Thursday, December 1, 2016

Having a Sweet Time with Gingerbread!

It's the most wonderful time of the year.....especially here in Firstieland! We ❤️ the holiday season and all the fun things we get to do during this time.  One of my favorite themes for December is Gingerbread.  I mean, what Firstie doesn't love candy, cookies and sweets??? Now that's how you grab their attention!! So as soon as I got back from our Thanksgiving vacation, I broke out the Gingerbread books and we had a blast.


There are so many versions of The Gingerbread Man, it's hard to pick! Unfortunately there just isn't enough time to read all of them so I chose my favorites.  I like to read one each day to the kids and then we compare them on our chart.


I always begin with the traditional tale of The Gingerbread Man and then follow with The Gingerbread Girl and The Gingerbread Baby. I usually like to do some activities with gingerbread houses too but had a hard time finding a Christmas tale about these yummy treats.....until this year!! I took to google and did a search and found the cutest book about a little mouse in search of shelter who finds a perfect little gingerbread house to call home.  SCORE! Gotta love amazon prime for their  two day shipping....! You can pick up "Gingerbread Mouse" here

We've been learning all about story elements and how they help us in our comprehension. We compared each book:


We wrote letters to the Gingerbread Man / Gingerbread Girl and tried to talk them out of running away! We also made our own gingerbread kids.  Aren't the adorable?? The only pattern that my firsties had was the actual gingerbread.  Then they went to town creating their own gingerbread people.....I love them.  I try to let them "do their own thing" as often as possible.  No patterns needed when they come up with such awesome creations on their own!

                 


After reading Gingerbread Mouse, I made a large gingerbread house and we listed adjectives that would describe our house......yes, we are still working on those adjectives!! How else am I going to get all that fabulous creative writing out of my firsties???


A few years ago when I was teaching kindergarten we made this version.....it was one of our shared writing activities.  The kids made the entire thing with no patterns and we labeled it together.  


We also made this gingerbread boy:




Next it was time to make their own gingerbread house with some tasty descriptions! Again, no patterns for these houses and I think they look delish!





                

And of course, we couldn't do a mini unit on gingerbread without making some REAL  candy houses!! We used milk cartons as our base and frosting as our "glue".  We covered them with graham crackers and candies.  What a fun way to end the week!!


The firsties LOVED playing these math games.  I like to add real objects to my games as often as possible.....I picked up these cute erasers at the dollar tree, the candy canes and cookie cutters at our local craft store....and I had the buttons in my teacher stash!  You can pick up these games in my TPT store here.




Well..... you can see we had a pretty sweet week. I hope you'll come on by next week to see what's happening cause I hear we have a special visitor coming for  a visit! Here's a sneak peek:


Thanks for stopping by and come back soon! There's always something fun happening in.... 

Firstieland 🍭









Sunday, November 20, 2016

Let's Talk Writing Rubrics!

So it's that time of the year when the firsties are finally getting a handle on writing.  I've introduced a couple of different types of writing to them....specifically, writing a friendly letter and informational writing.  And they are doing pretty well.....but then, I have to grade it.  😱 Oh man.....now you know that takes some time! Settle in with a cup of tea and be prepared to sit there for a while.  And how do you grade writing???? It's so subjective. So I used to get out my trusty rubrics - you know the ones with the boxes that say stuff like:  You have a strong focus or theme that shows you understand the prompt. Your focus is strong throughout your entire narrative. Yea.....and there's like 20 of those boxes on the rubric and you have to keep looking back and forth from the students writing to the rubric and comparing to see if they met all the little areas in each box.  Hmmmm, is this worth 4 points or 3 points.  Let me see did they have a strong focus or a clear focus??????? Gahhhhh! I hated those rubrics!  

So one day I decided I was going to create my own SIMPLE, KID FRIENDLY and TEACHER FRIENDLY rubric.  I wanted one for every kind of writing sample and I wanted it to align to the common core: Opinion Writing, Personal Narrative, Informational Writing, Friendly Letter and just an All Purpose Rubric for every day writing.  And I wanted it built right into the writing sample.....no more looking back and forth, comparing, searching for the right rubric, copying it and stapling it to the writing sample! I needed to simplify my grading life!! Hey listen, I don't have time to sit here forever grading papers.  I have to watch The Real Housewives make dinner. You know what I mean?? 

So this is what I came up with.....so simple and yet really effective.  I have been using these rubrics for years and the grade is always right on target every time.  I have finally made it into a product that I can share with you! I hope you will check it out....it will seriously change your grading life! You can grab you set here
                                                   


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fall Centers - It's All About DIFFERENTIATION!

