hit. The kids and the mommas absolutely loved them!!

You get Sculpey Oven-Bake Clay (one box will be plenty!). Roll it out like dough, and use a heart-shaped cookie cutter.  Cut out the hearts, and have students use their pointer finger to make two fingerprints to make a heart.

Make sure you put the hole in it while the clay is still pliable.  Bake at 275 degrees for 15 minutes. Paint with acrylic pant, let dry, string and VOILA!
{You can also use colored Sculpey clay and avoid the painting if you would like}

 A couple years ago, we made these super cute tea towels.  You get really heavy grit sandpaper (40 grit, no more than 60), and flour sack tea towels. You can find all this at WalMart for pretty cheap.  The kids will draw a SIMPLE picture on the sandpaper. *The image needs to be the mirror of what you want it to look like on the towel*

Lay the tea towel down on an ironing board, then put the sand paper drawing face down onto the tea towel. Place an old towel in between the sand paper and your iron and press.  You will leave your iron for a few seconds until it's hot enough and the image will transfer onto the towel.

Throw the towels into the dryer for 1-2 minutes to set, and you're done!  I have former parents that STILL have these towels and they've washed them successfully.  Big hit!

{The sandpaper EATS the crayons, so be prepared to go through a bunch while doing this!}

 Handprint bags!   I grabbed these totes for about 50 cents a piece at Garden Ride (At Home, now).  It's pretty self explanatory, but I just painted their little hands, and placed around a circle in the middle of the bag.  The kids then painted the stem, and we laid them out to dry. 
 Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Lastly, we are making these cute little booklets for our mama's this year. My kids are so excited about their little cupcake books, and I wanted to share them with you, too!!
 You can grab this for FREE in my TpT store by clicking {here} or on either of the pictures. 
Alternatives for aunt, grandma and other loved ones are included in the file.

 I hope you've found some ideas you can use this week.  Wishing you all the happiest of Teacher Appreciation Weeks, too!  I hope you all have a moment this week when you realize just how much of a difference you make each and every day.  As always, thanks for stopping by!!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hands-On Double Digit Addition: Good Times!

Hi Friends!
    We began our state standardized testing today, and that means my little first graders were all out of sorts.  I am so thankful that we don't have to test in the lower grades, but splitting classes, schedule changes, and all that other craziness has us trying to keep busy and engaged!

     I have been teaching double digit addition & subtraction for 15 years, and it's always so me AND the kids.  Today, I tried something a little different, and I'm so glad I did!
The kids have been working on double digit addition for a few days, and I wanted to do something that would get them UP and moving while still practicing the skill.

I found some old dominoes on the game shelf & with the line right down the middle to divide the tens and ones, I knew they'd be perfect!
I went through them and found pairs that would not require regrouping.  I put each pair in a snack size baggie, and labeled each one with a letter.  *I always use letters in math to try and keep the confusion at bay*

I ended up with 24 pairs, which was perfect for my class.  I put one set at each desk around the room and even at my kidney table.

We've played SCOOT games before, so we just ran through a few practice runs of which direction to "scoot" and got started.

At each "station", the kids took the two dominoes out of the baggie and created their own double digit addition problem.  They then had to write the problem and solve!

I put the letters in random order so they had to pay attention to their baggie & make sure to record their problem in the correct square..

They did such a great job lining up the tens and ones and creating their problems!  I started the game off with about 2 minutes on the timer, but as they got the hang of it, I went to 1 minute per problem, and it was perfect.

The timer would go off, and the whole class would (whisper) yell, "SCOOT!" and move around the room.  It was so much fun!

It took a total of about 35 minutes to go through all the stations, but I was able to walk around and see who really "got it" and who needed some extra help.  Plus, it kept the kids busy & engaged...keeping me very happy!! :)
Just a quick and easy game to play to practice this {sometimes} boring skill! 

 If you want a grab a copy of the recording sheet & give it a try in your room, click {HERE} to get the freebie. It's nothing fancy, but it works!  Every lesson isn't pretty, but I think that is totally okay!

