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 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 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 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 will seriously change your grading life! You can grab you set here

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Giving Thanks in Firstieland

It's just about time to celebrate one of my favorite holidays....Thanksgiving. I love the turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and of course the pie! My mom makes the best apple pie and a few years ago we had "pie school" in my kitchen. I got together with my brother, niece and my oldest son to learn how to make pie with my mom. So now the tradition of baking Thanksgiving pie has been handed down to me. So in a few short days it will be that time.....but until then, I'm still in the classroom with the firsties! 

 We spent last week learning about this wonderful holiday. We made the cutest book about Thanksgiving:

 Each day I read a book to them and we learned all about the holiday of Thanksgiving. It was a five day mini unit.

 On Monday we read the book "The Pilgrims First Thanksgiving" by Ann McGovern. We started our T Chart comparing Thanksgiving Long Ago / Today and we watched a little video on Scholastic. (Insert Shout out to Scholastic here!!!) Seriously, the Scholastic News Magazine is the best. Run to your principals office right now and beg them to get you a subscription to this little gem. This month they had two magazines about the Thanksgiving holiday - one about the Pilgrims and the other about the Wampanoag Native Americans. Plus several videos and games online. Great stuff!

We made the first page of our book with a cute pilgrim boy: 

 On Tuesday, we watched a video about the Mayflower on the Scholastic website called The First Thanksgiving.  Have you visited this site??? It's a treasure trove of information on Thanksgiving and perfect for the firsties!! It has virtual tours of Plymouth Plantation, the Mayflower replica and a Wampanoag Village.   It's a great little site....just right for the Firsties and they learned so much about the Pilgrims voyage on the Mayflower. You can visit the site here. We made the second page of our book using a popsicle stick for the mast of our ship: 

 On Wednesday, we read "Sarah Morton's Way" and we went on the Scholastic website and learned all about the Pilgrims housing and way of life. We made the third page of our book using popsicle sticks for the house and yellow construction paper for the thatched roof! 

 Thursday was all about the Wampanoag Native Americans. We read a cute book called "The Pilgrims are Marching" and watched a video about the Wampanoag tribe. I found some symbols online and the students used them to decorate their teepees. How do you like the fourth page of our book? 

 Finally, we finished up with the book "Friendship's First Thanksgiving"....we drew our feast with the Pilgrims and Native Americans.

I assessed my fab firsties with a couple of worksheets that I got from a great packet that I bought on TPT by Sarah Paul called "Thankful for Literacy".  You can pick it up here


I think their books turned out adorable and will make a nice little gift for someone at home 😉.  We have a couple of days next week before we begin our Thanksgiving break.  What does everyone else have planned for the holiday in your classroom? Please feel free to share your ideas!  I hope you all have a great - well deserved - break!  Enjoy your holiday with family and friends and many blessings to your and yours. 🦃 Be sure to stop back after your break to see what's up.....'cause there's always something fun happening in.....

Firstieland 🍭

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Chattering About Chipmunks

Here's a peek at what we've been working on this week in Firstieland.....I really love this time of the year to delve into my sciences standards.  Two of our basic science standards are "Living things have basic needs which are met by obtaining materials from the physical environment" and "Living things survive only in environments that meet their needs".  I like to teach this standard at different times of the year, but I think fall really lends itself to woodland creatures, habitats, how they prepare for winter and hibernation.
This week we did a little mini unit on these animals and focused on those pesky little critters, chipmunks! 🐿

I always like to begin with a read aloud and this time I read "Chipmunk at Hollow Tree Lane".  Have you seen this book?  It's part of a great series called "Smithsonian Backyard" which focuses on lots of different woodland animals.  It's fiction, but written in a way that really gives a lot of great information on the animal, it's habitat, it's habits, etc.  The illustrations are beautiful,  very well written and keeps the firsties engaged in the story.  You can pick it up here

I'm also lucky enough to have a subscription to Scholastic News magazine....which if you don't have this great resource, you should really hit up your principal for a subscription!! It's great for Science and Social Studies standards, has a super online component with games and videos that go along with each magazine and all of the past issues are available to you as well!  We used this resource to view several magazines about woodland animals and how they prepare for winter.  

Next we were ready to begin our web about chipmunks.  We always do a shared writing before we begin any independent writing.  It's really important at this age to give lots of guidance and modeling if you really want to pull that great writing out of your firsties. We made a class web with some of the things we learned about chipmunks and then the students helped me compose my report about chipmunks.  We made sure to use our "opening" and "closing" to make it a good report.  

After this, the firsties were ready to begin their own reports.  They used our classroom web as a guide to create their own web.  They chose four things to include in their web and then they wrote their reports using their web.  I never leave my report on the board for the children to copy from.  They must always create their own.  They are encouraged to use our word wall or mini word wall dictionaries to help spell words correctly and they are also encouraged to used "kid writing" and spell things as they sound.  


I think my fab firsties did a GREAT job on their reports, don't you?? We finished the week by making a picture of the chipmunks habitat and a couple of cute crafts to go along with our reports.  


So that's the chatter this week in our do you teach this science standard in your room?  Please feel free to post your ideas so we can learn from you as well!! Thanks for stopping by and come on back next week, cause there's always something fun happening in ......


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 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.....