Sorry that it's been a while since my last post....things got a little crazy 'round here! My November stations are up and running and I wanted to take a minute to share them with you.  The fab firsties always get so excited when I put out something new! That's one of the reasons I love stations soooo much.....the kids are engaged and learning and HAVING FUN at the same time!! The perfect trifecta! So here's what's cookin':

Math Center - Squirrelly Subtraction

This month in Math we are working on subtraction.  I found the cutest "jeweled acorns" at my local craft store and I knew I could do something with them in my class! My firsties love this little hands on subtraction game.  They can play this alone or with a friend.....read the subtraction story problem about little Sammy Squirrel stealing the nuts and work the problem on their Squirrelly Subtraction Work Mat. There are three levels of questions and worksheets for struggling, on level and advanced students.





Spelling Center "Leaves" Me Happy

Remember making leave rubbings when you were a kid? Well, break out those leaves out and let your firsties try it at the spelling station! Here, my students are making leaf rubbings and then writing their spelling words with black marker on each leaf.  As always, it is differentiated into three levels with my struggling students working on 4 words, on level kiddos have 6 words and advanced students working on 8 words.  Such an easy center to set up and they love it!



Big Book Center

I love felt stories......I remember being a little firstie and my teacher had cool felt story pieces and I just loved making up stories and playing with them! This month I added a few poems and felt pieces to my Big Book Center.  I would love to give credit to the person who made these flannel board pieces, but I bought them years ago (I think maybe on etsy????) and I have no idea.  I have the story "Jamies Pumpkin" and all the flannel pieces to go with it and some other simple poems for the kiddos to read and retell. 


Writing Center

This month the firsties are working on lists of fall words and fall stories at the writing center.  There is a large word wall and also a mini word wall that the kids use as reference.  Add a few feathered pens, some colored pencils and the kids love visiting this center.



Word Word Center

This month we are planting pumpkins in alphabetical order in the pumpkin patch! I made these cute little pumpkin patch work mats and three levels of pumpkins.  My struggling firsties are working on alphabetizing letters.....while my higher level kiddos are using words and looking at the beginning letter to put them in alphabetical order.  I put velcro squares on the back of the pumpkins and the mats and my fab firsties can stick them in place.  When they finish, they can rewrite their words/letters on the worksheet that goes along with their level. 



Library / Listening Center

I have baskets of fall themed books at both my library and listening center this month.  Kids can choose these themed books or something from the leveled book boxes to read and then complete a differentiated story elements worksheet to tell about their book.  


Art Center

We're making tissue paper fall trees at our Art Center this month, but with a differentiated twist!  After they make their tree, the firsties will write about their tree. My struggling kiddos will trace a sentence, on level kids will add color words to their sentence and my advanced students will write their own sentence.  



So that's what's happening at centers this month......things are "falling" right into place!!! If you would like to use these centers in your classroom they are available in a bundle on my TPT store here.

I also have a special Fall Math Centers bundle with two additional centers included here:


Thanks so much for stopping by and I would love to hear what you are doing for your centers this month!  Do you do themed centers or do you have anything fun you would like to share?  Please comment below and let us all in on your secrets!! Hope you have a great week and stop by again....there's always something fun happening in.....

Firstieland🍭











Saturday, October 29, 2016

Happy Halloween!!

Hey friends.......just wanted to send out a quick hello and wish everyone out there in Firstieland a Happy Halloween! We had our parties yesterday and had a great time.  All the Firsties came in their cute little costumes and we paraded around the school for all to see! We played some fun games, had some treats and sent them all home....it was an early release day.  Nice! Here are some photos of our team. We always pick a theme...this year it was the:

Four Seasons


Here are a few photos of years past in case you need some inspiration!

Wizard of Oz

Candy Land Characters
(of course this is my favorite here in Firstieland......🍭)


Here's hoping you all have a sweet Halloween!! Till next time......there's always something fun happening in.....

Firstieland 🍭



Saturday, October 8, 2016

What Is Balanced Literacy? Part One - Reading

Balanced Literacy.......this is my bible, my baby, what I TRULY BELIEVE IN.....when it comes to teaching kiddos how to read.  If you do nothing else in your classroom.....use balanced literacy.  Seriously.  So what is it? Balanced literacy is simply that.....a balanced approach to teaching children how to read and write.  Children are highly engaged in the reading and writing process.  The teacher facilitates their learning using different approaches that include whole group, small group and individual instruction.


