Monday, December 28, 2015

Main Topic and Key Details

Main topic and key details of informational text can be difficult concepts for students to grasp. Based on what I was noticing when teaching this concept to my students, I decided to create a product to help my students with identifying the main topic and key details of text in an engaging way. 

I created a pack of informational passages where students read the passage, then cut and paste the main topic and key details. These passages are high interest and engaging. My students have loved these activities and it is a great way for me to check their understanding. Some of the main topics are stated in the passage and some are inferred by reading the passage. Such fun and engaging practice! Check out the pack here!

Grab the digital Google Drive version here!

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Missing Punctuation Mystery!

I am so proud of my students and the progress they have made. Their writing has really improved, they are using narrative structure, and I am noticing such an improvement with their use of details! I have noticed though, that they are forgetting some conventions now that they are writing more elaborate pieces. I created a fun resource to help them remember their punctuation when writing many sentences. It is called Missing Punctuation Mystery!

This resource contains both narrative and informational passages, and even friendly letters. The challenge for the students is that the punctuation is missing! The students act as the detectives reading the passages and discovering where the punctuation should be. They cut and paste the periods, commas, question marks, and exclamation points where they need to be. Then the students re-write the passage including the missing punctuation. This resource also allows students to practice fine motor skills, which are essential skills to learn in the primary grades.

This is a challenging and rigorous review of conventions, but it is so much fun as well! It is a perfect activity for literacy centers. I like to have parent helpers work with a group of students on this activity a few times until they get the hang of it… then they are off on their own practicing their punctuation detective skills!

If you are interested in this resource, get it here!

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fall Pumpkins: Watercolor Art!

Every fall I like to do art projects with my students to celebrate the changing season. I normally create pastel scarecrows with my first graders, but this year I decided to try something new and exciting! We created watercolor pumpkins and the kids had so much fun!

First we read all about pumpkins and learned about the lifecycle of a pumpkin. Then it came time for the art portion of our pumpkin study. I taught my students how to draw a pumpkin on watercolor paper. I showed them a horizontal version and a vertical version. I explained how their pumpkin needed to fill the paper. Some of the students drew leaves and vines.

Then, I created black glue by mixing black tempera with glue. The easiest way I found to do this is to take bottles of glue that were half full and pour the tempera inside the bottle. I gave the bottles a little stir and they were good to go.

After the glue was prepared, I had parent helpers assist with going over the student's pencil lines with the glue. Older students could do this part on their own, but I found that the little ones needed a good deal of help squeezing the bottles and staying on their pencil lines. The glue dried overnight and we were ready to paint the next day.

I instructed the students how to use the watercolors and had them paint the pumpkin first using shades of yellow, orange, and red. When the pumpkins dried we went back to add the background, stem, and leaves.
My students love getting creative and art is a wonderful way to incorporate fine motor skills and knowledge of art basics such as color, line, and form.

I know my students will love to look at their pumpkin watercolor paintings hanging on our front bulletin board through the fall season. Check back soon for Thanksgiving projects and resources!

Happy Teaching!

For more fall activities check out The October Draw and Write Pack here!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Collaborative Conversations

With the implementation of the Common Core Standards, student discourse has become an essential part of everyday instruction. While I always created opportunities for my students to talk in the classroom, I have decided to really focus even more on effective collaborative conversations this year.

We have just completed our fifth week of school and my students have already shown growth with their listening and speaking skills. We started our collaborative conversations on day one and learned the routines we use for partner talk on the carpet.

I first taught the students how to turn to their partner. I explained they need to turn quickly, and quietly. They learned how to sit knee to knee and we talked about the importance of "Look, Lean, and Listen" when speaking with a partner.

I then introduced "Peanut Butter and Jelly" roles. I have a large peanut butter sign on one wall and a large jelly sign on the other wall. When the students turn to their partner, the poster reminds them if they are the peanut butter or jelly partner. I teach this by saying "If you see the jelly sign when you turn to your partner, then you are the jelly partner. If you see the peanut butter sign, then you are the peanut butter partner."

Once the students know what body language to use and their partner role, I talk about communicating with complete sentences. The kindergarten teachers did a fabulous job implementing this and it was evident that these students have practiced speaking in complete sentences.

