Friday, December 30, 2011

Target Must Love Teachers

Why in the world would I pay 4 or 5 times as much for things that Target has in their dollar bins? Don't these big teacher supply companies know that teachers are cheap thrifty smart? My Target had some items for the 100th day of school but I only got these stickers.

And then I grabbed a few of these guys that I've seen in a catalog before for about $5 each, crazy right?! I know you can use page protectors but this plastic is so much more sturdy and will hopefully stand up to the abuse that is certain to come. (Sorry it's sideways, no clue why or how to change it).

And for my last school purchase today- I got these noise makers to use for a New Year's resolution writing and display (thanks Cara Carroll for the idea).

My resolution may need to be to stop browsing the dollar bins and dollar tree. I think it's so cheap and then I go to check out and realize I threw 40 items in my basket, oops!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's time to think about school again!

The whole first semester of this year flew by. I've been terrible about blogging and about keeping up with the million blogs I follow. This break is just what I needed but it's almost over=(

I'm setting a goal to post on my blog at least twice a month, that sounds easy enough. But warning, this post is going to be random.

I got a new camera for Christmas so I should be taking tons of pictures! But here's a little problem I have - I got a very nice digital camera but I was thinking about one day getting a DSLR. So should I just go on and get the DSLR? I have no clue how to use them. To all of you who do have fancy cameras, do you love them? Are they easy to figure out? Are they worth the money? Is it a pain to carry around the lenses and other extras? Thanks for any advice!

On to school stuff...I know it's late, but I have to show off the cutest parent gifts ever!

We worked long and hard on these guys.  A very sweet dad cut and sanded all the wood for us (what will I do without him next year?!) I got the idea from pinterest of course!

Pinned Image
click to go to the pin

For the new year, here's something I made on Vistaprint yesterday (I love their freebies!). These are the size of business cards and I'll use a little star shaped hole-punch to punch each box when a goal (or a level or step) is met.
They'll tie in with the new year and resolutions and such. Too bad these little cards won't get shipped in time for next week. I may make some to print out to use immediately. If I do I'll post them. I have a few little ones who had behvaior charts and this would be a nice way to earn rewards for meeting their behavior goals. I may also use these for academic goals or even for whole class goals.

That's all I had to share for now. I'm off to the library to pick up the last of the Hunger Games books. I loved the first two so much and can't wait to read this one! I may be up all night reading=) And seriously, let me know what you think about the cameras.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Merry Christmas Y'all Giveaway

I can't even remember the last time I posted something here. This time of the year is just so busy! Anyway, Kelli from Castles and Crayons has organized a great giveaway from some of us Alabama bloggers. Hurry over to Castles and Crayons to enter.
Bama Bloggers

5 winners!!

Each winner can choose an item from the TPT stores of:

and from mine of course!

So 5 folks can win 5 items each. I think I kinda want to enter this. Good luck!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Equation Anchor Chart

So last week I was supposed to create an anchor chart for how to write equations. I've got no clue what my district had in mind, but here's what I came up with.
I asked the kids what we need to make an equation and they first said numbers to I stuck the numbers on (I had them hiding with tape on them already). Then I asked what was missing and they had to tell me which symbols to put where. And finally we labeled all the parts we already knew and I introduced a few new words (minuend, subtrahend, and difference- can you tell we've mostly been focused on adding). Lastly, each kid got their own mini-chart to label and glue in their math notebooks. Here's a downloadable version, it's two to a page.

How many of you post your objectives? We've never been told we HAD to post our objectives, but I know so many teachers that do post theirs and I think the kids really like to know what they're going to do each week. My kids were very interested in the new chart and have referred to it a few times so I think it's a winner. PS- I don't teach reading so that's why you don't see any reading objectives.

I'm linking this post to Tales of Frogs and Cupcakes. She's hosting an anchor chart linky party so go check it out. I do love a great anchor chart (and an excuse to draw with markers)!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween + Punctuation

Last week my language lessons were supposed to focus on using exclamation points. So I grabbed this favorite story and we searched for exclamations.
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
I love this book so much because the kids really get into the sounds and motions that are repeated throughout. After I read the story I put the book under my document camera and we looked for punctuation marks. Then we used this foldable to write three sentences from the story, one for each type of punctuation mark. And then we glued these in our writing notebooks to keep as a reference. Click the picture to get a copy of the foldable.

