Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Asking Sentences and Question Marks!

Happy Hump Day, Everyone!!

As of about 30 minutes ago I have officially completed all of my coursework for my ESL endorsement and couldn't be more relieved!  Woohoo!  Now what will I do with all of my spare Wednesday nights instead of sit in a windowless sub-zero temperature room? Nashville and Top Chef come to mind...

Moving on, I'm trying my hardest to be consistent with my blogging so I thought I'd update today with a fun little activity I whipped up this week!  In first grade we are working on our "I Can" statements which currently include producing asking sentences and using appropriate punctuation.  I was trying to think of a fun and interactive (yet structured) activity that would help my kids grasp this concept and I think I found a lesson keeper!  

I started by introducing our BIG question mark.  We talked about what a question mark does and words that the question mark likes to use to ask all of the things he wonders about.  

Then, I put an interesting picture up on the board.  We practiced using our question words to produce asking sentences about the picture.  It was a bit of a struggle at first, so we made sure to emphasize that questions are things we WONDER.  Sure, I still got a few "I wonder I think that's cool" but hey, you can't win every time!  

Then, I put SUPER cool pictures at each table and gave each kiddo a recording sheet complete with an "asking word" word bank.  The kids spent time at each table looking closely at the pictures and recording one "asking sentence" that they had about each picture using the words in the word bank and, of course, a question mark!   It was a SMASHING success...the kids loved it!  What a fun way to get the kids really thinking and talking to one another about the pictures!

Click the picture below to download this fun activity for free!  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Deck the Halls with a Jammin' Linky Party Playlist!

Good Morning!

Before I start my blog post today, I'd love to get your input on a couple things that I am teaching post-break!  Do you ever have those days when, despite all the cute ideas on Pinterest, your creative juices just aren't flowing?  I'm trying to think of a really great ways to teach my firsties about verb tenses AND character traits.  I haven't introduced these skills yet and I anticipate them being really tricky.  Do any of you fabulous bloggers have some brilliant ideas that have worked for you in the past?  Buehller?  Buehller?

Anyways, on to the rest of my blog post...during class meetings in my classroom, we share a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down" (things that went great/we really enjoyed that day or things that made us feel sad/could need a little work that day).  Why not start with a "thumbs up/thumbs down" in today's blog post?

Here we go...

THUMBS DOWN to my long, blissful, sleeping-in filled Thanksgiving Break coming to an end after today.  I'm excited to see all my kiddos but not quite as excited for my alarm to go off at 5:30!

THUMBS UP to Cyber Monday/Tuesday sale at TpT !  Everything in my store will be 20% off PLUS you can get another 10% off from TpT!  This means that everything will be up to 28% off...can't wait!  Though I did cheat a little and buy some full-priced items over break (because, let's get real, it was absolutely necessary in that moment), I'm excited to make some great purchases in these upcoming days!  Love it!

I am taking part in this fun linky party hosted by Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge to share my holiday TpT "playlist" with you all!  First, you start with the playlist...

Then, you select the songs you'd like to share!  I chose to share 3 smashing hits...

First up, "Oh Management, Oh Management":

I picked my daily schedule cards for this one because they are one of my top-sellers!  Also because they are a lifesaver in my class!  "When's recess?" "Look at the schedule."  "Are we doing writing today?"  "I'm not sure...look at the schedule."  Oh, and my personal favorite, "Miss D'Andrea, how come you ALWAYS forget to put the schedule up?"  (Touching my heart for dramatic effect) "Oh my goodness, Miss D'Andrea just has SO many jobs so that we have lots of awesome learning to do at school.  Sometimes she forgets one small job like putting up the schedule.  Let me do that RIGHT now so that our day doesn't fall apart...!" Haha!

My second hot track on my playlist is "I Saw Mommy With a Science and Social Studies Resource":

First and foremost, how awesome is the title of that song?  Hilarious.  I decided to choose my newly updated "Camouflage Hunt Fun!" product for this one.  This is one of my favorite activities during my polar/arctic animals unit.  The kids love learning about camouflage!  

Lastly, the playlist ends with the ever-popular "Walking in a Math Wonderland"...

For this one, I chose my Double Digit Addition and Subtraction QR Code products!  One of them includes regrouping and the other one is without!  Fun, fun!

That's all for today, folks!  I hope you all enjoy your last day before it's back to the grind tomorrow!  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Time!

Yay!!  Happy Thanksgiving break! some of you at least!  Happy ALMOST break to the rest of you that work this week!   My school has the whole week off after a week of parent-teacher conferences, but if you're one of the schools that works these first couple of days, it's almost over!  Woohoo! 

