Monday, April 29, 2013

Earth Day Presentatons

Well I was out on Friday and I came in on this rainy Monday morning with a bad class report :(  Fortunately, the day turned around.  It wasn't all my kids, but its just those couple of bad comments that can ruin your mood.  Good thing is I think that was the last time I'll be out this year... 27 days!

Anyway, this afternoon we presented or Earth Day projects.  They turned out great!  Below are an example of two of the posters that some groups made and the script for a play and the lyrics for a song.  I so wish I could post the videos, but I want to protect my kids' privacy.  Use your imagination for the scripts and song!
How cute is the Eeaarrrrttthhh??  She really stretched her voice there!

These two did a great super hero presentation!  They are quite the actors... and quite the handful in the classroom.  this was a good outlet for them and they did a GREAT job!

Like I said last week, I LOVE these projects.  It is SO easy once they get started.  I give them the required information and then the rest is up to them.  They create their scripts and everything.  Sometimes (as you can see above) I have to get them off to a good start, but they take all the creative credit.  There isn't much room for full creativity in schools anymore - this is such an easy way to fit it into the curriculum and did I mention its EASY for the teacher!  I use a password protected vimeo to share the videos with the parents.

In other news, our Flat Stanley wall is growing.  We've added Boston, Ohio, Germany and Mongolia since my post from the White House!  Some of the people are even sending in photo books for the kids to remember their "adventures."  Its great.  The deadline is tomorrow so I am hoping to get the last few in during the next week.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Summer Countdown!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Well we have 28 school days left... can you believe it?  Part of me thinks the year dragged on, but part of me thinks it flew by!  Anyway, I am in a new school this year.  I have never been allowed to have a countdown before so I am excited to do it in a fun way this year!  I was inspired by First Grade and Fabulous! to create an ABC countdown.  You can find it at my TPT store for FREE!  You can edit it to meet your needs, but I hope you can enjoy some of the fun non-food activities I thought of!  Here is the link to my TPT store: ABC Countdown

Have a GREAT weekend!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Counting Money... Taking baby steps

I don't have much to post today, but we are in our first week of our money unit and I wanted to share this great strategy.  I don't know where I saw it, but I remember seeing this strategy last year after we had finished our money unit (of course!) 

We have been using the hundreds chart this week when they are at the teacher table for centers.  I put a pile of money in front of them and ask them to count it... God bless them, they really give it a good effort, but its just too much for most of them right now.  I pull out the hundreds chart and show them how to use it to count money.  They all got it immediately and were so proud of themselves for being able to count all of that money!  I love this new strategy.  Here is a picture of one of my little girls working hard!

Next week in my small group, I will work with using touch math for counting money and then the following two weeks, they can do whatever they need to do to count the money!  For my higher kids, I will jump into making change.  Its hard to believe the first grade standard only has them using pennies, nickels and dimes - they are capable of more :)

I printed these hundreds charts out a few years ago, put them on construction paper and laminated them.  They are still in great condition and can be used for anything :)

On another note, I am attempting my first unit for TPT.  I was working in powerpoint on the cover slide and I was going to play with the backgrounds, but was frustrated to see that my version (on my mac) is different than the powerpoint at school (a PC).  I like the one at school much better (don't get me wrong, I love my mac!)  Frustrated with the lack of options, I set out to search how all of you make these awesome backgrounds.  I came across a blogger who makes digital pages in photoshop.  I have photoshop and a lot of other editing software on my Dad's old computer (former photographer), but I became a little overwhelmed when I couldn't figure it out.  Then I decided to look into the Active Inspire software for the promethean board... I made some great backgrounds using their shapes and pattern fills :)  Then I saved it as a picture and inserted it right in the powerpoint!  Easy!

Sadly, since I spent so much time figuring that out, my new unit will have to wait until tomorrow.  Hopefully the motivation will last :)

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Earth Day Creativity

A couple of years ago my principal sent me to a conference that taught about teaching students who are gifted.  I left this presentation with an idea that I just love to implement whenever I can.  It is project based learning where students choose an auditory project, a visual project, a kinesthetic project or a technological project.  There were tons of options, but I chose 4 different projects and have stuck with those ever since... makes it easier for my kiddos to jump around to the different ones with little instruction.