(the kids drew each type of punctuation mark in the ovals)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dem Bones

We're studying the human body starting this week and as I was searching the internet for ideas I found this awesome site. She's posted the cutest Dem Bones video from youtube, I love it and it's stuck in my head now!
Spell Out Loud

Here's the youtube video.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tracking Math Progress

In my district we're given numerous forms for tracking reading progress for each child throughout the year. Sometimes it feels like we have way too much paperwork, but I love to look at one sheet of paper and see "at a glance" how a student has progressed during the year. And it's easy to show parents the growth their child has made or the growth they need to make!
I'm not teaching reading this year and as the first quarter is drawing to a close (at the end of the week, eek!) I realized I needed an easy way to track my kid's progress in math. We don't give traditional grades, instead we grade based on the mastery of standards and we use a rubric to assign a "performance level" instgead of a grade. So I made this form that includes all the major math standards we assess in first grade. I think it will help me keep track of their progress and I plan on giving parents a copy of this at our conferences (which start tomorrow and I'm procrastinating getting conference forms typed out right now) and then as I fill it out each quarter I'll include a copy with their reports cards. There will be many blank spaces this quarter since I certainly haven't explicitly taught or assessed many of these skills yet!
Click the image for a download if you think you could use this form too.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quick Math Station Activity

I was scanning the clearance aisle at Wal-Mart today and found a pack of large die cut apples for 50 cents! So I made number puzzles to put in math stations this week since it is Johhny's birthday and all. I made one for numbers 1-10. I'm thinking I need to go on and make 11-20 for my higher kids.
We've been slowly working on addition strategies and finding as many combinations of each number as we can. So this activity will be a good review/reinforcement of what we've been practicing. Here's a picture from a few weeks ago when we were working on making 5's.
This game is called "shake and spill". The kids put 5 counting chips in a cup, shake them up, spill them, color  what they spilled, and then write an equation. That orange thing is a little foam mat so the counting chips don't hit their desks and make so much noise, but if they all had their notebooks out like this little guy I guess that would've worked too. Also, 21 kids shaking up counters in a cup is almost deafening so I don't know why I even tried to make the spilling part quiet. It made sense at the time.

On another note, did anyone know that Wal-Mart now has a 97 cent area much like Target's dollar bins? I'm not loving it as much as Target's but I give them an E for effort and there were some very cute teachery notepads, stickers, bookmarks, and tote bags. I bought some super cute cupcake sticky notes and plastic (reusable, not throw away) plates for a friend's upcoming birthday. Maybe I'll fill the plates with cupcakes or maybe I'll try and make one of these cake stands I've seen on pinterest. Anyone tried this yet?

Monday, September 12, 2011

We've Been Busy Bees


We study plants at the beginning of each year and this pollination activity is my favorite for a few reasons.
a)it really helps the kids understand and remember what pollination is all about
b)it's a way to get in some fun artsy craftsy time and we call it "science"
c)they're so darn cute buzzing around to each flower

So here's what we do:
1. Each child decorates a flower (pomping style with tissue paper, does anyone still use the word "pomping" or even know what I mean?).
2. Then they each make a bumble bee, glue it on a popsicle stick, and glue a cotton ball on the underside of the bee so there will be something for the "pollen" to stick to.
3. Glue a cupcake liner to the middle of the flower and put a spoonful of "pollen" (yellow cake mix, lemon is good too) in the cup.
4. Have the kids dip their bees in the pollen and then fly around and pollinate all the other flowers in the room.

