Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tried It Tuesday: Animoto


I'm linking up with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried-It Tuesday!  My "tried it" for this week isn't really new, but it is a tool I haven't used yet this year.  At the end of the first year I was back in the regular classroom, I was in a major panic trying to create a slide show for our EOY celebration. I had never used Photostory or any other program like it.  Of course,  I was so stressed that nothing worked for me so I ended up using Power Point.  Not bad, but very time consuming.  (The worst part was burning 22 copies so the parents could have a DVD of the show.)  I swore I would never go through that again!
Last year I discovered Animoto when doing another project with my class and decided to use that instead for my EOY presentation.  Animoto allows you to use photos, images, text, sound and video clips to create a video that can be shared via email, embedded into a blog or website or downloaded to your computer.  Instead of burning all those DVDs I just gave my parents a link to the video.
Basic Animoto only allows you to make 30 second videos, but with a free Educator account you can make videos up to 10 minutes long.  The only snag I encountered is that I had 3 songs I wanted to use, but Animoto only allows one.  (There is an paid upgrade that allows you to do more.)  I solved this dilemma by splicing my 3 songs together on one track using Audacity.  I loved the fact that once my photos and music were uploaded, Animoto did the rest!
I used Animoto again this weekend to create my show for Friday's Celebration of Learning.  I kept the same music as last year, so all I had to do was choose which photos to use.  An hour or so of work on Saturday and the presentation is complete except for adding some end of the year close-ups of each student.  (I like to display these along with the first day photos. My little firsties have grown so much this year!)
Here is the presentation my class  created last year to highlight a project we did.  Wish I would have done this project again this year, but our money unit was during the student teacher disaster and so coin research never happened. :(

Check out Animoto for an easy way to make a slideshow!

Another "Tried It" for me this week-I started my first linky!  I would love for you to share how you teach writing in your classroom.  Do you have tips, strategies, or resources that work for you?  What professional reading do you recommend?  Head to this POST and link up and share!

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Monday, May 27, 2013


Ladybug's Teacher Files

I can't believe I am even THINKING about joining an organization linky- I have a lot of strengths but organization isn't one of them.  But I do try!  Here are some things I have done this year that have made my life a little easier.

Last summer it seemed like these teacher toolkits were everywhere on blogs and Pinterest!  I am so glad I jumped on the bandwagon.   I love knowing where all my supplies are!  Now I just need to remember to restock it from time to time. 

I have shared how I organize my math supplies in previous posts, but I love how this system works for me.  I like my students to have access to many different manipulatives.  The labeled boxes make it easy for the kids to find what they need and know where to return everything.  Another math idea I used this year is a math toolkit for each student.  Each students keeps a ziplock bag in his/her desk with counters, a number line, a double ten frame, and a hundreds chart.  I loved not having to pass out these things when starting a lesson, and they had many tools for problem solving right in their desks.

These little coupon holders from the Dollar Spot at Target are perfect for organizing word cards and journal prompts!  Click here if you'd like to read more about how I use journal prompts.

Evernote may prove to be the most useful organizational tool I have ever used!  I'm still just exploring the possibilities, but I'm already in love!  I am the new team leader for our first grade team and will need to attend a lot of meetings and share information with my team.  Hopefully by using Evernote to take notes and organize them, I will be able to keep my team informed and complete whatever tasks administration asks of me.  Read about my love of Evernote here!
Evernote has been very useful during writing conferences these last few weeks. Right now I'm searching for other useful tools and tips as I really want to step up my writing instruction next year.  Please check out my very first linky- Writing Tips- and share some of your tips and strategies for effective writing instruction.
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Writing Tips Linky

I love teaching reading!  It's one of the things that drew me to first grade many years ago.  Watching a child's eyes light up when the words on the page finally have meaning or listening to a student discuss a book he or she enjoyed is priceless.  I spent many years working with students with reading difficulties in order to help them discover the joy of reading.  Then, the last few years I have become passionate about teaching math.  My interest was rekindled when I was found myself teaching math again after focusing on only literacy for almost 10 years.  Now I would be extremely happy if we could just read and problem solve all day!

But teaching writing is another matter.  I KNOW how the writer's workshop should look.  I UNDERSTAND about mini lessons and conferences.  I BELIEVE that young students are writers and have important messages to share.  I just can't seem to make it happen effectively in my classroom!

So this summer I would like to explore resources that might help me become a better writing teacher.  I will be attending a district sponsored writing academy in July, and we use Lucy Calkins' Units of Study, but I feel like I need more.  So I have created my very first "linky party." Please link up and share your best writing tips and strategies.  Are there professional books you would recommend?  Do you have a great writing resource on TPT or Teacher's Notebook or have you discovered a great product?  If you do the Daily Five, what do your kids do during Work on Writing?  What technology tools do you use?  If you don't have a blog to link, please share your ideas in the comments section!

