Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weekend Work and a Plus 10 Freebie

My last couple of posts have been about finding balance between work and home.  This weekend so far has been pretty successful day in that respect!  Friday evening my daughter and I went to a trunk show for a friend's online boutique.  Although I'm a little too old (and large!) for most of her things, I got a big chunk of my Christmas shopping done for my girls.  Saturday morning I was at Walmart before 9 o'clock.  (What a great time to go- it was so peaceful!) After a quick trip to Target with my daughter, I pulled out some of my Christmas boxes so I could get started decorating.
Then I worked on some school stuff.  I laminated (I LOVE my Scotch laminator!!!!) and cut out these fabulous gingerbread activities from Made for 1st Grade.
In math this month we are working on composing and decomposing numbers to 100 and doing a lot of work with hundreds charts. This is a great book  for hundreds chart activities:
  Our fact fluency emphasis is adding/subtracting 10 so I made these little game boards to practice the +10 facts.  I modeled them after some Plus One games I found on Oceans of First Grade Fun.
Download games from Google Docs
Now it's time for holiday decorating!  First up, arrange the Santas on the mantel.  Next to the Christmas tree, these are my favorite holiday decorations!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I'm back after taking a break from blogging for a awhile.  I started blogging in the summer because I was spending so much time reading other teachers' blogs and working on school projects that I thought "Why not?"  And I really enjoyed it- I love sharing with others and writing has always helped me clarify my thoughts so blogging was really helping me become a better teacher.  But...I was becoming obsessed!  Right before Halloween I looked around my house and realized that I still had spring/summer type decorations up, there were trails of laminating film everywhere, and I hadn't touched a sewing machine, crochet hook or needle in months.  Stacks of professional books were everywhere.  It was time to step back and focus on home and family for awhile.  So my teaching/planning time has just involved making sure I am meeting the needs of my students- we really didn't need another "craftivity" involving turkeys!  Sure, I kept up with my favorite blogs and I made a few new teaching tools, but for the most part I just "taught."  And guess what?  The kids are fine and they are still learning!

In the meantime, I tried to spend some time doing the other things I enjoy.  I actually created some of the projects I've pinned on Pinterest, cleaned my craft room and made a dent in the rest of the house cleaning.  Now that I've had a little "me" time, I feel refreshed and ready to try out some new teaching ideas.  In fact, I've spent part of the morning cutting out some holiday centers for December.  But my new goal is to have balance- I'm trying to not let any one thing whether it is school, Pinterest, whatever take over my life.  Now I am off to Walmart to buy laminating sheets! (And for balance, maybe the ingredients for the latest recipe I pinned!)

Not quite finished, but I love it so far!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Life Outside of School...And a 50th day Freebie!

Although this has been a wonderful school year so far- great kids, supportive parents and an awesome team-  it has also been exhausting!  Trying to get used to my district's word study program, new grading requirements and helping my team beef up our math instruction has worn me out.  So I am taking a personal day on Monday in honor of my birthday today!  I decided I would do as little school work as possible this weekend and do some crafting.  But first I had to organize my sewing/craft/office room!  Here is the box of school stuff I collected just to get it out of the way for a few days!

Then I went to Hobby Lobby and bought more stuff.

Going to Hobby Lobby reminded me of unfinished/unstarted projects at home so I dug a few of those out:

Then I had to pack up the Watermelon picnic quilt that never got finished this summer:

Now I might be ready to actually MAKE something!  My problem is craft and hobby ADD.  I get all excited about a new craft or project, buy all the stuff, get started and then get caught up in real life and don't finish.  Then I see something new that I have to try or make, buy that stuff... you get the picture!  Hobbies/crafts I have supplies and equipment for:  sewing, quilting and machine embroidery (3 sewing/embroidery machines and a serger currently live in my craft room!), smocking, cross-stitch, crochet and loom knitting (and way too much yarn!), needle felting, needle punch embroidery, bow making, dolls and making doll clothes, scrapbooking and  paper crafting (led to purchase of a Cricut and a Cuttlebug for embossing), and a lot of general crafting type supplies.
I'm like this with teaching, too!  Right now my current obsession is teaching math.  In the last few months I've bought at least 5 math professional books, a hundreds pocket chart, tons of stuff on TPT and  lots of "junk" to use as manipulatives.  Not to mention the hours I've spent on blogs reading about math and downloading great activities!  But I have to say it has really paid off- my little first graders are becoming incredible mathematicians!
These are Exemplar examples- both students are ESOL !