As always, thanks for stopping by! 
 I hope your week is going well...and you're on the countdown to summer. 23 left for us! 
 How about you? :)

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Teaching Compare & Contrast: An Easier Way

Hi Friends!
    Long time, no see! If you're like me, this year has just been flying by, and I can hardly believe we are in the final 6 weeks of school.  It's insane!  I feel like I still have SO much to do, and so little time to get it all done.

    Lately, we have been working on comparing and contrasting.  Teaching this skill to first graders is usually the source of a lot of grey hair for me. It can be so abstract to six year olds, and I end up beating my head against the wall.

    We've discussed comparing and contrasting throughout the year in whole group reading lessons, and while my kids "kinda" get it, they weren't showing a lot of mastery.

    I decided to try a different approach, and implemented some small group skill instruction in my Guided Reading groups.

     I started with a mini lesson to review what we already know about Compare and Contrast. Using these posters, I started by having the kids tell me what it means to compare and give me some examples of the similarities in the picture.
Coming up with similarities always seems easier than identifying differences, so we practiced with this card, and then came up some examples at our small group.

Next, we moved on to contrasting.  Using the same format, the children identified the differences they could SEE in the picture.
 I then led a discussion about what differences we might not be able to see.  We have been doing a lot of inferencing, so I wanted to tie that into our skill lesson.

 We reviewed the vocabulary, and then discussed how we can use a Venn Diagram to organize our information. In former lessons, we used giant sorting circles to create Venn Diagrams on the floor, so this was a bit of a review, but I really wanted the kids to have a visual for our activity.

After the mini lesson, we moved onto to our guided practice.  The kids read passages that discussed the similarities and differences of two familiar things, like cars and airplanes for this group.  {Other groups had different topics}

Next, they sorted phrases related to the topic (and found in the passage) for their Venn Diagram.
Here are some examples from my others groups. 
They were reading about bats and birds...
and spiders and insects!
I just loved seeing them go back and actually LOOK FOR and FIND the information!!  Yay, the reading strategies are working!! :)

With my lower group, we used highlighters during our guided practice to locate the similarities and differences.  I read the story aloud, then we choral read for understanding.  Next, we read each phrase and highlighted it to determine where it belonged in our Venn Diagram. Last, we cut and paste!

It was a huge success!!  We've been working through more passages all week!

 Lately, I have been reading a lot about implementing skill groups into small group instruction, and I have to say, I'm loving it!  I have "Reading Groups" where we work on reading strategies, fluency and comprehension, and now I'm working with skill groups, too!

I really look forward to figuring out a great way to mesh the two, but for right now, I'll do what's working :)

If you like the compare and contrast activities, you can get a FREEBIE sample {here}. 

If you are interested in the whole pack, this is what is included, and can be previewed by clicking on any picture.

   As always, thanks for stopping by!!  I hope you can use these activities, or create your own! It's the best way I've found for teaching this skill, and the kids really loved it!! (and not to mention, we got to practice those cut and paste skills, too!)  Happy Day!

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

It's Okay to "Just Read" to Your Students!

I wanted to be a teacher my entire life. I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't want to teach, and in all those years, there was this image in my head of sitting in a big ole rocking chair reading to my students while they hung on every word, eyes lit up with excitement and wonder, and smiles as wide as the room!

Fast forward to the actual job of teaching, and often times, we see children sitting on the carpet for Story Time and that sparkle and curiosity is dim.  Not at all like in the idealistic pictures of my youth.

Some years ago, I was calling my first graders to the carpet for a lesson using one of my favorite books.  I hear a collective "ugh" from several of my kiddos. Now, this wasn't a groan I heard very often, so I had to investigate.

I asked, "Why the groaning? You don't want to listen to a great story?" 

The response?  "Every time you read to us, we have to DO something".