I don't know where this idea or the blacklines came from. Someone on my grade level shared them years ago. But I thought I'd share since I think this is so much fun. And I always read this book first since it has great info on pollination (and Gail Gibbons books just rock).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I forget every year...

just how tiring the first weeks are! It's like I must black it out in my memory. I know to expect super long hours, endless repetition of setting routines and procedures, and sore feet from standing all day as opposed to lounging on my couch, but I'm always amazed at how worn out my body is. I seriously napped and lied around ALL day yesterday. I never even put on real clothes, sad I know. I'm also fighting some kind of infection, thought it was strep but thank goodness it wasn't (yes I've already been to the dr. for shots and antibiotics and we're only 12 days into this year).

I've been too busy or too tired to post anything and to be honest nothing we've done yet has been very worthy of sharing. But here's a super cute 1st day of school picture that I took of each kiddo. The kids were so funny, when I explained how I wanted them to hold the speech bubble to look like it was coming out of their mouths a few of the boys exclaimed, "It's like we're in a comic book!".

Which leads me to another idea... If your kids are doing any kind of book extensions or writing their own stories they could make themselves into the characters, write speech bubbles for themselves(using a dry erase surface would be easy), take photos, and put them together comic book style. That's a lot of work but it integrates technology and would be so much fun (especially if you have older kids who are more independent with tech. stuff). So that's my spur of the moment teaching idea.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thinking About Writing

My mind's been stuck on math most of the summer, but for good reason. I'm excited to be switching classes for 2 hours a day with another teacher to teach math and science to her class as she teaches mine reading. So I get to teach math and science twice a day. I think I'm going to love it! I've been able to focus more on math and science planning and I don't have to worry about figuring out where my literacy stations will go and I've been able to make more room for math stations. Yay!

But on to my post title... I've been thinking about and planning for writing recently. I am certainly not the strongest writing teacher nor was I a great writer as a student. I love doing shared writing activities with the kids and making class books with them but I always start the year off strong and then it seems like writing time gets shorter and shorter as other subjects spill into that time. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reading a great book, Your Child's Writing Life by Pam Allyn, that reiterated the importance of writing everyday.
Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age
It was a great reminder that the best way to improve writing is to do it everyday. Just as I use the Daily 5 to help my kids build reading stamina I need to help them build their writing stamina too. I know writing is a part of the Daily 5, but at my school we are not allowed to use the writing component during our reading block, so it often gets left out if we can't find another time during the day to get to it. After looking at my schedule for this year I am vowing to give my kids an uninterrupted writing time everyday! I've got about a 40 minute language block so I'm thinking 10 minutes to do a writing mini lesson (and incorporate the grammar skill of the week), then 20 minutes of free writing (we'll start with 3 minutes and build up), and then 5 to 10 minutes of sharing.

I got to participate in observational rounds at another school last year and I saw an awesome way for kids to share their writing. Have any of you ever heard of "star, star, wish"? It was precious! In a kindergarten class the kids wrote in their journals for about 5 minutes (they were given a specific task) and then shared with their neighbor. Their neighbor gave them two stars (things they did well) and one wish (something they wish they'd done). So it went like this- Johnny says, "Molly, I give you a star for starting with a capital letter and a star for a great illustration. I wish your spaces were a little bigger". It was so wonderful to see 5 year olds pointing out things their friends had done well. I'll definitely be using that this year. Here's a sign I made to hang on the board for the star, star, wish (the teacher I observed had one on her board too- I did not come up with this idea!)
Well tomorrow's our last teacher workday and then the kids come Thursday. I feel like there's still so much to do and so little time to do it! Good luck to everyone who is starting school soon. I hope we all have fantastic first days and get the year off to a great start!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Easy 5 Frames

I had these paint samples lying around from when I was choosing paint for my shelves at school and I thought about how perfect they'd be as 5 frames. I just need to cut off two of the sections and ta-da I'll have brightly colored frames for my first graders to use at the beginning of the year. I may even glue two of them to a piece of cardstock to make 10 frames (or I may just print some off that I've already downloaded this summer). I got these samples at Wal-Mart in case you want to go grab some too.

In other news, my chair makeover is complete! Thanks to a lot of help from my mom this chair is ready for read alouds. I love it! Here are the before and after pics.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


T-minus 11 days and counting until I officially go back!! And only 14 days until students come...agh!! But I have been busy getting things ready. Last week I worked on repainting many of the shelves in my room so they match and the room will {hopefully} feel more put together.

