Sunday, November 29, 2015

I'm giving this another try!!

Hey there,
   It's been almost two years since I last posted.  I guess I just hit a creative rut.  I didn't think I had anything important to say so I abandoned my blog.  But something happened in the last couple of months that got my creative juices flowing...
   I've had the pleasure of working with an awesome student teacher this semester.  I've worked with a few student teachers in my career and a couple have shown promise and I felt confident that they would turn out to be good teachers as they moved forward.  But my current student teacher demonstrates more than just promise.  She's just got "it."  You know what "it" is.  It's that natural ability... that born-into-you teacher sense.  It can't be taught.  It can only be spotted and nurtured until it blossoms.  That's what I see in Jackie.
    My proudest moment for her was the first time, she did "the stare."  You know what I'm talking about... I don't think she believed me when I said, "You can quiet them down by just looking at them a certain way."  It took her a week or so before she gathered up the courage to give it a try.  But then, voila... One minute the class got a little rowdy after a silly moment, the next I look up ready to intervene when I see her giving "the stare" a try.  I gave a little silent "yes!" as I sat at my desk.  There may or may not have been a little tear in my eye.
    As a cooperating teacher, I'm no softie.  I told her in the first week, that I'd be tougher on her than her college supervisor.  But just like I do with my firsties, I set high expectations.  In most ways, she has surpassed them.  She's done a great job and I'm sad to see her wrapping things up, but I do miss doing my job and I'm ready to get back to doing the day to day stuff.  Give me a week of grading and lesson planning though and I may regret typing that... (just kidding).
     It's been nice to get a little break from the planning and prepping.  I've used my spare time to start blog-hopping again.  I've got such a mixed bag of kiddies this year.  In September, they ranged from Guided Reading levels A to R.  Yes, R!!! My highest reading group are M-R and really need to be challenged.  Coincidentally (or not) these four are always the first to be done their math classwork.  What to do to differentiate?  I've been prepping to start a Math Workshop style format to my math lessons.  We are going to wrap up the unit we are in this week and then I will start to establish the routines and expectations of the new format.  I'm hoping this will be a fairly easy transition since I have such a small class and routines for Reading Centers have already been up and running for months.  Fingers crossed!!
   I have my announced observation tomorrow!  Wish me luck on my first day back to teaching again!
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Teacher Friendly Supplies Pencil Sharpener- REVIEW

Hey there!  I know I've been a very bad blogger, but I wanted to take the time to tell you all about my new pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.  First off, Troy the owner of Classroom Friendly supplies is super nice.  My sharpener was delivered while I was on vacation and despite my neighbors checking the porch for delivery daily, it "walked" away.  (I hope whoever stole it off my porch has very sharp pencils... bet they were hoping for an iPhone or something, haha gotcha!)  Without hesitation, Troy sent out another, this time to my school.  When it was delivered, I opened the packaging to find my classic black sharpener, but no directions.  "That shouldn't be a problem," I thought, "I am an educated person.  I can figure this out."  The sharpener itself was easy enough to figure out, but the clamp that attaches it to the table was a bit more of a challenge.  After trying several different ways, I finally figured out how to get it to clamp onto the table.  

Now I was set... time to sharpen some pencils!  In order to put your pencil in, you have to squeeze and pull out the piece that holds the pencil in place.  Then you insert the pencil into the holder and the hole to the sharpener.  It's time to crank it.  At first it's a bit tough, but as the pencil gets sharper, it's easier to crank.  You know your pencil is sharp when the crank is very easy.  (Instead of the old fashioned crank sharpeners I remember from my schooling, this nifty sharpener doesn't continue to chew up your pencil if you leave it in longer.  It's also significantly quieter than other crank or electric pencil sharpeners that I've used.)  Then, you squeeze the holder again to pull the pencil out.  And voila... you have a SUPER sharp pencil.  When I say sharp... I mean sharp!  The pencils are borderline daggers. 

I'm going to be honest... one of the reasons I wanted to try this pencil sharpener out was because I've begun not allowing my firsties to use my precious electric pencil sharpener since some have abused the privilege and I'm trying to extend the life of it.  I wanted to find a sharpener that was durable and easy for first graders to operate.  The Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener appears to be very durably made, but it has taken quite a bit of modeling and practice for first graders to be able to operate independently.  They are getting there though.  I was also not exaggerating on the sharpness of the point.  Despite my warning not to, one angel couldn't resist trying out the sharpness on his neighbor's arm.  But since that incident, we are doing much better.  We also abandoned the use of the clamp.  Neither the kids or I could figure out how to keep it from not coming loose after a few uses.  It's fine though because without the clamp it can be moved for righty or lefty usage.  Overall, I've been satisfied with my pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.  Visit Troy to see the selection of colors that you can pick up for your classroom.  Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Math Bags... I'm lovin them!

