Saturday, July 4, 2015

Calendar Questions

One of my goals for next school year is to help my students develop a sense of community. I would love to have a more student-centered classroom. I want to see my little learners work together collaboratively without all of the arguing, tattling and hurt feelings that often occured when we tried to work together in the past.

I have decided to start my day with a morning meeting.  I have used morning message before, and we've had informal discussions or sharing time to start the day, but I really want to have more thoughtful discussions with a more planned out agenda.  I am anxiously awaiting this book to help me learn more about establishing these routines for next year.

But the big question now is "What about calendar time?"  A calendar routine has been part of my day since I started teaching first grade in 1987!  From Math Their Way routines, Every Day Counts and my current Smart board version, I have started my day with some sort of calendar session.  During my first few years in first grade, we taught math in the morning, and calendar time led right in to our math lesson for the day.  Even when we started teaching language arts in the morning, we still started our day with calendar.

I love calendar time!  I love the songs, the math talk and the interactive parts of the routine.  But I have noticed that sometimes it runs too long and the kids get antsy.  I've tried to cut back some and added a few movement activities- love Go Noodel!- but asking students to sit through calendar AND a morning meeting would be too much.  I also wonder if I am holding on to a practice that is no longer beneficial simply because I've always done it and I think it's fun.
So here are the options I've come up with:

  • Use a calendar notebook/binder and have students complete calendar activities independently (I'm intrigued by Reagan Tunstall's Rise and Shine Binder!)
  • Move calendar to the afternoon before math
  • Do part of the routine in the morning along with the morning meeting (day and date, discussion of special days or upcoming calendar events) and save the math activities like number of the day, coin collecting and tally marks/ten frames to count the days of the year for the afternoon.
I'm leaning towards using a calendar notebook, but I would love to hear your thoughts!  Do you have a calendar routine?  What do you include in your calendar time?  If we are having regular number talks, is a calendar routine even necessary?  

Have a wonderful 4th of July!

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Summer Reading 2015

I love to read!  I still remember the thrill of finding my first chapter book in my Easter basket when I was about 6 and being mesmerized by how many pages there were.  I carried a book (or books!) everywhere I went.  An uncle once remarked that he wasn't sure what I looked like since I always had my nose in a book!
This is a replica of my first chapter book!

Nothing makes me happier than having a stack of new books waiting to be read.  Of course, more often than not these days, the stack is a digital one on my Kindle, but I always have at least one book "in the wings" waiting to be read.  I don't read as much during the school year as I would like.  When I read, the rest of the world sort of disappears, so I have to be careful or nothing else gets done!

So I really look forward to vacations and summer when I have plenty of time to read. I've started working on my summer reading collection and already have some great professional books lined up!

One of my goals for next year is to have a more student-centered, project based classroom so I've chosen some titles to get me started.
I've already read a bit of this one; so inspiring!

Look for a book study on Twitter this summer! #1stchat

My wonderful principal just ordered this one to help me get started with PBL!

First grade teachers can never have enough strategies to help students become better readers so I have pre-ordered this book by Jennifer Servallo.

And because summer is all about fun, I have some fiction waiting, too!

I'm always looking for great books to add to my list, so if you have a recommendation, please comment and let me know!
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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Friday Fun and Learning

Hi, my name is Carol, and I used to be a blogger!  Despite my good intentions, my blogging has been pretty much nonexistent this school year. But I just had to share my kids' latest work!

To accommodate field day schedules we were left without specials yesterday afternoon.  Usually this is a nightmare with students (and teachers!) who are used to having a break in the afternoon.  But my little firsties made the most of the extra time.

Their assignment was to watch a BrainpopJr. video about landforms and then create a PicCollage with pictures and descriptions of 4 landforms.  I use our district's  Canvas Learning Management System to assign these projects.  Students can access the video and instructions for completing the project from our class page.  Canvas is a wonderful tool for blended learning!  Here's a screenshot showing our landforms assignment.

Working in pairs, students viewed the video on an iPad to learn about the various landforms. 

They also had access to a Sciencesaurus, one of our science curriculum resources, for more information.  (I don't use this wonderful resource nearly enough- great information and the kids love them!)