Here are the shelves before...some black, some white
 and hey, there's a red one back there too!

But now most of them are the same color, yay! Oops, apparently I didn't take a picture of all the freshly painted shelves. But four of them are now a bright blue and then there's still a white one. But I found blue bins to put on it so it ties in nicely.
This picture is all math stuff. Stations will go in the blue bins and materials will be in the white drawers. Daily data is on the white board and then there's my beloved calendar.=) And do you see that recovered office chair by the computer? I saved it from the school attic last summer and covered the nasty orange scratchy fabric and I've loved it, so much so that...

This little guy that I picked up for $3.00 at a garage sale back in the spring is now being transformed. Only halfway there, but here's the progress so far.

So now I'll have two precious and matchy-matchy chairs! I think my lessons will be so much better with these guys, don't you?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Happy Birthday (to my new students)

I've seen some cute ideas for celebrating student birthdays out there so I thought I'd share my find of the week. I found a bargain at our local thrift store and it still has the new tag on it!
It has a button (the red dot on the cake) that's supposed to make it sing and the candles light up. Either the batteries just need to be replaced or it's broken but I'd rather it not make any noise anyway! So I think I'll put this in the birthday boy or girl's chair for their special day. I also put together treat bags every summer and store them in the closet so I can just pull one out when needed. The whole red area on the pillow is a big pouch, so their treat bag may fit in that. I need to get to work on the treat bags soon before I forget. I always seem to have a kid whose birthday is on the first day or two of school!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Another Class Book

I made this book with my kids last year and they loved to look through it all year. It wasn't my idea though. I'm sure found it somewhere on the internet last summer but I have no clue where.

 My writing (in green pen) says "drawing on my desk" beside the top picture and "reading a book" beside the bottom picture.
Here it is closer up.

On the first day or two when we create our classroom rules and discuss school rules I always read No David! and David Goes to School. Then I have the kids model the correct way to do certain things in our class and the incorrect way. You know they always love demonstrating the wrong way to act! Next I gave each child one of these sheets and they drew themselves doing something or acting in a way that they shouldn't and then on the bottom they drew themselves doing something correctly. As I walked around to see their drawings they dictated what was happening in the picture and I wrote it on the page. I know this is very kindergarten-ish, but on the 1st or 2nd day of 1st grade I thought I'd do the writing part for them. Then I just put them in page protectors and stuck them in a pronged folder and voila! We had a book about following rules to refer to all year.

Click image to open. Of course you could easily make your own in a different font if you wanted, but here it is anyway.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beginning of the Year Class Book Idea

A few days ago I read Lisa's blog over at First Class with Mrs. Mac (I'm a Mrs. Mac too!) and she shared a great idea for the beginning of the year to make a "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" type book with the kids and let them draw things they see. Click here to see her post and get a copy of her printable book.

With her permission, I changed it just a little so that each child will "see" another classmate. It will be a great way for kids to practice writing their own name and learn each other's names. The first thing my kids will do when they arrive on the 1st day of school is color/decorate their name in bubble letters (that I've printed for them). Then we'll use these later that day or the next to make this book.

Click the image below to get your copy and directions. On the last page I typed a few names in a bubble letter font as an example, of course you don't need to print this page since you'll have to type your own but the font is called "Basic Font" (you may know of a better bubble font though).

(I posted about this again with an updated cover for the new school year, 2012-2013. Click here to go to that post.)
What other great activities is anyone planning for the first few days? Or is school starting so far off that you aren't thinking about it yet? I have 3 and a half weeks of summer left. Sounds like a good amount of time but I know it'll fly by!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Teacher Desk: To Keep or Not to Keep?

One of my favorite things to do is set up my classroom, rearrange, and get ready for the new year. I still have 4 weeks of summer, but I'm planning on heading up this week to do a little setting up so maybe I won't be quite as rushed the week before we go back (but who am I kidding, I'll be running around like mad no matter what I do now). So this weekend I've just been thinking about how to arrange my room and I just can't come up with a "blueprint" that I like. I've thought about getting rid of my desk and just using my kidney table as a command center.