Hey there!  I know I've been MIA.  Things have been crazy at school and at home.  And honestly... I confess, I've been a little down on myself as a blogger.  On my drive home from work, I think about what I should tell you all and lately, I wondered if anyone would care about what I have to say.  So I've held back.  But then, I opened my email on Sunday to find the sweetest email from a reader named Ashley.  She wrote to me and told me that she found my ideas to be inspirational and asked me questions about some of the things I have shared on this blog.  It's as if she knew what I needed... So Ashley... if you're reading this, thanks for taking the time to send me that message!

So, I was listening to my favorite radio station on the way to school and they were talking about celebrity girl crushes.  I don't have to even think about it, mine is Scarlet Johansson.  But it got me thinking (and I hope this doesn't sound stalkerish- but I realize it does, LOL)... do you have a teacher blogger crush?  I have a few.  But lately, I'm loving the work of Tamra and Sarah of First Grade Buddies.  

This year, our district added 20 minutes of instructional time to our day this year and it is mandated that the first 20 minutes of the day is devoted to math instruction.  We are calling this "Morning Math."  (I know you are loving the very original name!)  Anyway, I had a vision of wanting to implement a time for intervention and math centers for this time.  I tried gathering various math centers and making tubs, but like my previous struggles with literacy centers, I couldn't make the pacing work.  Plus I was spending hours cutting and laminating, and I was spending a lot of moolah.  I needed a better system!!! 

And then I found Math Bags from First Grade Buddies.  (Can you hear the angels singing, I could!)  Click on the picture below to check them out in their TPT store.

You can read the post that sold me on this product by clicking here.  I love the simplicity of the directions and the kids are able to be SO independent after just a few days of using them.  Even my non-readers are able to look at the direction cards and figure out what to do and I'm free to work with individual students or small groups and provide intervention.  

Here is a look at one of the math bags.  I ran the direction sheet on blue so it would always be easy to find (as the Buddies suggested).  I put everything the kids would need in a gallon zipper bag with the direction sheet.  The activity in this particular bag has students practicing counting ten frames.  But the activities range all different skills.  Most are simple enough for students working in partners to be able to figure out independently.  I LOVE that!  Plus I didn't need to buy anything extra to have the students be able to complete the activities... bonus!

Each bag is labeled and is kept in a file box.  Students are able to find their bag and take it to another place in the room to work with their partner to complete the activity.  

I created this rotation board to match our jungle theme.  I'm using ten of the twelve bags.  The labels on the right say "Bag 1" "Bag 2," etc.   I rotate the cards on the right (with student names) daily so that they get a new bag every day.  I am planning on having students rotate through the bags 2-3 times before I switch to the next set.  It's going amazingly well.  So thanks a million to Tamra and Sarah for their hard work.  They have saved me time, money and a few (more) gray hairs.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Five For Friday- My First in a LONG Time!

Hey there!  I haven't linked up with Kacie from Doodlebugs Teaching for her famous Five for Friday Linky Party in months.  (I know... it's Saturday, call it fashionably late.)  What's not to love about a Linky where you can post 5 random things about your week.  So let's let the randomness begin!

1.  I had had my eye of this fantastic product on Teachers Pay Teachers for months.  It sat on my wish list because it was a rather big ticket item.  But, I was on a search for some fabulous Morning Work for my firsties.  I looked at many products that were available out there and I was sold on Kelly from Teacher Idea Factory's year long Good Morning Work pack.  I love that she alligned all of her product to the Common Core Standards.  However, she convinced me in sharing that her product encouraged independence.  There are 5 days of work that have the same directions.  So on the first day of a set, you need to go over the directions closely, but then for the next 5 days the directions are the same so I have had to help less and less as the week goes on.  If you are like me, you have eighty million things to do in the morning between attendance, lunch ordering, returning library books, checking in homework, etc. etc.  So, students being independent is a really good thing!! 
Back to this summer... This product sat on my wish list waiting for the right time... and the right time was the Back to School sale this summer.  Always a deal seeker, I jumped on the opportunity and picked up Good Morning Work for Reading AND Math.  So how's it going??  I love these awesome packets and my kiddies do too.  The have helped me keep my sanity and the kids are getting great review!  You really should check them out!