I'm off now to get a new project started.  Here's a little freebie I made for our 50th day of school on Tuesday.  Enjoy!
Click here to download

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Fun!

Yes, I know it isn't Friday anymore, but I'm linking up with Fun Friday anyways!
The First Grade Parade, Pinterest, Subtraction games

I saw this linky on  Fourth Grade Flipper, and I couldn't resist!  If you would like to join in, head over to Teaching Fourth and link up.
I am very excited this morning- Donna at the Math Coach's Corner mentioned one of my posts in her Bagels and Blogs post this morning!  Head over to The Math Coach's Corner and check out her amazing blog!
Have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, October 19, 2012

October Fun

I love October!  Even though we really don't have a "real" fall here in southeast Texas, I still get excited when the calendar turns to October.  I grew up in Pennsylvania so at least I have my memories of autumn leaves and crisp, cool days and nights!  But Halloween is still Halloween, and it is one of my favorite times of year!  For the next few weeks we'll use pumpkins, bats, spiders and all kinds of spooky things to help motivate our little ones to learn and have fun at the same time.
Last year I made these math games to add to my stations.

Click here to download the games.

My class last year loved learning about bats. Cara Carroll at The First Grade Parade has some of the best bat ideas.  I can't wait to do this Venn Diagram and bat fact activity.

Gail Gibbons has some great non-fiction books for this time of year.

Happy fall, y'all!  There's a bag of candy corn around here with my name on it so I am off to indulge!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I think I have become obsessed with problem solving!  My class this year seems to really enjoy being challenged, and they do a fantastic job so it just makes it fun to teach!
I was searching for some strategy charts to display, and although I found some great ones, nothing seemed just right.  So I created some!  I chose the strategies that our curriculum teaches to start with, but I may add others later.
Here they are if you would like to use them.  I made 2 versions because I am very indecisive this morning!
Download here.  Note:  Google docs does not show the chevron background but it's there when printed.

Download here.
Clip art is mostly from Scrappin Doodles and Thistle Girl Designs.
Hope you can use these!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Problem Solving

My district provides Exemplars for math problem solving, and my school has made using them a priority this year. I am the first grade representative on our campus math committee, so I will be partially responsible for guiding my team through the implementation of Exemplars.  Fortunately, I was already familiar with the program from my time in another district, but I have never used them with a whole class before.  So I decided this week to try out some Exemplar-type work with my class so I could share with my team before we actually do our first real Exemplar problem for our portfolios.

On Wednesday, our daily journal prompt was:
I have 8 apples.  Some are green and some are red.  How many of each can I have?

Many children just wrote the equation 4+4=8 and then drew a picture.  There wasn't a lot of evidence of their thinking although I was pleased that several of the students were able to verbalize that since 8 was an even number they knew they could make 2 equal groups!  So on Thursday I decided to change things up just a little and incorporate some of the routines that our math committee has established for Exemplars.  I wanted to emphasize that:
1.  Mathematicians show their work in different ways.
2.  You need to circle your answer.
3.  Use math vocabulary to explain your thinking and then highlight those words (an Exemplar strategy).

We started by discussing Wednesday's problem, and then I started a chart of ways mathematicians show their work.  I saw a similar chart on Donna's blog, The Math Coach's Corner.  (I learn so much every time I visit her blog!) Here is the chart we created- minus "table" as we added it later.