I created posters for my classroom to help remind my students about the things they need to do while taking part in collaborative conversations. Check them out here!

I also use partnerships during guided reading and when students are seated at their desks. To help my students understand their partner role, I have created color coded peanut butter and jelly labels. These have been excellent not only for partner talk, but the colors allow for randomization when calling on students. Check them out here!

As our year progresses, I will continue to write about our collaborative conversation experiences!

Happy teaching!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Classroom Reveal!

My kiddos come on Monday!!! I can't believe the new school year is here! I have spent lots of time in my classroom and I wanted to share some pictures of what I have been working on. If you have questions about the room feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the post.

My school was built in the times of open plans and wood paneling. So, there is no door to the hallway (we have curtains) and it seems a little dark. I used primary colors to decorate my room because it lightens up the room and keeps it fun. I also used ladybug accents. I LOVE my rug :). I bought it three years ago and it has been perfect for my little firsties. I made ladybug spots for additional seating out of felt. 

 The yellow bulletin board is my word wall. I place the kindergarten sight words on the wall with the students the first week and add the first grade words weekly. The brown paneling under my projector screen really bothers me, but I will soon be covering it up with student art. :)
 My literacy centers chart helps me organize my groups and makes the whole process of changing centers easier. Once I have grouped my students I will put their names in the pockets and we will begin centers (after lots of practice of course)! Below the literacy centers chart I have book boxes for my students' independent reading books and phonics strips. They will use these during independent reading and library center. They will get to shop for new books once a week during library center. I currently do not have a start student poster up because I normally start it a few weeks after school begins, but it will be on the orange bulletin board.

 I have two classroom libraries. I have a genre and author section and a leveled book section. Each book has a sticker on the back to help the students put them back in the correct place. The stickers match the labels on the front of the baskets. I love this system and got it here! Students can sit in a cow chair, or bean bag and snuggle up with their favorite books. We will be practicing building reading stamina a lot during the beginning of the year and I have stamina posters that will be placed on the green bulletin board and have much more work to do on this board. The blue board will contain collaborative conversation anchor charts. I will share more about that very soon!!
 This year I needed a new way to organize my guided reading materials. I created these labels that match my student groups. I will be placing the appropriate book levels in each group's bin and supplies such as reading rocks, magic e sticks, etc. in the supply drawer. Another new addition is the color coded chart on my easel. I will use this for centers groups points. This will help me manage the students during each center. I will have some reward for the winning group after centers for the day. It might be a celebration bracelet to wear home, or a clip up. I am still working that part out :). You can grab the supply and tally chart labels here!
 The lunch board arrangement has been so helpful the past few years. Each day the students come in and move their magnet to the appropriate place. This way a quick glance can tell me who is absent and how many hot lunches need to be ordered for the day. Such a time saver! I also have my rules posted (based on whole brain teaching). You can grab them here! I also have the cutest ladybug schedule cards that my partner teacher made. Another new addition is the voice level charts. These came from Reagan Tunstall and you can get them here.
 I have changed my calendar wall this year and I have interactive calendar sheets that match the skills on my wall. Grab them for free here! The students will be using a white board marker and completing the calendar with me (and the calendar helper). This is going to help the engagement problems that sometimes happen during calendar. In each of the crates on the bottom of the math wall I have white board supplies for each carpet row. The students get so good at passing supplies quickly and quietly throughout the year! The space at the top of the wall is reserved for math anchor charts. I will be adding posters based on the standards for mathematical practice (Common Core). Strategy posters and other skills will also be added throughout the year.
 I have 24 students so I have arranged my desks in 4 groups of 6. I do most of the teaching at the carpet and independent practice is completed at the student desks. I have labels on each student's desk to help with grouping. I have paired the students into peanut butter and jelly partners as well as color coded them. So I can have peanut butter partners talk, or table groups talk and call a color from each table to share out. This system helps with collaborative conversations and partner talk. You can grab the grouping labels here! I also use peanut butter and jelly partners on the carpet. I have a large image of peanut butter on one wall and a large image of jelly on the other. When the students turn and talk, they look at the wall and it reminds them if they are the peanut butter partner, or the jelly partner.