After viewing the video, each pair chose 4 landforms and created a PicCollage to share their learning.  We used a district provided resource Britannica Image Quest to find pictures, but a Google image search would work as well.  My students have been creating PicCollages all year so they are old pros by now!
The most surprising part of this activity was how engaged they were considering it was Friday afternoon.  My class is, well, just a bit challenging this year and can get off task quite easily.  Not this time!  They worked for over an hour and a half, and except for dealing with an occasional technical glitch and one case of "the sillies," my presence was hardly necessary!  I was truly just a "guide on the side!"

After creating their PicCollages, students uploaded them into their SeeSaw Learning Journal.  I cannot recommend this app  highly enough!  It has made it so much easier for me to document all of the wonderful work my students have created using the iPads this year.  They can also create products from within the app.  New updates have added the ability to create folders so, for example, all of our landforms creations can be viewed at one time.  The developers have also been adding features to allow products from apps like PicCollage to be directly added to SeeSaw.  Before SeeSaw, students would have to email their products to me and then I would have to add them to a folder.  Now I just login to my SeeSaw account and I can see all of their wonderful creations in their digital portfolios! Parents also have access so they can see their child's work as well. If you use iPads at all you need to have this free app! 
Check out SeeSaw here!
Here are a few of our creations:

I can't wait to see their next projects!  
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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fun is Good!

I am so proud of my little firsties this week!  They have been hard at work creating wonderful projects based on the Dr. Seuss books we have been reading.  I wasn't sure how the whole menu/choice thing was going to go.  (Read about my plan here.) Although I am not a control freak in my classroom by any means, my class is a little on the "wild" side this year and I was worried what might happen if I stepped back to truly be a "guide on the side" and let my students take charge of their learning.  They have come through with flying colors! I have watched as they have helped each other learn how to use a new app, Telestory, create scripts for news reports, figure out how to make puppets and inventions from craft supplies and recycled items and create all kinds of wonderful projects to celebrate Dr. Seuss.  ( I didn't even hyperventilate when one invention accidentally got glued to the table!)  I've been there to make suggestions, help fix some technical difficulties with iPads, and use the sharp scissors to cut pipe cleaners, but, as I noticed this morning, I haven't had to step in as often to redirect behavior or give reminders to stay on task.  In fact, my assistant principal did a walk-through observation today (which just about gave me a heart attack when she walked in!)  My thoughts were along the lines of, "Oh no, the room is a mess; the kids are all over the place; it's so loud!" but one of her comments was that 100% of my students were engaged and taking ownership of their own learning.
I really want to share some of the news reports they created using Telestory, but I'm having some trouble with getting the videos to play on different devices.  In the meantime, here's one of our PicCollages.

I am SO glad I took this leap outside of my comfort zone and I can't wait to try it again!  (Hmm... what can we do with our upcoming fairy tale unit?
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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Twitter Inspired: Student Choice

Every Sunday evening there is a wonderful group of teachers who "meet" on Twitter and chat about issues pertaining to first grade.  This chat is called #1stchat and is hosted by Leka DeGroot and Valerie Ruckes.  I have learned so much from this fabulous PLN!  Check it out each Sunday at 8PM ET! (Twitter chats can be a bit overwhelming to follow at first.  I recommend using a Twitter dashboard/organizer; I use Tweetdeck on my laptop and just downloaded Plume to try on my Android phone.  I've also heard good things about HooteSuite.)

Last Sunday's chat was about student choice and was guest hosted by Karen Lirenman. (Here's a link to the transcript.)  The timing of this chat was perfect as student choice has been on my mind lately.  A group of teachers at my school are participating in a book study of Alan November's Who Owns the Learning? which has inspired me to provide choice to give my students a sense of ownership and help them learn become more engaged with their learning. I've given my students a menu of activities to choose from this week for our Dr. Seuss unit.  (Read about my plan here). My class is so excited about these activities!  I introduced the menu last week, and we discussed each activity.  They've been bringing in supplies for the creative choices all week and sharing their own Dr. Seuss books for our book basket.  I can't wait to see their projects!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oh, The Places We'll Go!

I am so excited about the next 2 weeks!  For the past several years my team and I have been doing a Dr. Seuss week at the beginning of March, complete with our own mini read-a-thon. (Read about our day 2 years ago here.)  But we've always felt rushed to complete everything before spring break, so this year we have decided to expand our unit to 2 weeks.  Two weeks with Dr. Seuss- YES!