Then I posed this problem:

After we read the problem together,  I had the students tell me what they were trying to find.  I made sure that the word combinations was mentioned.  We discussed possible strategies, and then I let them go to work, reminding them to circle their answer and tell how they found the answer.  I gave each student a sheet of manila paper to work on.  Some students immediately started to write equations.  Others started to draw baskets.  Interestingly, a couple of students started to draw 8 boxes on their paper.  When I asked why, they weren't sure.  I think it is because we use this paper often for what I call 8-square activities; for example, I will write 8 short a words and the students will copy one in each box and draw a picture.  I noticed also that some students were spending most of their time drawing and coloring baskets so I stopped the class and did a quick reteach on math drawings and reminded them that these were quick sketches, not art class drawings!

When I noticed that most students seemed to finished or close to finishing we stopped and discussed some of the strategies they used and shared how many combinations they found.  About half the class found that there were 6 combinations.  We then used our highlighters to show any math words we used in our explanations.  Most students had one math word such as "I wrote number sentences" or "I used counters."  I then explained that mathematicians like to make sure of their answers by showing their work in a different ways and use more math language to explain what they have done.

The next day I used this same problem to introduce a new way to show work.  I used one student's work to show how she had the same combination twice, and I talked about how many students kept asking me if they were finished because they didn't know if they had found all of the ways.  I told them that sometimes we need a way to organize our data.  Using seven 2 color counters, I showed them how I would start with one red and then count how many were yellow.  I wrote this information on the Smart board in table form.  Then we made 2 red, counted the yellow and wrote it on the table.  Then I just wrote a 3 in the red column and asked  "How many yellow?"  We completed the table together, checking with our counters, and I explained that a table was one way to organize your thinking when working with combinations.  Then we added it to our chart.

This week we will do a similar problem: "There are 8 animals in the barn.  Some are cows and some are horses.  How many different combinations of animals could be in the barn."  I can't wait to see how they approach the problem now!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reflections on Resolutions

In July I linked up with Amanda at Teaching Maddeness to share my new school year resolutions.  To help keep me on track, I'm going to share my progress each month.

Goal 1: Organization
I'm proud to say that my teaching table is usable most of the time!  I bought some storage carts and put a shelf behind it to hold all my small group supplies.  On Friday, I was actually able to pull a spur-of-the-moment math group and have all the supplies I needed right there!
However, now my desk has become my "hot spot."  I have the organizational tools I need- file pocket chart, supply organizer, paper organizer, etc. but I just haven't gotten into the habit of using them!  Instead, everything ends up piled on top of the desk.  I spent 30 minutes on Friday looking for a  form that needed to be turned in. :(
Filing is still a problem area, too!  I did set up storage carts for monthly activities so my teaching stuff is better organized, but I still have piles of student work and forms to file.  I need to get that straightened out this week before conferences start.

Goal 2:  Guided Math
Math stations are up and running and I have been able to pull a few groups.  I still need to establish a regular schedule for groups, but I feel good about what we are doing in math so far.

Goal 3:  Guided Reading
I've really only been pulling groups for about a week.  I needed to get at least some of the Daily 5 activities introduced and complete a benchmark assessment on each student.  Most of my reading manipulatives and games are now stored behind my teaching table for easy access during groups.  I use a binder to store lesson plans, anecdotal records and running records for my groups.  The binder also includes information that might be helpful during groups such as questioning guides, strategy charts, book level expectations, etc.  I made "thinking clouds" to help me remember to ask higher level questions.  We can pull a cloud and discuss the story using the prompt.

Goal 4: Technology
I do my calendar on my Smart Board.  The activities are very interactive, and I have included lots of songs which the kids love.  A lot of the songs I use are from Jack Hartmann's Math in Motion CD.  I love how many math skills we can practice during this time!
The kids have started to use Kid Pix to write and illustrate sentences.
We still need to learn how to login using their personal logins/passwords.  Right now we are using a generic student login which makes saving work more complicated.  My goal is to have them start using their own logins this week so they can save directly to a folder on the shared drive.  I have created a class blog on Kidblogs for the class to share their work.  All that is left is to get a few more students' work uploaded and then send the link to the parents.  I am very excited about using the blog as a digital portfolio of our work this year!  I have found Kathy Cassidy's website very helpful for blogging inspiration and tools.