On the student desks I have an All About Me packet ready for the students to start when they come in on Monday. They love this packet because it allows them to color and share important information about themselves. I learn a lot about them personally and academically through this packet! You can grab the All About Me activity here!
 The back of the room kind of drives me crazy! I have my teacher materials stored in the back and I do what I can to organize and hide them! :) I have my guided reading area in the back, as well as student mailboxes and storage. I tried to make the ugly cabinets look a little more cute by putting my colorful clip chart, birthday chart, and jobs clip chart up. I LOVE Erica Bohrer's job cards! I decided to attach them to ribbon and use mini clips with student names. The students on the left have the job for the week, while the students on the right are "on deck" and learning how to do the job for the following week. After two weeks (when both students have had the chance to do the job) the clips are moved to the next job card.
 The writing center and listening center were both revamped completely this year! I LOVE my new writer's goal clip chart! It will be so engaging for my students to change their clips at writing center. It will be such a great reminder to them for what they will need to focus on. Read about them here or get them here. I love my writing posters! I have a freebie available for the "If you think you're done…" poster. Grab it here! I use the small round table for supplies and I have a larger table the students use to spread out and write. I will be using monthly writing journals at writing center and writer's workshop.
This is another angle of the library with my welcome banner. I think I am ready!! I am soooo excited to meet my new little ones! I have my classroom procedure task cardsbehavior punch cards, and first day of school celebration bracelets all ready to go! 

I hope you enjoyed my classroom reveal! I can't wait to check out other great classrooms! 
Happy Teaching!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Writing Goals Clip Chart, TpT Sale, and a Freebie!

School starts for me in 9 days! Eeeeek! No matter how much time I spend at school I never quite feel ready and I always find more to do. I will be sure to share some pictures once the room is compete and ready for my kiddos.

Today I wanted to share a cute Writing Goals Clip Chart I made for writing centers. Check the picture out below. It is a goals chart that students will use as they work at the writing center. They will choose a focus based on how their writing is progressing. I will be talking to the students during writing conferences to ensure they are selecting appropriate goals and they may change their goals as they achieve success with writing skills. I created the goals with first grade skills in mind, but I can personalize the wording to work for your classroom and students. Click here to get the writing goals chart.

I am also so excited to announce the TpT Back to School Sale!!! On August 3rd and 4th all items in my store will be 28% off with the promo code BTS15. Be sure to check out my store and other stores to grab some super deals! My TpT cart is already full of items that I can't wait to swoop up during the sale… only one more day!!

To celebrate the start of another fabulous year, I am offering a great back to school FREEBIE! I have created interactive calendar forms that my students use to increase engagement during our calendar time. Grab them here! Enjoy!!
Stay tuned for my classroom reveal coming soon! Happy Teaching!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Class Rules Posters

I have been doing quite a bit of research on Whole Brain Teaching lately, and I am planning on implementing some of it into my classroom this year. I am big on student engagement, and this is a method that is full of engaging teaching techniques. I bought the book Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids: (and the rest of your class, too) by Chris Biffle. It hasn't arrived yet, but I am really looking forward to reading it. I was actually using some of the methods in my classroom for the past few years and didn't even know it. I have been using call and response method including the "Class, Yes" method and other fun and engaging sayings with my students. I will be sure to write a post about this method when the book arrives and I get a chance to dive in.

I have watched some youtube videos of teachers using this method and some of them were inspiring. To be perfectly honest some videos hurt my ears! When I use call and response I teach the students what an appropriate voice level would be. I think this method is just as effective when the students aren't shouting at the top of their lungs! I will be sure to share what Chris Biffle says about this in the book. One video that I particularly enjoyed was a video by a teacher named Andrea Schindler. Check it out here:

I decided to create rules posters inspired by this video and I plan to post them in my classroom and review them with the class the same way the video shows. I decided to change some of the wording from the rules, in particular the "Listen when the teacher is talking" rule. I feel that students need to listen to all classroom speakers so I modified this rule to "Listen when the speaker is talking." I LOVE the use of hand gestures that the Whole Brain Teaching utilizes and I implement gestures as much as I possibly can. You can get the posters here!

