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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Visualizing with Jack Prelutsky

Visualizing is one of my favorite things to teach all year. I love reading to my kids and seeing what kinds of things they are picturing in their minds! While my grade level does use a lot of fabulous mentor texts to teach visualizing, my favorite thing to use are two poems by Jack Prelutsky. My first graders think they are super entertaining and they really get the opportunity to visualize and draw some silly stuff!

The first poem we used was My Neighbor's Dog is Purple. I read it two times through, leaving off the last two lines at first. This way, students saw how their visualizations sometimes change as they continue to read. They also got a huge kick out of the fun twist at the end of the poem!

The following day, we read The Green Giant. Because this poem had plenty of details, it was also a good way to informally assess my students' listening skills!

Both of these activities were super engaging and really gave my kids a good idea of what it means to visualize during a story (especially when we do not have any pictures to look at!) Inspiration for these activities came from Deanna Jump's blog - you can check out her post here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

ME on the Map!

Ay carumba - it's been way too long since I've posted! Things have been pretty busy with the little people in first grade. I had my first evaluation last Tuesday, attended our first PLC meeting of the year, and am working on my two grad classes - whew! Luckily, we are still going strong in Ms. Nordland's classroom!

Our most recent creative activity went along with our unit study on map skills. It was almost disturbing to see how many of my first graders didn't know the difference between their city, state, and country! This mini-project sought to bring a little more clarity to where we are in the world.

My students got a huge kick out of seeing the photo cut-outs of themselves! Especially since I took the pictures about a week in advance - they had forgotten I even took them :) Click here to get the template I used for free!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five for Friday {September 19th}

I am thrilled to say that this week was our best week yet! Although far from flawless (seriously - any ingenious ideas for this ridiculously chatty class?), I could begin to see some progress in my firsties. Yay!

Now for a super quick Five for Friday before I head off to girls' night! Join the fun over at Doodle Bugs Teaching!

First off, I finally have a new blog look! And the best part is - I designed it and put it together by myself! Definitely not as pretty as those custom blogs out there but I am happy with how it turned out and it didn't cost me a penny! Much needed credit goes out to Wizard of Boz, Ashley Hughes, and KG Fonts for the elements used :)
This week, we started in on text-to-self connections. So far, we've read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Ira Sleeps Over, When Sophie Gets Angry, David Gets in Trouble, and I Like Me! I decided to add images of the mentor texts used to teach the strategy to our anchor chart - hopefully this will jog some of the kid's memories if they aren't sure what it means to connect ourselves to the text!

Some love that got me through the week :)

A new tattoo idea I'm "trying out" (spoiler alert: it's just permanent marker right now!) My mom still "owes" me a tattoo for my college graduation present. We are going to get tattoos together in memory of my granny who lived with Alzheimer's for the remaining years of her life. I was never set on our original design idea but fell in love with this never-forgetting elephant. We'll see what we decide!

Last but most certainly not least, I have hit my first big milestone over at my TPT shop! In celebration, I am having a milestone sale - enjoy 15% off every single product in my store all weekend! Thank you for all your support!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

{Book Talk Tuesday}: Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons

I think I may have been a cat in another life. What else would explain my love of all things feline and my beloved routine of switching off between sleeping and eating? I clearly have a thing or two in common with Whiskers McMittens and Jingles McFluffington, who, by the way, really wanted to join us for Deanna's book talk link-up.

Look, Ma! We're so studious!

Whether you're a kitty fanatic or prefer other furry friends, it is impossible not to love Pete the Cat. Seriously, how cool is he? A cat who is oh-so-groovy and always manages to shake things off by saying "It's all good!" I think I could learn a thing from Pete the Cat. I also think my students can learn a thing or two from our good friend Pete and his four groovy buttons.

Pete loves his buttons. He loves them so much that he sings a song about his buttons. But apparently Pete is not buying his kitty clothes at a quality store because his buttons keep popping off one-by-one. What happens when the last button comes off? You'll just have to pick up the book to see for yourself!

I especially love this particular Pete the Cat book because it incorporates math. Helloooo, student engagement! My first graders tend to struggle with subtraction so this was a great way to incorporate practice with a cute story and a fun craft. I found the Pete template here, enlarged it, and copied it onto tagboard. 

My first grade friends hard at work!

Some finished products! Love how my one kiddo added the "It's all good" thought bubble.

A couple of unique Petes! One with extremely pointy whiskers and a floating head and one headed off to a drag queen show :)

I am always looking for great books/activities to incorporate into my classroom. If you have any you'd like to share with us, head on over to Deanna's blog and join in the linky fun!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dear Future Me...

Find the nearest piece of wood and knock on it for me. I don't want to jinx it but as far as Mondays go, today was pretty fantastic! The kids worked hard, we got stuff done, and we even made it through our first day of full-on Reader's Workshop/guided reading without completely falling to pieces!

Today was a really good day to take a step back and realize how far we have come from the beginning of the school year. It is week six and although we are far from perfect, my first graders truly show bits and pieces of improvement each and every day. I think it's kind of like watching a snail race - at first, it doesn't seem like they're going anywhere, but after a longer chunk of time, it is easier to see the progress made. {Confession: I've never actually watched snails race. But you get the point.}

Crystal from Kreative in Kinder came up with a fantastic idea - write a letter to your future self as he/she embarks on the 2015 school year! Here is my letter, written to my future self. Who knows - maybe you can find some words of encouragement in there!