Overall, I feel pretty good about my progress toward my goals.  If I could just get the organization thing down...a few more hours in a day would be helpful!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apples, Addition, and Connections

This week we celebrated Johnny Appleseed Day, learned more about addition and used our schema to make connections in reading.

Addition:  One of the activities we did was from Oceans of First Grade Fun- Corn and Tomato Soup.  I saw this last year on Yolanda's blog and had to try it!  The kids really had fun making their "soup."  I created a little Smartboard activity to demonstrate making the soup.

Click here for the notebook file for the Smartboard.

In reading this week we did Tanny McGregor's reading salad lesson and made this anchor chart.  I hesitate to post any of my anchor charts after some of the fabulous ones I have seen on other blogs!  But I am NOT and artist, and usually just do the chart with the kids, so this is what I get!  Even the kids laughed at my head this time!

I can't believe I forgot to take pictures of our apple graph.  First we made a real graph using our apples and sorting by color.  Then we collected the data using tally marks and then they colored their graphs and answered some questions about the data.  I have a couple more apple activities planned so I will try to get some pictures!

Unrelated note:  I just recently got my first smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S3) and I don't know how I lived without it!  It makes adding pictures to my blog so much easier, I can send texts by talking, and I just discovered yesterday I can scan documents with it and send them to myself or others.  All this and Angry Birds, too!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Math Journals

(Edited on October 21.  Added link for journal label)


Fall Math Journal Prompts - Vol. 1I am just loving math journals this year!  About 3 times a week I give the students a prompt to glue in their journal.  We discuss it and then the children respond to the prompt or solve the problem in their journals using words and pictures.  My favorite prompts are from  Anna Brantley's (Crazy for First Grade) TPT shop.

Here are some examples from my class this year:

Each week I cut the journal strips that we are going to use and store them in this coupon/bill organizer one of my wonderful teammates discovered in the Dollar Spot at Target!  (We also picked up the smaller size that  is perfect for word cards.)
When our guided math groups really get going, I'm going to have the kids bring their journals with them to group so they can add vocabulary or illustrate concepts we've discussed, as well as solve problems during our group time.
The kids love journals; they actually cheered yesterday when I said take out your math journals!
Do you use math journals? How do they work in your class?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bad Blogger Award

I have given myself a blog recognition- The Bad Blogger Award!  Blogging was so fun and easy this summer while I was preparing to go back to school.  Now that school has actually started, I am so tired I can hardly put 2 coherent sentences together.
But now that the initial back to school craziness is over- we had our Parent Curriculum Night this week and have been in school 3 weeks now- I think I'm ready to get back to blogging about all the things we have been doing.

 I have a very sweet class this year. A little too chatty sometimes, but lots of fun!  I introduced them to Pete the Cat this week, and I wish I could show you pictures of them rocking out to the songs!  We didn't get to many activities based on Pete except some journal writing.  I see pictures of all the cute "craftivities" some bloggers complete with their students each week and I just don't know how they find the time.  Our days are so full!  Here's a rundown of a typical day:

(All times are approximate; we're never completely on schedule!)
8:10-8:30  Students arrive, unpack, write homework in planner, complete morning work.  Announcements are at 8:20.
8:30-8:45  Calendar.  I do mine on the Smartboard and I've added a lot of number talk)
8:45-9:00  Morning Message, shared reading or read aloud
9:00-9:30  Word Study- Our district created a new word study plan this year utilizing a lot of Pat Cunningham's ideas.  We use Making Words and other activities from her book Phonics They Use to study different word families each week.  Right now we are doing short a families.  We try to teach handwriting during this time as well.
9:30-10:30  Daily Five- We are still introducing the components.  So far we have done Read to Self and Work on Writing.  (In my class, Work on Writing is actually Write About Reading.)  Our mini lessons have been on topics such as how to choose a just-right book,  the five W's of reading, 3 ways to read a book, making connections and lots of procedural lessons.  The first 2 weeks of school we did do several "craftivities" based on books and several name activities.  I have to confess we have also done some cut and paste type worksheets for the sole purpose of giving me time to assess reading levels using the Fountas and Pinnell leveling kit.  This is new for us this year; we have used Rigby in the past.  I like F&P so much better, but I think it takes a little longer. We are supposed to be ready for guided reading in another week.
10:30-11:15  Writer's Workshop- We use Lucy Calkins Units of Study so we have been been completing the launching lessons.  I have some incredible writers this year!
11:15  Lunchtime!
Whew, this post is way too long and I'm only up to lunch.  I'd love to see other first grade schedules.  How do you find time for everything?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Night Before School Starts

'Twas the night before school starts 
And the teacher can't sleep
Hoping there are no first day disasters
And children who weep!