So what are the components of a good great FANTASTIC balanced literacy program? Here's the list: Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, Independent Reading, Shared Writing, Interactive Writing, Independent Writing.  Today's blog will focus on the Reading Part of Balanced Literacy:

Read Alouds
Why should teachers read aloud to children? First of all, because they love it! What better way to teach children to love reading than to read good quality literature to them? They get engaged in the story, they laugh, they look forward to that quiet time when they just sit and listen to a good book.  But during this time we also teach children that there is a purpose for reading...we can read for enjoyment and we can read to learn new things.  We show them different strategies to help them comprehend a story.  We teach them how to use clues in the story to figure out unknown words and new vocabulary.  And.....we teach them how to listen.

I think the key in reading aloud is choosing quality books that have great story elements - a great plot, engaging characters, rich vocabulary, interesting settings.  When you choose books like this, you can draw the children in and then WHAMMO!! teaching them reading strategies becomes easy.  After reading a story aloud, this is when I introduce concepts like plot, characters and setting.  We compare stories using venn diagrams and T charts, we list the characters and the setting.  Basically we talk about the elements of the story and why they are important to our comprehension.



Shared Reading
Ok....I LOVE shared reading. People.....this is where you really get a lot of bang for your buck! This is the step where you truly teach kids how to read! Shared reading is when the teacher and student read together from an enlarged text.  This can be a book, a chart, a poem....anything really, but at this level - and this is IMPORTANT - it must have pictures that match the text.  Using pictures clues is one of the first reading strategies to help children learn to read. Please don't listen when people tell you that pictures teach children to guess....no, no, no.  Pictures teach children to use strategies like looking at the beginning sound of a word and matching it to the picture to figure out unknown words. Without pictures the only strategy a child learns is decoding.  Decoding is fine for CVC words, but we want them to develop a sight word vocabulary.  Sight words are memorized and pictures can help them in that memorization process.  Pictures also help the child with comprehension.  We need to teach them to look at the pictures and really think about what is happening in a story.  Sometimes subtle things are happening in the pictures that may not be mentioned in the text....this is where we teach them to REALLY LOOK at the pictures and understand the story.  



When we read together in Shared Reading  all of the children can see the text and the process of reading at the same time. Children get the opportunity to read aloud and demonstrate comprehension by answering questions about the story. Children see the front of the book, back of the book, how to turn the pages, read from left to right and find sight words that they know on the pages. They are taught the difference between print and illustrations in Shared Reading. They learn how to read fluently and how to make their voices expressive. This activity also helps give children the confidence to try reading books on their own.

There are many big books on the market that you can purchase and if you have unlimited funds (NOT!) then buy away! But if you are like many of us, our funds are non existent limited and we need to come up with other creative ways to make enlarged print stories.  I usually write my stories based on our theme and sight words for the week.  So, for instance, if you are learning about the farm and your sight words are "that" and "is" you could write a simple story like: That is a cow. That is a pig. That is a horse. etc....Each page would have very big print - large enough for the child to see it sitting in a group with you at the carpet and it would also include some kind of illustration.  Sometimes I draw my own or often times I will use a coloring page or a stock photo that I find online.    I make my own "big books", laminate them and bind them and VOILA!!! instant shared reading materials!  Cost = $0......LOVE IT!!! ❤️
Remember when you are creating your materials,  they need to be at the correct reading level to really help your students advance in their learning.  A Kindergarten teacher is going to be working with Level A at the beginning of the year.....a First Grade Teacher will be working at around a level C-D at the beginning of the year.  I think that Shared Reading is valuable at both grade levels, but your materials that you are using need to be geared toward the correct level.  Making a level D big book will look different than a level A.  

Guided Reading
In guided reading, students meet with the teacher in a small group.  They are given the opportunity to read and learn with books at their own level. They are guided by the teacher and read orally or silently. They are given the opportunity to answer comprehension questions and use strategies to figure out unknown words. Guided reading helps give children the confidence to choose books appropriate for them and to read on their own.  

Independent Reading
This is where the children "show what they know"....children should always have some sort of book box or bag filled with books at their level.  During independent reading children practice reading and using strategies that they have learned in Read Aloud, Shared Reading and Guided Reading.  At the beginning of the year, in first grade, I fill a book box for each of my students.  I use the recommended level that their Kindergarten teacher sends to me, to choose books for each child.  I usually start with about 6 books for one of my firsties in their book box.  After I do a beginning of the year benchmark, I may need to tweak those books.  Some children will fall back in the summer - that dreaded summer slide -  while others will push ahead - YEA!!!  