Ya know that feeling when your last conference ends?  I literally closed my classroom door and myself...hands in the air and all.  I even played "Celebrate" over the speakers in my classroom.  Okay, I'm I?  It is such a long and exhausting week to teach all day and then immediately have conferences until late evening.  PHEW!  This break is MUCH needed!

Parent-teacher conferences were a success this year with only a couple no-shows.  I am so fortunate to have a group of parents that care deeply about their child's education and were open and accepting to all of my thoughts, observations, praises, and suggestions for growth.  As I'm sure many of you are aware, having parents on your side as a teacher is one of the most crucial elements to student success so I am so happy to have a majority of my parents on board!  

I have been TOTALLY awful at taking pictures of all the fun Thanksgiving/Pilgrim learning we have been doing these last couple of weeks, but I will surely share what I did managed to snap photos of.  My kids were OBSESSED with learning about pilgrims.  Something about learning what life was like long ago is so interesting to them.  

The most interesting part about our pilgrim learning was about life on the Mayflower.  The kiddos were so intrigued by life on the Mayflower.  They had to eat the same things everyday, wear the same clothes, sleep on the cold, hard floor,  they didn't have toys and (*gasp*) had to go to the bathroom in a bucket!  OH THE DRAMA!   While reading books about the Mayflower, we even laid on the floor of our classroom to act like we were sleeping on the Mayflower which, incase your wondering, was only the COOLEST THING EVER!  It's the simple things in life....

After we learned all about the Mayflower, I put together this sort for a quick activity and check-in to see which of my students were recalling all our learning!  I have uploaded it as a freebie in my TpT store so feel free to grab it if you are still in school and needing a quick activity before break!  

We also talked about what we would bring with us if we were traveling on the Mayflower and made cute Mayflower suitcases to take with us!

This suitcase is my personal favorite.  What would he bring on the Mayflower?  Oh, just the essentials.  His 3DS, pool pants (?), underwears, a bath tub, and a night light!  ADORABLE!

We also made cute fact family turkeys complete with number bond bodies (idea courtesy of my coworker) to add above our lockers for our Thanksgiving display!  

That's all I have to share for now but I will be back later this week with some more updates!  Enjoy your break, everyone, and have a happy holiday!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Backstreet's (aka I am) Back, Alright!

Hi There!

....and cue the awkward realization that my last post was over a month ago and in that last post I wrote, and I quote, "this post marks the beginning of routinely posting what's up in first grade."  It looks like I didn't really hold up to that promise I made to myself unless you consider "routinely" to mean "once every month"...

I did have blogging on my to-do list.  And I totally WANTED to blog.  But I just found that every day it somehow got pushed down the list in an effort to get "I absolutely have to get this done right now" things done!  Does that ever happen to you?  Ugh, hopefully that will stop happening and life will stop being so busy so that blogging can get back to being a top priority.  

Have I mentioned that I love my class this year?  Do you ever have those frustrating years where you don't even feel like your teaching because an unbelievable amount of your time is spent managing?  And then managing more. Oh and then just managing a little bit more?  Well this class is not one of those classes!  Sure, we all have our fair share of first grade problems but overall they are a really fantastic group of kids and I am feeling so lucky and like I'm actually able to maximize the learning and FUN in my classroom!

We are right smack dab in the middle of our weather unit and we focused this past week on the seasons!  Since there doesn't ever seem to be time to do the fun theme-y activities that I used to do with all the new common core craziness, I tried my best to integrate our science learning into our Reader's Workshop time using some of the common core standards as well.

Here's what we were up to the past two weeks:

We went on a picture walk around the room to figure out what our next theme was!  I wrote about this during my rainforest unit last year here.  I put out cool weather pictures and had them walk around to observe the pictures first, then they could write thoughts, questions, comments, whatever they wanted about the pictures on the butcher paper!  They LOVED this activity and were able to figure out that our new theme was all different types of weather!

We read the book Moonbear's Shadow by Frank Asch.  This book is PERFECT for introducing light and shadows and is fabulous for discussion and schema-building.

After reading the story, we went outside for a little shadow learning!  We observed our shadows and what happened when we stood in the sun vs. the shade.  We turned and and moved and watched how our shadows turned and moved with us.  And we learned the three things that you need to make a shadow: light, an object, and a surface!

We also made shadow puppets and, when the sun wasn't shining, adapted and used flashlights at our tables to observe their shadows.  Unfortunately, I didn't grab any pictures!