My dad used to tell us about how my grandmother gave them "sleeping pills,", aka Good and Plenty candies, on Christmas Eve.  I may need to go buy a box so I can sleep tonight.  I've made a list and checked it twice two hundred times.  The playdough is ready, the activities are laid out on my table, and I've got a stack of books to read as tall as a first grader.  I met most of my new first graders at Meet and Greet, and they are absolutely adorable, even the one who bounced around my room like a ping pong ball!  I've identified the potential criers, (both first graders and parents!) and am prepared to comfort the students and gently push the mommies out the door!  My clothes, although not the size 10 I wish for,  are ironed and ready to put on, and I don't think they look too "grandmotherly."  (For the past 2 years during the first few days of school I have been told I look/smell/sound like someone's grandma!)

So why am I so nervous?  Because I know that these next few days will have a tremendous impact on the rest of the year.  Because I have been given this awesome responsibility to influence 22 little people and teach them as much as I can.  Because after 30 years, I know what lies ahead, and after 30 years, I know that there will still be a lot of surprises coming my way!

Now it's time to check my list once more, set my alarm for 4:30 and eat a box of Good & Plenty candy!
Have a wonderful school year everyone!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Classroom Progress

Slowly, but surely, my classroom is coming together!  Here's what it looks like right now:

I need to make new FACE (CAFE) headers.

Math stations and pocket chart for rotation.
I do calendar on my smart board but I  like to have one visible all day.  Need to find the missing numbers!
Still a lot of stuff to put away!
The biggest job remaining is to organize my books.  I ordered a set of new shelves that haven't arrived yet for my classroom library.  Then I need to figure out what I am going to do with all of my mentor texts.

I had hoped to have a project to share for Made it Monday, but other than cut some bulletin board letters for myself and my husband (he's a PE teacher in another district) I didn't get any crafting done.  I did make a number book for my team to use during the first few weeks of school.  I had seen several books on different blogs but the ones that covered the right skills didn't have the correct handwriting.  So I tried making my own!  I don't think it turned out too bad!  Click the caption if you would like a copy.

                                                                   My Number Book
Tomorrow's tasks:  Finish FACE board and get started on classroom library.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

TPT Love!

I love a sale, especially on Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) right before school starts.  I didn't buy a whole lot (yet), but I found some fabulous resources.
Here's a couple of things I purchased:
Morning menu
Michelle Oakes wrote about this on her blog recently and I knew it was something I had to try!  Read her post here.
Fall Math Journal Prompts
Then I purchased another volume of Anna's wonderful math journal prompts.  I started using these with my class last year and we loved them!  I make enough copies for a couple of weeks, cut them and store them in manila envelopes so all I have to do each day is pass them out.  The kids glue them in their journals (we use the black composition books) and they get to work.

Workstation Activity Cards

Back to School Number Cards

Another math purchase- I got these activity cards to go with the Back-to-School number cards I bought earlier this summer.  Donna is a math coach in my district, and I love her blog and the things she creates!  These cards will be great to use all year.  Donna has several other themed number card sets, and I like that I can differentiate by choosing the number range the kids will use.

Camping Unit

My final purchase for today- the sale is still going on!- is this camping unit from the wonderful Cara Carroll.  The First Grade Parade was one of the first blogs I ever followed, and am continually amazed and inspired every time I visit.  I thought a little camping unit this fall or maybe next spring would be fun.

Now it's time to fire up the printer and laminator and get busy making all these great activities.  One more week until I am officially back to work!

Edited on August 16 to link up with Blog Hoppin'!