2. Check out my newest fashion accessory... I know, you're jealous.  An intervention we are trying to help one of my cuties is to be mic'ed up.  I've had to wear an FM system before but, it was so annoying.  I couldn't figure out how to wear the headset properly and truth be told no one else seemed to know either.  But then, something clicked and I realize I had it on upside down... DOH!  Now I feel like 90s Madonna (minus the cones and the blond pony tail).  Whatever it takes to help my kiddies!  Now, I just have to remember to turn it off when I run to the ladies room, LOL!

3. I made these editable tent style name plates to coordinate with my jungle theme classroom and they turned out so awesome, I put them and some other patterns up for sale on TPT.  Each set (bright colors, primary colors, lime and turquoise, and animal print) comes with 5 different prints to mix and match.  All you have to do is add your students' names, print, and laminate.  I did not miss writing each child's name in my neatest, most precise, first grade teacher handwriting.  You probably already have name plates for your students from back to school, but if your kids are like mine, they are already half destroyed.  I like to have an extra set on hand for substitutes and special guests.  I am making them free in my TPT shop until Monday night.  Please, just leave feedback in return!

4. This year, we are returning to a traditional math program after what seemed like forever with a very "interesting" math program that lacked in many of the basics.  We were always supplementing and it was EXHAUSTING!  Anyway, our new program is My Math by McMillan McGraw Hill.  And so far, I love it and so do the kids and parents.  We were also returning to drilling addition and subtraction facts, which took a backseat for many years.  Now I'm not a huge fan of the stress of timed tests, but I do think they have a purpose to encourage fact fluency.  But I wanted to use something that would be motivating to my students.  Enter Rainbow Math by Tamra and Sarah at First Grade Buddies.  I picked up both the addition and subtraction program.  And we are ready to try it out next week.  I'll post more about how it's going, but I'm really excited to try out their system.

5. I got to visit my son's first grade classroom for Back to School this week.  I can't believe how fast he's growing up!  He just joined cub scouts and we had a blast at his first pack meeting at a local farm.  We elected not to camp out as this was his introduction to scouts and my husband and I had another commitment.  But, here he is posing with one of the many scarecrows on display.

It's been a good week.  My students are settling into their routines.  My own kids are settling into our school and home routines.  Here's hoping for another good one next week.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Small Victories!!

Hey there!  Well, I will count day one of literacy centers a success.  All of the students were engaged, and learning.  I saw some smiles, too!  I've written other blog posts about how I do centers.  But I'll give a quick summary again in case you don't know.  I've been teaching first grade for 11 years and it took till year 9 to finally figure out how to make centers work for me and my classroom.  It always bothered me to have a rotation of 15 minutes at each center because I'd have some centers that took less time and other that took more.  I felt like I was always tracking kids down to finish things.  Sometimes I needed less time with a reading group, sometimes I needed more.  I needed more flexibility.  

A few years ago, I tried The Daily Five.  I LOVED the theory behind it but, I found that I with our basal program, the students needed a little more practice and formal activities.  I still use the Sisters' steps for establishing independence for Read to Self, Read to Someone, and Listening to Reading.  I do feel that the key to a classroom that runs like a well-oiled machine is really taking the time to set up routines and procedures.  So for the past two and a half weeks we have worked hard to become independent at those three areas.  This week, I decided to take the plunge and introduce our checklist.  

Each week, my students have a checklist of activities that they work though.  I highlight activities that are a "must do" and then other non-highlighted activities are "may do."  As the year progresses, I will differentiate the activities on the checklist for students.  Students enjoy having the choice over which order they complete tasks and I enjoy having the flexibility that it affords.  It just works for us!

I wanted to share some pictures of the kiddies hard at work.  I did not do any reading groups today so that I was available to assist students and trouble shoot.  I'm so glad I did that because I would have been interrupted a million times.  We'll see how things go tomorrow.  I might try for one reading group.  

Students working on rhyming word matches (short i words).

Self-selecting books for Read to Self and doing Read to Self.

Word Family Sorts (ig and ip words)

Write the Room

Labeling Pete the Cat

More Write the Room

Students select various centers from baskets on the windowsill.  Any materials and/or record sheets are available in each basket.

Here is a close up of word cards and record sheets for rhyming word centers.

I use several different sources for my center activities.  We use the Houghton Mifflin Journeys series and I was happy to discover the wonderful work of Dawn at First Grade Shenanigans.  I use her activities to supplement my creations because they match the Journeys program perfectly and make my life a million times easier.  I also added a couple activities from these packs, too.  Back to School Blast by Amanda Rich   The Groovy Cat Math and Literacy Unit by Christine at First Grade Fever.