I'm debating giving up my desk because:
A) I rarely sit there.
B) I try to keep most papers and supplies on a shelf behind my desk so it doesn't get cluttered.
C) I've never had a computer on my desk, so no need to relocate that.
D) I'll have an intern in the fall and I'd like to give her a little space. (So maybe I should keep the desk and let her use it?)

Here's what I'm wondering and would love to hear your thoughts:
1) Where do you put all the stuff kids bring to you each morning?
2) If you use your kidney table instead, do you end up cluttering it up?
3) If I keep my teacher stuff (papers, supplies, binders, professional books) on a shelf behind my kidney table then where will I put all the stuff I need for small group lessons? I guess I'll just need 2 shelves behind the table.

I'm nervous to get rid of it and I'm not even sure that I can. I guess if the school has a place to store it they wouldn't mind taking it out of my room but I've never asked.

Would anyone like to come arrange my room for me? I feel like I've looked at it too much and can't make a decision about anything. I know I'll go Monday and waste at least half an hour just standing in the middle of the room staring!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You Win Again Dollar Tree!

I just went in for tissue paper, that's all. But you know how sneaky The Dollar Tree is. They manage to get at least $10.00 out of me every time I walk in. So here's what I got for school.

My classrom is mostly black, white, and aqua, so I was very happy to see those storage bins in aqua.

When we study magnets I like to give plenty of "exploration" time (which they view as play time) and these little guys will be a fun addition to our magnetic materials.

And finally, they must have just stocked the shelves because there was a huge bin full of these bingo card markers. Fran at Kindergarten Crayons has had so many math freebies that use these markers and I didn't have any. Well now I have purple, black, green, and red!

If you've found any great new stuff for your classroom this summer share it with us all! And then link up with Kristen at Ladybug Teacher Files.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Math Work Stations Chapter 6

I haven't actually read this chapter yet. Somehow I got a little behind, perhaps because I started summer school last week for upcoming kinders and they are wearing me out! But I've been reading so many posts about place value and I wanted to share an "I Have, Who Has" place value game I made last year. Just click the picture to dowload. I hope to catch up on reading this evening and post more later this week.
Also- Kinder teachers, you deserve some kind of medal! How do you do it those first weeks?! I only have kids from 8 to noon and I feel like I've run a marathon each day! (hmmm...maybe I'll lose a few pounds)

Head over to Oceans of First Grade Fun for more about this chapter on place value- and lots of free printable games too!

Friday, June 24, 2011

ABC and Blends Charts

Earlier this month I posted some math mats that I plan to use as warm ups to start guided math lessons and I mentioned that I use ABC and blends charts the same way to start guided reading groups. I had a few questions about the charts and I found some examples to share. These are not the charts I use, but they are very similar. The ones I use were given to me by another teacher and I don't know where she got them.
(Click the images to download.)

ABC chart from
Blends chart from
I pass these out quickly, as soon as the kids sit down, and we chant the chart like this: /a/, /a/, apple; /b/, /b/, bell, etc. I usually do the whole ABC chart with my lower groups, but with my higher groups (or whenever a group is ready to move to blends) we usually just do one row each day. Or I might say "find the picture that sounds like /spr/" and we'll start there and finish the chart. It just depends on how much time you have I guess. You don't want this to take very long.

I hope that clears up any questions!

I plan to use my math mats the same way, just chanting some numbers together to practice counting or saying coin names. When you repeat things everyday it gets to where the kids can do it with their eyes closed (and it would be great if they could memorize some of our math info)!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I love boys...

in a teacherly way of course!

I don't know if it's just me or does anyone else has always have more boys than girls in their classes? In eight years of teaching I may have had one year with an equal number of boys and girls, but never more girls. So when I see books with suggestions for teaching boys I take note!