This past week we focused on the four seasons.  On the first day, I read aloud a simple non-fiction seasons book and focused on some non-fiction text features.  I then put some butcher paper labeled "Summer" and "Spring" up and had the kids stick post-it notes with their knowledge/schema about the seasons up on the papers.  

One of the common core standards we were teaching last week was, "I can describe the connection between two pieces of information within a text" and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to discuss how the seasons can be alike in ways and different in ways!  So we shared our sticky notes and talked about how some of them could stay on the paper and others could be moved between the two papers because they were examples of how the seasons were alike.  They did an amazing job and really caught on quickly!

The next day we used our ideas and sorted them into a venn diagram to show the connection between the two different seasons.  

If you'd like to grab a free copy of the Spring/Summer sort, you can click here!

The last thing I managed to get pictures of this week was when we became "Season Experts!"  I have done something similar to this activity in the past but it went SO much better this year than in years past!

After reading books about the seasons, I split the kids into small groups of six.  Each group was put in charge of becoming "experts" about a season!  I have these awesome big books in my classroom that give specific information about each seasons.  I modeled how they could use the words AND the pictures in the book to do a "research project".  They LOVED this!  I put together some season expert books that I gave each kid as they did research on the seasons.  Here's some pics of the kids working SUPER hard on their "research" projects. :)

I uploaded this awesome activity into my TpT store and I'm super excited about it because it really was tons of fun!  In the file I included all 4 season books as well as a "Season Expert" award certificate to present to kids once they finish!

Well, blogging world, I'm happy to be back and will be back again very soon!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Busy Life!

I know what you're thinking.  Remember when I started this blog to write about all my fun classroom activities and share our daily first grade happenings and then went weeks without posting once school actually started?  I get it.  Having a teaching blog without actually blogging about teaching is a total waste.  Hopefully this post marks the beginning of routinely posting what's up in first grade.  Add that to my list of things to do! :)

I am so excited that the first couple (aka four) weeks have gone so well!  I love my new class.  They are truly such a nice, fun, and well-mannered group of kids and I can't wait for all the fun we are going to have this year!  

Though posting about the first couple days of school is past appropriate at this time, I just thought I'd share a couple of things that went really well our first few weeks!  Today I'm going to focus on reading intervention time at my school! 

Our school has an awesome thirty minute block at the start of each day as our reading intervention time.  During this time, while some kids are pulled out for interventions, I meet with a small group of kids to provide them with reading interventions.  But what do I do with the rest of the class?  My first grade team has come up with a system that works really well for us.  I group my kids into groups of 2-3 and do a very loose interpretation of workstations/centers.  I typically have a fun writing station, a sight word station, computers, iPads, a skill building station (ie: parts of speech), and so on.  This is the first year I routinely plan on having a "Read the Room" center and a "Big Book" center and so far they are going fabulously!  I created a response sheet that I can use over and over again for the big book center and took some quick snapshots of the kiddos being introduced to it!  Here they are using fun pointers and looking in their big books for three letter words with a partner!  I was so impressed! 

Oh and here's a big book hunt freebie if you want to snag it!  I just fill in what I would like the kids to search for and they go to town!

Another thing we've been practicing during our morning intervention block is reading the room!  I introduced this by showing the kids our super special magic glasses that help us read the room.  We each got clipboards and searched for things that started with "B".  You would have thought that this was the most mind-blowingly awesome thing in the world (which it was, obviously).  You could have heard a pin drop!  Their lists were so impressive and I barely had any kids ask me how to spell a word.  After just a couple reminders they tried their best and stretched them out!  Love it!

Here's another freebie!  I pretty much do the same thing with "Read the Room" and fill in what I would like them to search for (ie: words with the short a sound, things that are red, friend's names, etc...).  Anything to get them reading and writing!  Other times I will mix it up and have them search for theme words or fill in a list of words around the room that start with the letters in, for example, CAT IN THE HAT.  I'm probably making this much more confusing than it needs to be!

That's all I can post for now...I worked a 12 hour day today and have Curriculum Night tomorrow night!  I will post soon about what I do for Curriculum Night in my classroom and how I make it work best for me!

Have a great end of the week!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Back To School Life...And Back To School Sale!

Hi All!

Well, for starters, my Sunday morning looks a little like this.

If this isn't a sign that school is back in session then what is?! Ahh...what a change from my last Sunday morning.  Luckily, I managed to get ample rest time in this weekend and I'm up and ready for a new week with my new cute little firsties to start.  Well, I'm not actually quite ready.  Usually during the year I'm ready for the next week before Friday the week before.  But, as I'm sure you all know, the first week was CRAZINESS and I just didn't have time to worry about this upcoming week's plans!  So here I am on a Sunday morning, coffee in hand, and surrounded by books, curriculums, lamination to cut, and a blank lesson plan template ready!