I might be sorry in a few days, but I've decided to jump in and try something VERY different for me.  A few years ago I created a differentiated menu of activities for our Dr. Seuss unit.  Due to lack of time, I've never been able to implement it completely, but my kids have always enjoyed the activities from the menu that we have been able to complete.  Since I will have more time this year, I want to be able to give them these choices and add in some opportunities to use the technology tools we've been exploring. So here's the new menu I've created.

To introduce the menu I've created a Powerpoint presentation that I can post on our learning management system, Canvas.  (I'm loving Canvas; I should blog about it soon!) That way the kids (and parents) can easily access the menu and see examples.  Here's a link if you'd like to check it out:

Hopefully I'll be back sometime next week to update how it's going!

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Comfort Books

A friend pinned a link that led me to an blog post titled " In which I share 10 books I read over and over (and over.)"  The author refers to these as her comfort books, and although we only share one title on our lists, I can totally relate!  I have always been a re-reader. It started in childhood. I loved reading more than anything and read ALL the time, but even though I made frequent trips to the public library, I often found myself lacking new reading material so I would simply re-read something I already owned. Also, I tend to read very fast because I get so caught up in the story and can't wait to find out what happens.  If I enjoyed the story, then I want to read it again for the details. And then again because I'm just not ready to leave the world the author created!

I read some books multiple times with my class as well.  Sometimes a few students will kind of moan and tell me that we've already read that, but most children like to hear a favorite book read again.  (How many of you who are parents have books like Goodnight Moon memorized because your child asked for them over and over? "In the great green room...")

As an adult, I like to revisit the books that gave me so much pleasure as a child or teenager.  Books like the Betsy-Tacy series just make me smile and long for simpler times, and books like Little Women become even more powerful through adult eyes.

So, without further ado, here is my list of comfort books.

  1. Gone with the Wind: My love affair with GWTW started when I was about 11 or 12.  The movie had returned to the theaters, and my mom and her friend were going.  Her friend mentioned that she was taking her daughter who was about 3 years older than me. My mom said I was too young to go, but I begged and begged, so she reluctantly agreed.  I was mesmerized!  As soon as I could I found the book, and I've been hooked ever since.  I have read the book too many times to count, written papers on it in school, watched the movie like 20 times and own all kinds of GWTW memorabilia.
  2. Jane Eyre: I get so caught up in this story every time I read it!
  3. Rebecca: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..."  I don't remember exactly when I first visited Manderley but I do remember staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish  reading it that first time.  I had not read Rebecca for many years when my son was required to read it in high school.  I picked it up, and even though I was familiar with the story, still got caught up in the suspense.  I kept his copy and have enjoyed it several times since.
  4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:  Of course the movie is fabulous, but there is so much more in the book- the Hammerheads, the land made of china and even an additional witch!  For the past 2 years I have read this as our last chapter book read-aloud and my students have loved it! (Side note: as much as I love the Wizard of Oz, one of my greatest reading disappointments is that I have never been able to make it through Wicked.  I SO wanted to like this book, but I just can't get into it. maybe I should try again?)
  5. Little Women: I first read this book when I was about 10, and although I enjoyed it, I have much more appreciation for it now as an adult.  The March sisters, especially Jo, are some of my favorite literary characters!
  6. The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy: I still treasure my original boxed set of paperbacks, now yellow with age, given to me by an old boyfriend shortly after I discovered these wonderful books in high school.
  7. The Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy by Nora Roberts: I confess- I have a weakness for Nora Roberts' books!  Sometimes I just want what a reading consultant for my district called a "lollipop" book (as opposed to a juicy steak book that you can really sink your teeth into!) and Nora's books are my favorite flavor of lollipop.  This trilogy takes place in Ireland, has a little touch of the supernatural, lots of romance and a few slightly steamy love scenes.  What's not to love? 
  8. Childhood series: Childhood favorites like Betsy-Tacy, the Little House books and What Katy Did just make me happy!
  9. A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness: Even though this trilogy hasn't been around all that long, I have already read through twice completely and have read the first book 4 or 5 times. I discover something I missed or a new connection to the other books with every reading.  I love trilogies and series; reading each new book is like coming home to familiar characters or places.  This one also has the added benefit of some magic/supernatural plus a love story so it's a winner in my book!
  10. Reading with Meaning:  Since this is a teaching blog, I guess a teaching book is called for!  I revisit and refer to many of my professional books, but I try to read this one in its entirety before school starts each year for inspiration!
I'd love to hear about some of your favorite books to re-read!

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