Anyway, the best way I have done this was in social studies, especially with our famous american unit.  My students have a choice to act out a play (kinesthetic), write a song (auditory), create a poster or book (visual) or create a pixie presentation (technological).  The pixie presentation is always the most popular, but I work with them to take turns on the computer.  These presentations are GREAT.  I wish I could share the videos of the students doing them, but I don't want to invade anyone's privacy.  When they were doing Abraham Lincoln, I actually had a child recite the beginning of the Gettysburg Address... he researched it on his OWN!

These projects aren't overwhelming at all.  I give the kids plenty of books to use to "research."  On the first day we go over all of the important information that I NEED to see in their presentations (for example... Washington was our first president, Washington was a leader during the Revolutionary War, etc.)  They can add any additional information they want.

I am talking about this because we started our Earth Day projects today.  This is also an awesome way to get kids talking about helping the Earth.  Yesterday we read a couple of books and brainstormed ways to help the Earth.  We read a couple more books today and then I gave them their projects.  I have a small class this year and sadly don't have any this time around making a song.

I love the plays because one year I had kids do it as super heroes or "Earth Savers."  I present this idea every year and they always go in this direction... We have the "Planet Protectors" who are comprised of Wally the Water Saver... Leo the Light Saver... and Tony the Trash Picker Upper.  For their plays, they each offer ways to help save the Earth in their "specialty."  They make their own costumes using old construction paper.  On the last day, they present, I record on the ipad and post to vimeo for parents to see.  It is so much fun and the learning is really happening... and all I do is monitor their creativity and every now and then steer them in the right direction, a win-win!

For Earth Day I use these great books from Scholastic... they feature the Kid Guardians (along with the super hero theme) and they help kids help the Earth.  They are also a pretty easy read for kids to do themselves or to throw in a center!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Power of Post Its: Writers' Workshop

We've been working on our All About books for about three weeks now.  The kids are getting really into it, but are all at completely different points in their books.  I have to be out twice (!!) this week for training and will miss writers' workshop so I tried my best to pre-teach so my kids can keep on chugging along in my absence.

Over the past two days during writers' workshop I made a point to sit with each child and plan out their entire books.  We worked together to decide what headers go on each page, where we should add splash pages, where to add the table of contents, etc.  It was so simple and has really helped the independence of my writers.  Once they have finished the page, the post-it goes in the trash and they keep on working.  This has made my job SO much easier.  I am constantly running around trying to meet with all my students at least every other day to check-in, but this way it is less necessary for me to get to each of them.  I think I will continue to use post-its to help my kids plan it out.

Here are a couple of examples on where we are with our writing.  I really want to publish this week and move onto poetry, but I don't want to rush them either... we'll see how far we get!  

The student writing about softball is a wonderful writer... I am always looking for ways to extend her writing.  With these non-fiction books, we discussed the importance of adding labels and realistic pictures. She was looking forward to working on this during the next writers' workshop.

Writing about Maple Syrup... don't you love it?  This student went on a spring break trip and watched how Maple Syrup was made and has been talking about it ever since... its been the perfect time to have her write about it!

I think next year more post-its will be on my wish lists :)

Happy Teaching!

Cramming Extra Curriculum In

Who has a countdown going?  I do... its both exciting and a bit stressful, exciting because summer is a mere 32 school days away... stressful because this is the point in the year I realize I haven't hit a couple of science/social studies standards and its time to find a creative way to do it!

I teach in Virginia and for some reason Hawaii is one of our county's standards.  This year I decided to do a Hawaii week in my theme center.  Each day I shared a fact with the kids and had a corresponding activity.  On day 1, they had to get their suitcase ready for their Hawaiian Vacation!  I found a coloring template online for them to color in the different Hawaii state symbols.  They used this as patches.  Inside, they had a paper about the landforms, the flag and the fruit.  On Friday they made leis to take home!  In the computer lab on Friday they wrote about their Hawaiian Vacation and viola, they learned the standard and I got to use my social studies time to teach them about Australia :)  I thought it was a success!

