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Saturday, September 10, 2016

The End of the No-Name Paper: A PSA

This post needs to be accompanied by angels descending upon us playing harps while showering the world with flower petals and happiness and smiles.

Seriously. I know I'm a bit late to the party, but...

The highlighter trick to getting students to put names on their papers?

It. Works.

I mean, it really, really works.

Why has it taken me until my fourth year of teaching to get on board with this idea? Well, I'll tell you why. I was skeptical. I thought that adding a step to students' turn-it-in procedures would just confuse them more. Then I'd not only be policing the no-name papers and the kids who want to put their papers everywhere but the turn-in basket, I'd also be constantly reminding them to use the highlighters. Right?! Wrong. So, so, so incredibly wrong.

After telling them what to do with the highlighters, it took my firsties all of fifteen minutes to get on board with this procedure. Now they walk up to the turn-in basket, highlight their name, and turn in their paper turn around, walk back to their desks, write their name, highlight their name, and turn in their paper.

I don't want to jinx things here, but not one no name paper has shown up since that glorious day.

Not. One.

Whoever first came up with this idea should be a millionaire by now. Seriously.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday Made It: Refresh Edition

Three. Weeks. In three weeks, I will be starting my fourth year as a first grade teacher.  I swear it seems like I've only been on summer vacation for three weeks...but I digress. Today I'm linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It.
It's been a while since I've "made it". Actually, setting up my classroom this year has been pretty stress free so far (knock on wood) because my amazing custodian lets me keep a lot of stuff where it's at and because I'm finally content with my theme/color scheme/etc. that there really isn't much to do until I get my class list.

However, there are a few things in my room that I felt needed a bit of jazzing up. So I put my DIY pants on and went to work:
Oh, seat crates. How I love you so. These were one of my first projects when I got my job as a first grade teacher. A brief run-down on why I began to despise them:
  • The pattern. It doesn't match anything in my room. Plus, the fact that it was linear made it super obvious that I didn't put in the effort to make sure everything was straight.
  • The staple job. If you could only see the backside. It's terrible. And from the front, you can tell - the fabric is all baggy and lopsided.
  • The stains. After three years in the classroom, these seats began to look very well-loved, with marker splotches and other mysterious stains abound.

Even though my kitty friend Whiskers McMittens didn't seem to mind the above, I decided to "reupholster" my seat crates this summer. After a quick trip to Walmart, I was ready to go!

Here's how they turned out after. The fabric was in the bargain section at Walmart and only cost me seven dollars! I think the new pattern looks better, and a darker color means little "accidents" with our writing utensils won't show up as easily. I love how it's a thicker material, too! Plus, I clearly am a bit more skilled with a staple gun than I was before.

Okay, so my newest obsession is spray paint. Have something you wish you could use but you just can't stand the color? Or maybe you're like me and the color would be okay for a normal person but it doesn't match the color scheme of your classroom and therefore drives you crazy...?

Spray paint it. Spray paint all the things. Like this bookshelf that was originally some sort of light wood color but was kind of falling apart.

I saw this idea somewhere on Pinterest and decided to give it a try (after passing up the coral drawer liner several times at the Target dollar spot). It's definitely not perfect, but I like it, at least for now!
I also had a chance this week to put together my students' take home folders. Isn't this color gorgeous? Walmart actually earned a brownie point with me on this one.

Here's what the inside of the folders look like. One side is for things "Left at Home" and the other is for stuff that comes "Right Back to School". At the beginning of the year, I usually just call it the "house side" and the "apple side" for my non-readers. To save labels, I printed two on each and cut them in half. A version of my old full size labels are available as a freebie in my TPT store.

And of course my one cat couldn't have all the fame in this blog post. Here's Jingles, who didn't seem to mind me covering her in the backing from all the labels I used.

After years of owning a Cricut (and after impulse-purchasing the newest version this past June) I decided it was time to finally get my vinyl on. My old reading center tubs were too big, took up too much space, and simply had colored construction paper circles on them to denote which basket held which group's materials.

My new ones match my classroom color scheme, will take up less space, and are labeled for each of my reading groups. Definitely a lot cuter. But yes, it is driving me crazy that my vinyl sampler pack didn't come with orange. Hopefully I'll get over it...

As part of our new school-wide behavior plan, we're implementing "cool down spots" this year. The idea is to convey to students that we want them in our classroom and that it's okay to have strong emotions - we just need to recognize when we need a quick minute to calm down.

In my cool-down spot, I wanted to have some materials that students can fidget with or that they might find calming. So far in this bucket, I have two squishy creature ball things, a twisty tangle, a mini-slinky, and a bendable flower. I plan on adding a timer and possibly some calming glitter water bottles, too.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Differentiated Year-Long Spelling and Word Work

In my district, we do not have a basal or a phonics program (pause for the angels to descend upon us in a beam of glowing light). While I love not having to plan my instruction around one, I know that there are many teachers in my position that wish they had some sort of guide or scope and sequence to help them plan their instruction.


It's here. It's differentiated. It's low-prep. And it has you covered for the whole year! (Click on any of the pictures to hop over to my store).

You get 30 weeks of spelling instruction.  Each week focuses on a different skill and has two different lists (the standard "A List" and a more challenging "B List").