I was always taught that rules should be created together with the class and that is always the way that I have always started my year. I found that I had to modify the rule suggestions the class came up with so much (turning the suggestions into positive statements that covered many possible classroom problems)  that I wondered if the students really were taking ownership of the rules the way it was intended. With the new rules, having gestures, choral response, and student leaders, I am hoping this will provide my class with ownership  and "buy-in" over these teacher created rules. I will be sure to write about the difference in the two methods as I see my students react to this method. Also, stay tuned to see what other Whole Brain Teaching methods I implement in my classroom.

How do you set up the rules in your classroom?

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Celebration Bracelets for Classroom Management

There are a vast array of classroom management systems out there for teachers to use in their classrooms. I have found it is necessary to adjust the system based on the needs of the particular group of students from year to year. I use a clip chart and the students move up/down the chart throughout the day based on the choices they make. If a student makes it to "Outstanding", they earn a punch on their punch cards. If they earn 5 punches on their card they earn a prize from the prize box. This system has worked very well for me over the past few years. But… I see a need for a little adjustment.

Now as I am sure most teachers know, it seems to be the same students that are rewarded for their wonderful behavior and listening skills. I of course would like to still celebrate these students, but I also need to provide the more challenging students with opportunities to celebrate each improvement along the way to keep them motivated to improve their direction following skills and citizenship skills.

This year I will be adding to the system with the implementation of celebration bracelets. I know of a few students in the coming class that will need a more immediate reward to help them to make good choices and waiting for 5 punches not their punch card may seem like an unattainable goal at first. This year the students may earn a celebration bracelet for a number of reasons during the day. I plan on rewarding 3 students (and any moving to outstanding) for behaviors I have noticed throughout the day. Check out the bracelets the students may earn.

These bracelets not only make the students feel proud, but it is an invitation for the student to have a conversation with their family about the strides and improvements being made in the classroom. It allows the child to communicate with the parents as to the goings on in the classroom in addition to communication by the teacher alone.

I will be keeping a list of which students earn which bracelets, this can help me gauge how the student is doing with an area of needed improvement. This will also help to ensure all students are earning bracelets. I will provide the students with the bracelets during our afternoon class meeting and we will cheer and celebrate the bracelet earners for the day. I will provide the students with a few minutes to color their bracelet and attach with tape so they can share their good news with their parents when the students are picked up. Another idea is to copy the bracelets on different colored paper for ease of distribution during the end of the day.

There will be some instances where the whole class may earn a bracelet. The "Ask me what I learned today!" bracelet is perfect for a new interesting topic that the class is studying. I also will have a bracelet for each student on the first day of school.

You can get the bracelets here! I can also personalize two additional bracelets for you if you need different wording.

I am very excited to use this system in my class this year!

What classroom management systems do you use in your class?

Happy Teaching!

Friday, July 10, 2015

First Day of School Activities!

I am kind of in denial that school starts for me Aug 10th! Where did the summer go?!? Because this date is fast approaching I have been thinking about the first day of school and the activities I will have planned. I would love to share a few activities I will use with my new little first graders on our first day.

When the students come in I like to have an activity they can work on fairly independently as I greet parents and students and settle everyone in. I like to have an All About Me Book on each child's desk to start at the beginning of our day. This packet has fun pages that help me to get to know the interests of my students. Some of the pages include questions like, What is your favorite color? What is your favorite book? What is your favorite food? What are you excited about this year? Who is your best friend? What is your favorite thing to do in school? There are many pages in this packet and the students really enjoy working on this activity periodically during our first day. This is also a great activity to use to give your students a break from learning procedures and rules on the rug. You can get this pack here!