I found the "patches" here... and the other printables came from my wonderful team members.

I have to be honest though, I would love to do a much better job at covering Hawaii next year!  That's why I love being a teacher, always room for improvement :)

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Travel Fridays!

One thing you should know about me is that I love to travel.  Thanks to my parents planning road trips for us every summer (my dad hated to fly), I have almost made it to all 50 states, a goal I have to hit before I am 30!  I have 8 left, only 5 after this summer's travels.  Also thanks to my adventurous husband, I have been lucky enough to travel abroad.  He taught in Hungary for a year while we were dating so I took every break I could to get over to Europe to visit.  I also spent 5 weeks in college in Australian schools and had a quick trip to Japan to visit a dear friend when her husband was stationed over there.  Needless to say, I am a traveler and enjoy every minute of it!

One thing I have learned about myself is when I travel, I learn so much.  Two summers ago after spending the summer backpacking through Europe I decided I needed to bring these travels into the classroom some how.  I started last school year with travel Fridays.  Every Friday we would "fly" to a new place, explore and get our passport stamped.  The kids LOVED it!!  We went all over the world.  We started every trip by flying the correct amount of time... I would countdown the hours it took and we would fly around the room until we landed in our destination.  Since last year was the first year I did it, it was quite a bit of work to research some countries and to put presentations together.  Thankfully in my old school I had a very diverse population and a lot of parents came in to talk about their countries and travels!

This year, since I had the basics under my belt, I tried to perfect it a bit more.... its still a work in progress, but I am happy with the organization of it this year.  About mid-year I decided to combine the five senses with our travel experiences.  So we talk about what we would see, hear, touch, smell and taste in each country.  I normally finish each country study with a quick activity.  This is a great Fun Friday activity that also promotes learning and the desire to explore!  My kids love when I talk about the countries I have gone to as well :)

I try to follow the same format each week as I update the ones from last year!  Check out this freebie on South Africa at my TPT store!

I am working on adding my other countries that we have visited to my TPT store!  Trust me, your kids will love exploring the world plus it ties in maps and continents!  This is great too if you have a diverse student population.

Happy Traveling!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writers' Workshop Update and Goals for Next Year

We worked on our All About books for an hour today!  I don't have any breaks in my day after lunch on Wednesdays so sometimes they seem a bit long for the kids, but today was a different story.  We took out our All About books with the goal of writing for 30 minutes... 40 minutes rolled around and the kids were still going strong so we worked for a whole 60 minutes with just a little stretch break!  When I told them to clean up they got mad at me!!

I would say about half of my kids are independently chugging along on their All About books... but about half still need some guidance.  Today I was very thankful for post-its.  I went around to all of my kids who were struggling a bit and sat down to plan out their whole book.  Together, we put post-its on each page on what was suppose to go on that page (what header... or picture).  This helped put a visual on what they need to do and I hope the rest of their book will go much smoother!

Our goal is to publish next week, adding different components each day.  I will update pictures as their books near publishing status!

In other news, its spring time which means its my time to start thinking about next year!  I always do this, do any of you?  I have so many goals for next year... I love that teaching is something you can always improve upon year after year.  I am excited to start out a new year with new systems for things.  I have been very inspired by other blogs and teachers pay teachers.  My big goal for next year is to create thematic weeks.  My kids love centers now, but I feel I could start to follow a theme.  I am going to start trying to plan that out now so I can start working on it.  Maybe if I write my goal here, I will actually do it?  Here's to motivation!

Happy Teaching!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A spur of the moment Word Study game and Measurement Olympics

I found a word study center idea on Pinterest a while back... slap the word.  I always wanted to do it and finally decided to throw it in my Word Study center this week.  I had the paper all ready of Friday afternoon, but didn't get a chance to make it as I had a flight to catch away for the weekend.  I came in this morning and saw it and thought to myself, ugh I didn't get the fly swatters to slap the words... as teachers do, I thought quick.  I decided to still write down the name and give the kids two different color cube.  Whoever could build the word with their cubes and cover it first won the word.  The person with the most words covered at the end wins.  This added the spelling aspect to the sight words.  It is a three player game... one caller of the words and two students competing on building and covering the words first.  I think its a keeper!