My first reaction was to assume the kids didn't want to do the work.  And then I really got to thinking about it.  Why is it that every single time we, as teachers, bring a book out, it's followed by an activity, a test, or some other assignment?  When did we stop JUST READING to our kids?

I realized that there are children that view books and stories negatively because there was always "work" attached to it. 

There was always a catch!  "I'll read you a great story, but you're going to have to work when we're finished!"

Many children had never had the opportunity to just listen to and immerse themselves in a story.  It made me sad, and I knew that as much as I loved my teachers reading to me as a kid, I wanted to pass that along.

I know with all of the standards we have to teach, and the push to maintain the integrity of our instructional time that we are left with very little "extra" time.  I also know that there are those who believe that read alouds with no assignment are a waste of time, or "fluff" as I was once told.

I disagree. 

How can teaching children the love of reading and books be fluff or a waste of time?  As a first grade teacher, that is one of my most important instill a lifelong love of learning. 

A gift.  Don't you just love the thought of that?  With each story read, you are giving a gift to your students.  That idea just makes me happy.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a huge proponent of incorporating literature into every area of my teaching and into all subject areas.  Most of the books in my classroom library are tied to a lesson that I will teach at some point, and all of those lessons involve an activity or assignment for my kids. Close Reading is one of the best things I have done in my classroom, and I am a huge supporter of teaching kids to THINK about text; however, I think we need to find some balance, too.

I read this quote by the wonderful Mem Fox, as she was talking about speaking to parents about reading. She said "When I say to a parent 'read to a child', I don't want it to sound like medicine, I want it to sound like chocolate". 

 I want that too.  I want kids to think of books like I think of chocolate... perfect and wonderful...and something I can't wait to get my hands on!  

So, I say, it's okay to JUST READ.  

Because it teaches children to JUST listen, JUST imagine, JUST dream, JUST wonder, JUST think, JUST love books.

 What do you think?


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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Penguin Prefixes & Suffixes

Hi Y'all!
   Happy New Year!!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and the new year is already off to a great start! I've been MIA for a little while with the craziness of the holidays and then I moved over the break, which just added to the mania.  I'm back, though, and excited to start sharing with you again. :)

   We started back to school on Tuesday and we've spent the last few days reviewing material and...if we are keeping it real here... doing some of the things that honestly just didn't get done before the break. 

    In language arts, we have been working with prefixes and suffixes. Our standard is to be able to identify root words, and use inflectional endings appropriately, but I always like to go ahead & introduce prefixes  during this unit.
 The kids helped me make the anchor chart over a couple days after we had really gone over the material in depth.  The inflectional endings we focus on are -s, -ed, and -ing for verbs and -s, -es, and -ies for nouns.  We also look at -ies for one syllable verbs that end in y like "cry", "fly" and "try".
   Here is our flip flap book for suffixes -s, -ed, and -ing.  The kids circle the root word and highlight the suffix. Then, they cut and paste them under the correct flip flap.

Root words and inflectional endings are always a little tricky for my first graders, so I like to keep our weekly activities pretty consistent. It helps with reinforcing the material, and it makes my job of explaining the activity even easier!! 
 So, we did the same kind of books each day to go with our focus.  
The kids really loved them & I noticed how much better they understood the material.  
If you would like a copy of all three flip flap books, click {HERE} for the FREEBIE.

Since we've been studying penguins this week, I had to incorporate them into our little unit, too!
 For our Ticket-Out-The-Door summarizer, I passed out sticky notes with words using all of the suffixes and prefixes we have studied this week.  They had to circle the root word, box the suffix or prefix, and then come up to the board and stick it under the correct penguin.

They did such a great job!

To assess the kiddos, they did like quick little cut & paste activity.  
Circle the root word & paste it under the correct heading. Easy peasy!

 I have updated this document & you can grab this little assessment by clicking the picture below.

So, that's it folks. Just a regular week in the classroom just trying to get back into the swing of things! I hope you can use some of these resources and, as always, thanks for stopping by!! :)

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