I encourage everyone to head over to Kreative in Kinder to link up with Crystal. What may seem like small words of encouragement can really go a long way with your future self and with others!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Panicked Peek at Week #6

Weekend are notorious for quickly slipping away from us. Every Sunday I find myself wishing I had just one more day to finish everything I somehow didn't do between 3:00 on Friday afternoon and 9:00 Sunday night. I'm used to this feeling. C'est la vie - that's teacher life.

BUT something feels different this Sunday. I feel panicked. Anxious. What is happening?! I felt like I was doing work all weekend. But when I went into school this morning to get things done, my to-do list seemed to quadruple in size. Holy cow, where did all of this stuff come from? And why am I feeling unusually anxious about it? Apparently I am in need of some good vibes this week - please send any extras my way!

Apparently when we discussed the story hand last week, I accidentally taught all of the lessons in German. Okay - that's not quite true, but that's definitely how I felt when Friday rolled around and only like three of my friends could tell me how we use our story hand! Talk about yikes. So this week we will review our friend the story hand, talk about the "heart" of our stories, and I will model how to make sure we are really done with our stories.

After weeks of discussion/modeling, we are starting our Reader's Workshop/guided reading groups this week. I am so, so nervous since many first graders are far from independent at this point in the year! Our mini-lessons will center around the strategy of making text-to-self connections.

Word study this week contains more short vowel word families and working on writing quality sentences. I am hoping that at least part of what we do during word study transfers over into our writing!

We will finish up my least favorite math topic of all time - understanding subtraction. There is just something about this topic that makes it extra challenging for my first grade friends. They are so frustrated with me as I flip everything they know about addition upside-down and ask them to apply it to this whole "subtraction" deal. Luckily I dug out some great hands-on centers to use this week and am optimistic that it will contribute to their growing understanding of subtraction.

Then we've got our map skills. So far, so good. We will practice in our map skills book, draw a map of our classroom, and finish our week off with one of those adorable "Me on the Map" craftivities.

Hopefully you aren't feeling as anxious as I am about the upcoming week. Show off your fantabulous plans over at Deedee's blog!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Is the World Ending? {I WON!}

A week or so ago I came across Ashley's Milestone Giveaway. I thought - heck, why not? Even though I never win anything. Seriously - the closest I ever came to winning something I was asked to sit through one of those timeshare meetings. Thanks, but no thanks.

Anyways, I woke up this morning with an email that said "giveaway winner". Immediately I'm thinking Oh, great, another spam message. But then I looked at the sender and thought, Wait a minute, don't I follow her teaching blog?

The email said I had won a $20 giftcard to anywhere. I could not believe my eyes. So I hopped on over to her blog, and sure enough - my name was listed as a winner! $20 to TPT, here I come!
I wanted to give the biggest of shout outs to Ashley over at Flying High in First Grade, as well as to all of the other teachers who participated in her milestone giveaway. I absolutely love being a part of this fabulous community of teacher-bloggers.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Four for Friday {September 12th}

What a crazy long week it has been! I don't know if it was the new boots or the constant running around but my legs are sore and I am absolutely beat. This week included a jam-packed schedule of learning activities, more MAP testing, and some very interesting behaviors (Blame it on the weather? Blame it on Monday's full moon?) I feel like I need to stand on the nearest mountaintop and scream TGIF! But instead I'll just join in Friday's fun with Doodle Bugs. Which I have turned into Four for Friday since I could not muster the energy to think of a fifth random thing to share with you all ;)

I finally finished my Halloween-themed subtraction color by number printables! My firsties really tend to struggle when it comes to getting a handle on subtraction so I needed to create an engaging way for them to practice their essential facts. Take a look at them here in my TPT store.

On Tuesday, we had our first science curriculum mapping committee meeting of the year. We are going to map/put together resources this year so that next year we can pilot new materials and be ready for Illinois' implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards in 2016. All I can say is holy cannoli, are these standards different than what we have been teaching! They really emphasize the whole "inch wide, mile deep" concept that we see with some of the Common Core. Therefore, our science units are going to be much longer, much more in-depth, and also much more hands-on!

This week, our Reader's Workshop mini lessons were centered around the different word-attack strategies we use when we come across a word we do not know. My kids were so excited to learn about a new forest friend (or two) each day - I had no idea that they would find my posters so engaging! After introducing each forest friend, I put up their poster on our back chalkboard. Now that it is complete, my students have a new resource to use while we work at becoming better readers!

And last but not least, how cute is this?

Happy, happy (did I mention happy?) Friday!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Look at my Plans {Week 5}

Confession: I am so not ready to go back to work this week. My mom visited me this weekend and we had lots of fun together - I just don't want it to end! The highlight was definitely walking around a local broom corn festival. We ate fair food, browsed through the special vendors, explored antique shops, and bought some amazing homemade coffee cake and fudge. (Side note - Who knew broom corn was an actual thing?)

You'll notice that I have Tuesday blocked out in this week's visual plans. I've been put on our district's science curriculum mapping committee and our first meeting is all day this Tuesday. While I am so excited to have the opportunity to work on this committee, I am so not excited to prep for a sub.

With Writer's Workshop, we've been practicing getting our stories down on paper. This week, I will introduce the term "narrative" and model how to focus in on a small moment. I will also begin introducing our word attack strategies during our Reader's Workshop mini-lessons. We will have our first attempts at our center rotations, too! Wish me luck!

Our afternoons this week consist of writing sentences, learning about maps/globes, and understanding subtraction. Bring it on!