We are in our last week or our measurement unit.  In first grade they learn non-standard measurement (I'm not going to lie, I throw in standard measurement too).  My team member shared a math olympics with us to do this week.  It has been fun! We have shot put (throwing a cotton ball), long jump, high jump, discus throw (throwing a paper plate) and the javelin throw (throwing a straw).  They mark where they started and then where they ended.  I had them use cubes and rulers to measure.  

I find cubes to be a pain to measure long distances so I put together the cubes in groups of tens so they could just count by tens.... SOOO much quicker!  We will continue our Olympics tomorrow!  We are keeping trace of current gold, silver and bronze medalists as we go.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Exciting Flat Stanley Delivery

I will start my post today with a very exciting Flat Stanley delivery we received yesterday.  I do a Flat Stanley project every year and it is my favorite project of the year (I guess it's the travel bug in me!)  I do it a little differently.  We read Flat Stanley and then each of the students create a Flat Version of themselves that we send all over the world.  We send them to friends and family members.  Every year I have some kids who don't have someone to send it to so I hit up my friends and family to participate.  This year I had quite a few students who didn't have any one to write to so we took a shot at sending one to President Obama.  In my head I was thinking that the child would be excited about it, but we probably would never see it again.  I was so excited to find it in my mailbox yesterday!  The White House sent us a letter geared towards the Flat Stanley project and talked about how my Flat Student helped him in the Oval Office, sat in on meetings, hung out with Mrs. Obama, etc.  Also included was a "Day in the Life of Bo" pamphlet, an interview with President Obama geared towards kids and of course an autograph photo.  My kids were very excited.

The deadline for returning Flat Stanleys is the end of the month.  So far we only have the ones that my husband took with him on a trip to Hungary and one that I did on my spring break trip to New England (again, for students who didn't have a family member to send them to.)  We are anxiously awaiting more to arrive!  I'll update as they come in.  So far this is our wall of travel... it will look much better in a couple of weeks.

Anyways, moving onto another aspect in writing.... do your kids every groan and get mad when writing time is over?  My kids did today and it is like music to my ears.  We are working on a new Writer's Workshop unit.  My county follow Lucy Calkins, which is great.  Writing is so simple with this format!  I have worked hard to create unit plans for each writing unit.  Each day features a learning target, a mentor text to look at and an example of the writing trait I am looking for.  You can find the entire unit in powerpoint here or for a promethean board, here.

We are working on Non-Fiction All About books.  The kids can write about anything they want.  We have quite a range of books... from Easter to the Titanic to Softball to Spring... they have such great interests.  On the first day we made the title pages.  I like to give them a full 45 minutes to do this so they can make sure its their best work.  Check out these two:

Before they work on their title page, I make sure they know enough about their topic.  I have them make a web to write down everything that is in their brain. I tell them there is a storm in their brain (aka "brainstorm") and they need to get all of that information down on their paper.  I give them 5 minutes to write whatever they can think of.  I have to prompt some with some things they can write about, but most write as quickly as they can for 5 minutes.  Here is an example of one of their brainstorms:

Before we start writing, they need to organize this mess of words.  We color code our brainstorm and then use those categories for headers in our books.  Again, some of my friends needed help, but once they have their headers they are good to go!  Here is an example of a girl who is writing about Bolivia.  I love her use of headers (just wish she had written it a bit bigger), but look at that detail!  We are only in week one of this unit - I can't wait to see what else they develop.

I'll be sure to update as their writing progresses!  Its fun to watch it in the different stages.

Real quick, before we close... at my old school we had a poster maker where I use to print out big coloring sheets.  Each time my class got a compliment in the hall or in a special area class, we would color in a piece of our poster and eventually they would earn a prize.  I don't have a poster maker this year, but I found this behavior management technique can be as simple as drawing a seasonal picture on the board.  Once my kids have this flower filled, the earn a brain break - a dance along song on youtube... easy!