Here's hoping my kiddos keep up the great work and continue to build their independence so I can do more.  Have a great week!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Swinging New Year Goals, Bucket Fillers, and more!

Hey there everyone!  We just finished our second full week of school and I. am. tired.  Why is it I always forget how tough the first month of so is?  I've been teaching first grade for 11 years and yet, I'm always shocked at how long it takes to do anything.  I guess I take for granted how far each group comes by June.  I just have to remind myself... it will get easier, they will get faster, and they will get more independent.  

We've busy building up independence for my version of literacy centers.  If you want to read more about how we do our independent reading checklist, click here.  We have established Read to Self, Read to Someone, and introduced the listening center.  They are doing really well and it has allowed me to chug though and finally finish all of my beginning of the year running record benchmarks.  Next week, my plan is to attempt our first checklist.  I'm only planning to do one reading group a day so that I can be available to troubleshoot and help out.  We'll see how it goes... the past two years, I tried to do too much myself on the first week and it ended up being a longer process to get the kids established.  This year, I'm hoping a more relaxed approach where I am more accessible will help the process along and allow students to develop their independence more quickly.  I'll let you know how it goes.  

We had Back to School Night on Tuesday night and it went very well.  We were busy doing special projects to share with parents and these were just a few of the cute things we did!  

Students write about their goals for the new year.  We also used this adorable craftivity from Valerie at All Students Can Shine.  
Goals for a "Swinging" New Year!
In first grade I want to do hard homework. 
In first grade I want to learn hard math and read long books.

They looked so adorable and colorful in the hallway and I got lots of compliments on the display.

Another great project we worked on were Our Bucket Fillers.  Of course, we read How Full is Your Bucket.  This lead to great discussions and lots of brainstorming of what we can do and already do that fill others' buckets.  If you are not familiar with the concept of bucket filling you need to check out the variety of books for children and adults that demonstrate the simple concept.  Students wrote about what they would do to be a bucket filler.  We used a wonderful freebie provided by Bucket Filler guru, Tiffany at One Fab Teacher.  I just modified her lines with white out to make them larger and with dotted midlines.  And I photocopied her beautiful colored clip art because I needed to save color ink.  Students used a gray square as their bucket, added a handle and face.  And then... the best part... glitter heart and star stickers to show their bucket full.  When I pulled out the glitter stickers, you might have thought I had shown them diamond jewelry.  It was hilarious!  I also used another freebie from Christie at First Grade Fever to add to the display.

I am a bucket filler because I raise my hand.
I am a bucket filler because I take care of my brother.
I'm setting a goal for myself to blog at least once a week.  I'm putting it out there for you all to see so that I feel accountable to follow though.  I'm also trying to remember to take more action shots.  I think I'm just so busy managing at this point, taking pictures is the last thing on my mind.   Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 16, 2013

My New Adventures in Clip Charts

Hey everyone!  I know it's been a while... Back to school has been kicking my butt!  I'm sitting here half watching Dancing with the Stars and thinking about what to blog about.  

I have 19 cuties this year and they are really coming along.  My class is an inclusion class where two of my students leave to go to resource room for a large chunk of the day.  Because of this, I wanted to start the year in a very consistent way in regards to behavior management.  (I'll admit consistency in this area has always been a weakness of mine.  For the most part, it's never been a huge problem, though.)  But since students were coming and going frequently, I wanted to use a clip chart to stay consistent with my co-teacher.  

So far it's going well!  I love that there are opportunities to move up the clip chart and that it is not just negative reinforcement.  

This is the clip chart I purchased to complement my jungle theme.  You can find it here:

I wanted to create a simple reward for students who make it to the top of the chart.  I'm not sure whos blog I read but they were saying that they would glue a jewel to the clip.  I ran out to the Dollar Tree to see if I could find little rhinestones.  I didn't find them but I found a "decorate a slap bracelet kit" full of sequins.  I ditched the bracelet but kept the two packs of sequins.  When students reach the top (and stay there) till the end of the day, I glue a sequin on their clip.  When they get 5 sequins we will retire their clip to the Clip Chart Hall of Fame.  Here's a picture of a few outstanding clips.  They are so motivated and it's been going so well.  No one has ended the day lower than yellow.  

In order to better communicate behavior to parents, I am using these behavior calendars from Lori at Teaching with Love and Laughter  Students color in the calendar with the color where their clip ended.  Parents initial the chart daily.  So far it's going very well!  

Tomorrow night is Back to School Night and I'm looking forward to meeting my kiddos' parents and hope all goes well!  

Thanks for stopping by!