I like to begin independent reading on the first day of school - SAY WHAT????? Yep, first day.  Ok....I get it....they can't all read yet.  That's ok....we are going to build our stamina.  That's where we learn to sit quietly and do nothing but - READ.  So we begin with 1-2 minutes of quiet reading on the first day.  I read a story aloud to them first....usually something by David Shannon like "No David" or "David Goes to School" because they love those books.  When I'm finished I ask them if they would like to be able to read about David all by themselves and wouldn't it be cool if they could pick up this book and read it??? And of course they all yell YES!! AH HA!! Reel em in......now I have them hooked.  So this is where I introduce "Read to Self" and tell them that we are going to build up our stamina so that we can eventually read this cool book to ourselves too.  I show them their book boxes and off they go to read quietly for 2 minutes.  We come back together and talk about how it went and did we read the whole time, etc. We do this every day until we eventually build up our time to about 20 minutes of silent reading (YES, THEY CAN DO IT!).  


So that wraps up the portion of Balanced Literacy that is Reading......this is the first of a year long series that I plan to do on Balanced Literacy.  I'll be posting different monthly ideas and pictures to help you along on your journey so please check back. Next week I will be posting about the Writing Portion of Balanced Literacy.....it will include lots of cool ideas to get you started on doing some cool interactive writing with your kids.  Here's a sneak peak......hope to see you next week and please feel free to hit me up with any questions or comments!! 


🍭Firstieland



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Monday, October 3, 2016

How To Have a Quick And Easy Morning Calendar Routine

What is your morning calendar routine? Can I just say how much I LOVE ours?  It really starts our day off right and I look forward to it as much as the students do!



After my firsties do their morning chores, we meet at the carpet for our Calendar Time.  I can honestly say that I have done calendar with my kiddos every day for my entire career and I would never give it up.  I really feel like I get a lot of "bang for my buck" out of this little 15 minutes of time.

I used to have my calendar on my bulletin board and it looked like this:


Although it was a great routine, it took up a lot of space in my room and when I moved classrooms a few years ago I no longer had this much space to devote to my calendar.  What was I going to do?  I LOVED my calendar time and I didn't want to give it up! But the only bulletin board I had available was about 3ft X 3ft.  That wasn't going to cut it.

HOWEVER......in my new classroom I had an interactive board......woah!! We have entered the 21st Century!!! So I decided I needed to do my morning math routine in a more updated way......so I created my Calendar Math Editable Powerpoint.  


So, how does the calendar work?  The first slide is the actual calendar.  It's completely interactive so the students can move things around, which they LOVE ❤️. Your students can move the date into place and move the days to show Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  Choose a child to use an expo marker to actually write the date - both the long version and the digital date. This gives them good practice in writing the date, which is actually one of our writing standards.  We also sing our "Good Morning Song", which is such a positive happy way to start our day.  There's a link to the you tube video and it's embedded right into our calendar.  How cool is that????

The next slide is counting how many days we have been in school.  Your kiddos can make the days with tens and ones and also make it in tallies.



On the third slide your students can practice telling time and making graphs. The teacher chooses a question, for the "Graph of the Day" and the students drag their answer into the graph.




The fourth slide is about the "Shape of the Week".  Teachers can choose one "shape" to study for the week.  I usually begin with the 2 dimensional shapes like triangle, circle square, etc.  We learn how many vertices and faces the shape has, as well as if it is an open or closed shape.  These are all part of our Math standards.  Eventually, you can move on to the three dimensional shapes like cube, cylinder, cone and sphere.



The last slide has addition, subtraction and number bonds.




Wow.....that's a ton of stuff!!! You're probably wondering how you can all that in 15 minutes. I don't suggest doing every page, every day.  We always do the first two pages - calendar and counting how many days in school.  The rest of the pages we do occasionally.

If you'd like your students to follow along, there are even backline maters of the calendar that you can make into a book for your kids to work in!



In the beginning of the year , you can start off with just a page or two.... add more as the year goes on.  We never do all 5 pages in one day...that would take too much time and I try to limit our calendar time to 15 minutes a day.


My firsties and I really do love our new calendar routine.....it's streamlined, 21st century and doesn't take up any valuable bulletin board space.  If you'd like to take a closer look, I made a little video of the calendar which you can watch here. 


So, are you ready to go digital with your morning calendar?  Your students will love it and so will  you! If you're ready to make the change you can grab your own Calendar Math Editable Powerpoint here.  

Calendar Math - Owl Theme            




                                                     


What do you do for your morning calendar math routine?  Please share your ideas....I'd love to hear them!!  Have a great week and be sure to stop back soon....because there's always something fun happening in.....