Until next time!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Its hard to know where to start with the whole blogging world so I guess I'll share a bit about my classroom.  I try my best to do as many small group activities as I can.  My kids are broken into groups for both reading and math.

My county has recently trained me in a new literacy program.  It is a good program that offers a balanced literacy program.  My morning is focused entirely on literacy activities.  Our typical morning looks like this:

7:30 - 8:15 - Arrival and Morning Work

8:15 - 9:00 - Morning Meeting
9:00 - 9:10 - Word Study
9:10 - 10:00 - Reading Groups/Centers
10:00 - 10:50 - Writers' Workshop

My kids can arrive anywhere between 7:30 and 7:50. During this time they work on their morning journal.  I make these monthly and each day has a writing prompt.  They normally take all the way up until 8:15 to finish.  Before we start morning meeting, I choose three students to share and then we choose an Author of the Day.  This student is a student who did their personal best and who created a great answer to the writing prompt.  You can check out my April Journal Here!  I will be posting my May one soon.

Our Morning Meeting time is our calendar time.  We do the calendar, the weather, the number of days we've been in school, our words of the week, our poem, etc.  My favorite part of our morning meeting is our geography section.  During the first half of the year my first graders learn all of their states with their daily dose of the fifty nifty United States song.  Right now we are working on our states and capitals.  Where was this song when I was trying to learn them? 

Every day my kids sort their word study words.  We follow the Words Their Way Word Study.  I have four groups and they each learn their sort on Monday.  Every morning we race to finish our sort.  I put up this awesome Timer and they see how many times they can sort their words.  They then do a word study activity (sentences, ABC order, three times each, etc.) before they roll into centers.

It has taken me a while to get Centers how I want them, but I am still working on it!  I like to tweak it once a quarter, I'd say.  I have about 9 center choices for them to choose from and I require them to do at least 5/week.  Most of them get to 5, depending on what they are working on.  At the end of the week I collect this sheet:

While my kids are rotating through Centers, I meet with two reading groups a day.  The County's program follows Jan Richardson's Guided Reading format, which I have grown quite fond of.  I like to use it as a basis and then kind of add on my own personal touch.  I've created some great recording sheets to keep track of student progress that I am happy to share.  Just shoot me an email.

Every now and then I come across a center that I want to recommend to everyone.  Right now I am loving my Sight Word Road.  The kids love it to and walk on it at least once a day.  It is where I have all the dolch sight words on a path along the floor.  Before they can walk on it, they must get a ticket which gives them a task (read all the pink words, read all the words with one syllable, hop while reading the words, write the words, etc.)  This is just a fun way for them to really practice their sight words!  I can't capture the whole road, but here is the beginning... the rest wraps around the tables in the classroom.  So simple and fun!  You can download the words and tickets at my TPT store, here.

After Center time we move into a 45 minute session of Writer's Workshop.  We follow Lucy Calkins' model for Writer's Workshop.  Each day we start with a mini-lesson on the target goal for the day and then work for the whole period.  I conference with the students as they work and if I see something extraordinary we take an "inspiration break" and look at our peer's good example.  I allow about a 5 minute share session at the end of the writing block.  We are working on All About books now, non-fiction books full of various non-fiction text features.  We just started, but the kids are pretty excited about it.  We have lots of topics from sports to trains to different holidays and seasons.  My goal this year, now that I am getting the hang of writer's workshop, is to create unit plans for each unit.  My unit plans are 3-4 weeks long and simply feature a different learning target each day.  I find this helpful for both me and my students, it provides a nice structure and each day they have a focus on something they can add to their writing.  I am really LOVING writing this year and the kids are just so creative!  I will post my All About Unit this week!

Well I think it is time to take a break! I hope to get more information up here about Math and Content later this week!

Happy Teaching!

Mrs. Bailey

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Here I am in the blogging world!  I have loved reading other teacher’s blogs and gathering ideas.  I hope to continue to gain ideas through blogging and I hope I can offer some good ones to you all too!
Here is to a new adventure in teaching!