In other news, I am taking part in the big HUGE TpT sale today and tomorrow, so hop on over to my store for 28% off of everything!  Just click on the picture below!

I've got a couple of cute things up in my store that I used this year to set-up my classroom and that go perfectly with a bright color theme.  My top-seller this month is my green and blue daily schedule cards!

In my own classroom this year, I also use my Bright Polka-Dot ABC Signs and my "Brighten Up Your Word Wall!" pack.  Love them!

I hope you all find some fun back to school things in the TpT sale...I know I have! :)

I can't wait to post some updates and pictures from my first week back at school but don't have all the pictures ready quite yet.  More to come!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Late to the "Teacher Week" Party But Better Late Than Never!

PHEW!!  I survived and finished another first day in first grade today and it was a.....really.....long one.  All in all though it was fun to meet my new group of firsties and the day honestly went on off without a hitch!  

.....besides that one time before school when I left a trail of coffee down my dress....leg....and entire hallway.  But that seems to be a trend in my life so, hey, I'm not too surprised to have a stain on my clothes by 8am.  You live and you learn!  Or you don't learn.  And you keep spilling things.  Either way.

Anyways. I am finally linking up with Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week!  I know, I know, I'm a little late to the party but I've been working non-stop!  All you amazing teacher bloggers blow my mind with your ability to teach at the hectic beginning of the year and still produce meaningful and inspiring blog posts.  I'm accepting any applications for teacher blogger mentors so please refrain from sending them all at once! :)

Today's Teacher Week topic is "Now Teach!" which seems only fitting with this being my first day back with the kids!  Quite honestly, I'm not entirely sure how I'm even mustering up the energy to craft this post.  I'm exhausted....and I'll probably go to bed sometime in the next hour or so and then cry a little (or a lot) when my alarm goes off tomorrow morning.  Same old, same old.

Anyways, I know I posted some classroom updates as I was setting up throughout the past couple weeks but I thought I'd post some finished product pictures that go along with today's topic of "Organizing for Instruction."

I think this picture of my library area is one of my most organized parts of my room.  I was never much of an "I'm crazy, OCD and obsessed with organizing" type of person until I got a classroom.  And here I am...being a crazy, OCD and obsessed with organizing type of person.  It's exhausting!  This year I hot glued these new library labels that I made onto my bins and I think they are going to be perfect!  In the past, I have taped the labels on with packing tape and it was MUCH more time consuming.

I fell victim to the amazing crate seat idea all over pinterest a couple years ago and they truly were one of my best classroom creations.  I don't have too much storage in my room and the amount of paper towels that comes flooding in with the kids and their supplies is....completely overwhelming.  I couldn't go through all of them even if I actively tried to use paper towels for everything.  Cue the crate seats!  These things have seriously saved my life (and my kids' lives because otherwise they would be forced to have paper towels in their backpacks, lockers, desks, for lunch, etc, etc...).

I posted this picture in my last blog post but I want to include it in this one too because I'm really happy with how I am storing my big books this year.  I stumbled upon the idea and just had to adapt it and use it for my own classroom.  

Another one of my organizational lifesavers was an idea sparked by my coworker and good friend.  This picture below shows some tables I bought from IKEA a few years back.  They usually house my student laptops, but the picture was taken before school started so the computers hadn't been whipped out quite yet!

So I started using these tables (which I absolutely love), but was constantly plagued with the headache of charger cords falling behind the tables and the kids crawling all over the ground trying to find them and ending up bumping their heads all while tangling up the cords.  Which naturally led to tears and trips to the nurse to get ice packs.  Need I say more?  Well, my coworker used these AWESOME wire holders from The Container Store.  See those little white things on the table?  Yep, keep looking.  Look closer.  Yeah, I know it's not the best picture but I don't have a close up one.  My chargers stay in place and the kids know where to put the laptops when they are finished.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like The Container Store carries the same ones anymore, but these look similar!  

So that's that!  I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my tips and tricks for organization now that teaching has picked up again!

I do have one question for all you bloggy people, though.  I really want to post some pictures of my first couple of days soon and I currently don't have parent permission to post photos.  I'm in the process of drafting a contract to send home with the kids in hopes of obtaining permission but I'm not entirely sure where to start.  Has anybody used a permission form/contract that they were successful with and, if so, what are your tips?  If you are able to help at all I would greatly appreciate it!  Just shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment here!  Thanks! :)