Each week also comes with a say and sort page. Have students glue the pieces down or have them keep the pieces to complete other kinds of sorts throughout the week.

Needing additional practice? With this product, students also have the opportunity to practice spelling with word configuration boxes. Alongside the spelling practice, students can also build their reading skills by filling in a sentence with the correct spelling word. These two types of printables come with every list, every week.

But the fun doesn't stop there! Also included in this product is my Word Work Activities for Any List! Yours for free! So many practice opportunities! Here is a brief preview:

This product also includes 20 task cards and a rubric :)

I wanted to give you and your students plenty of options when it comes to spelling instruction. If you are interested in seeing more, the preview file in my TPT store gives you one week free to try out. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Needing Math Games? I've Got You Covered!

It's been a while, dear blog.

While my blog has taken a bit of a back seat lately, I have had a few sparks of creativity this summer when it comes to products for my TPT store.

A while ago, I did a blog post about the beginnings of math workshop in my first grade classroom. This was towards the end of my second year teaching. As I prepare to enter my fourth year, I am so glad I decided to take the math workshop plunge.

Every day, my students get to go to the math facts center. In first grade, this takes the form of games that have students practicing their addition and subtraction fact fluency. But like I said, all of my kids go to this station every. single. day.  One question I get a lot is "Where do you get all the games?" We all know that novelty and choice are the key to keeping our students' interests piqued.

Here's my little secret: My first graders basically play the same math games all year long. But they don't know it. The trick? Switching out the clipart. Slightly changing the rules. Adding another die to the mix. Voila! They think they are playing an entirely different game! Best day ever!

This is why I love Bump. Once I teach my students the rules, they are good to go for the whole year. They get so excited when a new month/season/holiday rolls around and I set out some new bump boards.

With Bumpin' through the Year, you get 30 different boards.  Each one is themed for a different part of the school year. Students simply follow the dice directions in the upper corner to play. Click the images below to check it out!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Opinion Writing & Text Evidence

We've got a new evaluation tool about to hit in my district. Perhaps you've heard of my dear friend, Charlotte Danielson? Well I'm sure Charlotte is a nice lady and all, but quite frankly she's got everyone in a tizzy. There's a whole lot of How can first graders do that when they can't even tie their shoes and remember what they chose for hot lunch going on.

Well, I'll let you in on a little secret. I've found that when you really get down to it, first graders can do a whole lot more than you'd think (although I am still waiting for about 40% of my class to learn to tie their darn shoes).
I don't know why, but providing support with text evidence is one of my favorite things to do with my first graders. I'm not sure if it's because I feel like super-teacher when they do it right or what. But you better believe that I show off our text-evidence-finding-skills every chance we get.

Enter: A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea

Oh. My. Word. Why didn't I know about this book until now? It is hilarious. The illustrations are fabulous. And it had all my students laughing - even Mr. Serious who I sometimes feel like I couldn't pay to crack a smile. It was a great way to start my morning.

The gist of the book is this: You might think that a pig parade sounds like a jolly good time, but you are so wrong. The author then goes on to tell you why a pig parade is a terrible idea.

Does this sound like CCSS W.1.1 material to any of you?! It did to me. And here's what we ended up with:

Needless to say, my kids loved this mini-writing project. It will definitely be back again next year, hopefully with a cute craftivity to go with it!

Here are some additional ideas:

Friday, February 19, 2016

My Latest & Greatest: Science Prove-Its!

One thing that I love about teaching science to primary students is that they come in filled with misconceptions.  There are so many teachable moments when providing science instruction to first graders!

And, as we all know, there is a huge push for providing evidence. Every time I remind my students to explain how they know, they might say I sound like a broken record (if they knew what a broken record was...)
Me: Providing evidence means can't just tell me the answer, you have to...
My Rockstar Firsties: PROVE IT!
Ah, music to this teacher's ears!

This is where my idea of science "Prove-Its" came from.

Students are given a scenario and they must prove their answer!  My students' favorites were some of the prompts that included misconceptions, such as the example below. They loved explaining to their "sister" why she was so wrong!

I really saw a difference when it was time for our summative assessment. Students performed exceedingly well because they weren't just memorizing facts and answers; they knew the why and how behind them!

Writing + Evidence + NGSS Science + Higher-Level Thinking = WIN!  Check them out in my store and let me know what you think!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ringing in the New Year with Math Freebies!

It's Sunday and my back-to-school anxiety is in full swing. I haven't set foot in my classroom since I left at 3:00 on our last day before break and have completely forgotten anything and everything I had already planned out for this first week back. Anyone else in the same boat?

Hopefully some freebies will help get us all back into teacher-mode! Because there's nothing better than a good freebie, right?

Although I have a hoarders-worthy collection of math activities for my first grade classroom, there are always a few concepts I come to and feel that I need just a bit more. That is why I decided to create a series of free math printables to pull from when my students need additional reinforcement. Click through on the picture to head over to my store :)

Each freebie includes a few no-prep, print and go activities to help reinforce different first grade concepts. I am hoping to include more free math printable sets in the future, so be on the lookout over at my TPT store :)

Good luck this week!