(click image to preview at
Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives
This summer I've had the pleasure of reading Pam Allyn's book Best Books for Boys and it's been a great reminder of ways to get boys more interested and motivated to read. In first grade I don't think I have as much of a problem with excitement for reading as upper grades may, but I do like to be careful with the books I choose for read alouds, reading groups, and for individual book "bags". I try to be sure to introduce my students to a plethora of genres, characters, authors, etc. And at this age (first grade) it always seems that if I'm really excited about a book the kids will be too.

It seems that many of us are using the Daily 5 or some version of it and I love that it gives my kids time to pick their own books and read independently and with friends for an extended amount of time. When we're doing our reading stations my kids will often ask if they can just do "read to self" or "buddy read" the whole time instead of going to other stations. I always let them as long as they are really reading and not just playing with buddies (we al know that happens though!). One of Pam's suggestions for promoting a love of reading in boys is to provide more actual reading time and worry less about having reading activities for them to complete and that goes right along with the Daily 5, woohoo I'm already on track. 

Last year my wonderful school bought these bags for all the first grade classes and we use them to store familiar rereads (from guided reading), decodable texts, and student selected books (after we've practiced how to choose a just right book).
Store More® Medium Clearview Book Pouches - Primary Colors
I've been so focused on math lately but I wanted to share this in case anyone is in need of a resource to reach those boys that may be reluctant to read. Pam also gives a very extensive list of books by genre that boys have expressed interest in (and lots of story summaries and possible topics for conversations after reading). I also noticed that Kimberly over at Funky First Grade Fun also posted about this great book,  check it out! Summer's always a good time(yard sale season) to search for new books for your classroom that will spark an interest and lead to a love of reading.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thank You Followers!!

I could not believe it this morning when I went to play on the internet participate in online professional development (that is what we're doing you know!) and I saw that I had hit 300 followers. Wow! I'm so appreciative of everyone who reads anything I write=) I'm certainly not a fantastic writer, but I love sharing what I'm doing. Even more than that, I love to see what everyone else is doing in their classroom!

As a thank you I've uploaded some "math mats" that I plan to use during guided math groups next year. I always start guided reading lessons with a quick warm up using an alphabet chart or blends chart. It's just something to get the kids focused and it becomes a routine that we always chant the chart to warm up. So this is the same thing but with math. If you have any ideas of how to make these charts better or suggestions for more charts to make just let me know. Thanks for reading!!

(click the picture to find the free download in my TPT store)

I'm linking this post up with Fran Kramer's (amazing) blog, Kindergarten Crayons. She's posted absolutely fantastic ideas and tons of freebies to go with Chapter 4 of Math Work Stations. The topic is number sense and I thought these math mats would fit right in.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Math Work Stations Book Study (Chapter 3)

I can't get my mind off math now that I'm reading this book, I even dreamed about setting up stations last night! It's way too early in the summer to start having school dreams!! Mrs. Parker is facilitating discussions on Chapter 3 of Debbie Diller's Math Work Stations - all about setting up stations and getting started.

I've used Daily 5 for literacy stations for the past two or three years so I plan on using that format to introduce, model, model, model, create anchor charts, allow for practice, then reflect with the kids on what went well and what we need to work on. I also want to have some kids demonstrate the "wrong" way to work in stations. Here's an achor chart format I made (click to download). This is pretty much what I use for my literacy stations too (minus the stamina graph). Just list (or have the kids give suggestions) for what students are expected to do and what the teacher is expected to do.

I've also been thinking about how to map out my math time. I get 60 minutes for math but I think I'll be able to steal another 15 minutes. So I'm planning 30 minutes for whole group that would include calendar, routines, and a lesson. The next 45 minutes would be math stations and small groups. I'd love to pull 3 small groups for 15 minutes each (ideally I can have only three groups, this may mean as many as 7 kids in a group though) and have my kids go to my group plus two 15 minute stations. Here's the rotation I made. I wrote that every child would go to a "Fact Practice" station each day. We have really been trying to focus on building fact fluency so this would be an addition or subtraction station based on their needs.

And finally, I think I've shared my blank lesson plan page for math workshop before but I made a few small changes.

Click Mrs. Parker's button to read her post and link up with your ideas. I love all the sharing going on!
 Learning With Mrs. Parker