Another activity I will use on the first day is a page out of the Back to School Draw and Write Packet. This is an engaging activity where students will have to practice their listening skills, direction following, drawing, and writing skills. It will also teach them how to draw objects that students commonly use in their writing at the beginning of first grade. Included are 10 school related objects such as a pencil, backpack, boy, girl, apple, book, tree, and more! These will also be great for introducing writing center and our writing procedures. I will use this as a beginning sample of the skills the students have come into my class with after their summer break.
I also am in the middle of writing some procedures PowerPoint slide shows. I know these little ones will be tired and I need to keep the engagement high so I minimize the "Is it time to go home yet?" questions. The slide shows will be interactive with pictures and videos to show the students how to follow the rules and procedures. I will post a sample soon! I have high hopes for this project! :) It is amazing how automatically the classroom runs at the end of the year and it is so worth all of the repeating of expectations, and tiresome routine practice at the beginning of the year! 

One of my favorite parts of the first day is the classroom and school tour. The students are so excited to get their hands on the vast array of books in our classroom library, as well as use the materials in the desks they will get to sit in for the first time in their school lives. I love giving them a glimpse of the wonderful things they will accomplish and the resources they will get to use in the classroom. They also do not know the school very well, quite yet. They are used to the kindergarten classroom area and playground. The lunchroom, bathrooms, hallways and office are very new to most of the students and to ease anxiety we take a tour of these important locations.

Once the students have learned the rules and procedures I like to use the Back to School Procedure Task Cards to review important school information. I give the groups in my class points if they can work together to answer questions about the procedures we have learned so far. Check the task cards out here!

This year the students will be using monthly journals for their writing. I have created cute covers and paper with a variety of lines to meet my students' needs. On the first day (or maybe second) the students will prepare the journal by coloring the cover. We will not begin writing in them until the second day. Get the set of adorable monthly journals here!

I can't wait to share more soon! 

Happy Teaching!


Early Finishers

If your classes have been anything like mine, then you have students that finish work in a wide range of time. One challenge is deciding what to have early finishers do. Busy work is not an option! Anything that my students do in the classroom needs to reflect the rigor and learning that we must fit in our day… not a minute wasted. So… here is the anchor chart that hangs in my classroom to ensure the students have a sense of urgency, are on task, and know what to do when they are finished with an assignment.
The first thing students must do is check their work to make sure it is neat and complete. This prevents the rushing to complete an assignment and then the inevitable re-do when a question is missed or something was done incorrectly.

The students then need to check their work folder to make sure they have completed all assignments that may need finishing from centers, math, or other times of the day.

Then the students have a few options of what they may do. They may read from the selection of books found in their book boxes. Some of these books are leveled, some are high interest picture books, classroom library books, and school library books. Each child also has a phonics strips ring in their book boxes so they can practice decoding words with the phonics skills we have worked on throughout the year.

If the student feels inspired to write, they may finish or start a piece of writing in their writing journals.

The students may also shop for books in our class library if they have kept their books a few days and have read through them. This of course is a popular option, so only 3 students are allowed to shop at a time. If a student can see the library is full, they must read or write until there is an open spot.

This chart has really helped my class become successful and independent when they have completed an assignment. It takes patience and practice at the beginning of the year, but is sooooo worth it when you no longer hear "I'm DONE!" or "What do I do now?"

What works for early finishers in your classroom?

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

TpT Seller Challenge Week 3 and a Flash Freebie!

This week for the challenge, we made our Masterpieces! Mine took longer than a week due to the amount of drawing I needed to do on my computer for each page. I am so happy with how it came out and I am so excited to revel the new product! Here is my Back to School Draw and Write Set!
This set came to be when I was thinking of the skills my students will need at the beginning of the year. My students will need to learn how to follow directions, use fine motor skills, build their writing stamina, and learn how to draw items efficiently to allow them to focus not the task of writing sentences. I have decided to create a draw and write set with 10 items that are commonly used in my students' writing at the beginning of the year. This will help them build very important skills to start the year. The pack is 35 pages and each back to school item has 2 versions of step by step drawing directions, plus a writing space. This will be great for my writing center time and to help build writing stamina during writer's workshop. 

Grab the new product here! To celebrate the revealing of my new Draw and Write Pack, I am offering a flash freebie of my Kids Clip Art Set that contains images of the kids from the draw and write set. Get the FLASH FREEBIE here! I would love feedback for the freebie if you have the time! I can't wait to check out the other masterpieces created by other teachers!

Happy teaching!