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Summer Bucket List Linky

I'm really dreaming of summer this Memorial Day weekend.  It was a very LONG week at school.
My husband and I always start off each summer with a list of chores- paint the living room, organize the pantry, clean out all the closets- all the things that we are either too busy or too tired to take on during the year.  We are both teachers so we are lucky to have the whole summer off together. (We'll never be rich, but that's OK!)  The problem is that he can't relax and enjoy his summer until he has crossed things off his list and being the procrastinator that I am, I want to jump in and start having fun right away!
So here's my summer bucket list, minus all the chores, to link up with Teri at A Cupcake for the Teacher!

1.  Camping in Colorado
We have visited Colorado 3 times over the years, but we have never actually been able to stay and explore. Once we drove to Colorado Springs for a wedding, but had to return right after because my husband was coaching that summer.  Both times we took our daughter to CSU in Fort Collins, we had to keep our visits short.  Last summer the fires kept us from visiting at all.  But we will be going this summer- hopefully during the last few weeks of June.  We will camp near Fort Collins and then visit the Rocky Mountain National Park.  We are thinking about driving to Santa Fe on our way home.

2.  Visiting family in Pennsylvania
A trip to Pennsylvania is almost always part of our summer routine.  I've lived in Texas for over 30 years, but Pennsylvania is still "home."  Last summer we drove through the Smoky Mountains on our way; this year I'm hoping to drive up to Niagara Falls and Canada as part of our trip.

3. Summer learning
I think summer is a great time to investigate new teaching ideas and tools.  I have a couple of books on my summer reading list so far including Building Mathematical Comprehension by Laney Sammons.  Our district is presenting a Writing Academy and I am hoping to learn some ways to make my writer's workshop more fun and productive. I have a whole list of technology tools to check out- tools to enhance instruction and tools that can help me become a more efficient and organized teacher.   We are receiving an Ipad to use in our classrooms next year, so even though I won't actually have it yet, I want to learn as much as I can about using a single Ipad in the classroom.

4.  Project completion
I WILL complete at least one of my quilting/cross-stitching/sewing/crocheting/crafting projects this summer.  Maybe even the cross-stitch Christmas angel started over 10 years ago!

There are a lot more activities on my list, but these are my top 4.  What's on your summer bucket list?
Cute clipart from Yvonne Dixon!

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Only 8 more days?

I really hate the end of the school year!  Yes, like probably every teacher, I am looking forward to my summer break.  The thought of leisurely mornings drinking my coffee poolside and time to sew and the anticipation of trips to see family and friends is very appealing, but it's what I have to get through in the next 8 days that makes me crazy!
At a time when I would really like to be just enjoying my class and having fun with them for a few more days, I am instead doing Fountas and Pinnell reading assessments (due today!), grouping cards (due today!), putting together our Celebration of Learning (next Friday) packets, binding our weekend writing into a book for Celebration of Learning and still trying to take a few grades so I can submit for final report cards by next Wednesday.  My poor kids have done more "busy work" this past week than they have all year! This is also the time when I start having regrets about things I haven't done- why didn't I ever do that cute camping unit?- and worry about what I have done- do my kids REALLY understand all of the fact fluency strategies I've taught?  Oh, and I forgot the last minute request to make a picture frame for the volunteer luncheon that I had to redo because we wrote our names going the wrong way! To make this crazy week even more special, the air conditioning at our school malfunctioned and we  spent several days sweltering in our sauna-like classrooms.  Of course this happened the week the weather decided it was time for typical Texas temperatures instead of the pleasant spring days we had been experiencing!
Another reason why I dislike the end of the year is packing up my classroom.  Some years it's relatively easy; just shove things in cupboards and stack boxes and shelves on the countertop.  I always say I'm going to organize as I pack, but it never really happens.  But our classrooms are being repainted this summer so everything has to be taken off the walls and nothing can be stored on the countertop.  Add in the fact that I am a packrat and not the most organized person and you get a totally stressed-out teacher.  ( I have a stress test scheduled for June 10.  I'm pretty sure I'll pass!)
I need to find a summer home for EVERYTHING on the counter!
Part of my problem is that deadlines make me nervous, and there is no bigger deadline like the last day of school!  But I know as soon as I cross some of the paperwork and chores off my list, I will have a wonderful last few days of school with my sweet little class!

Looking ahead:  I just signed up to host a chapter for an online book study of Building Mathematical Comprehension by Laney Sammons.  Head over to Amazon to get your copy, and then check out Brenda and Beth's blogs for more info.

Thinking of Teaching

Enjoy your last days with your class (or those first days of summer for all of you who are already finished!)
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Guest Blogging and a Freebie!

I am so excited to be the guest blogger on Crofts' Classroom today!  Thanks to Tina for inviting me.  Head over here and learn more about me, and then check out Tina's awesome blog!
Here's a freebie in honor of my first guest post- some summer themed addition practice games.  One is designed to use with 0-9 dice and the other 2 just use regular 6-sided dice.

Click here  to download the games.  The camping clip art is from Scrappin' Doodles and the Summer Lovin' paper and graphics are from Ashley Hughes. 
Thanks for visiting my blog!
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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dreaming of Summer

Only 17 days to go!  There is still so much to do, but it is getting harder and harder to stay focused on school.  I can totally understand why my firsties are having such a hard time.  We have turned into a whole class of Chatty Cathys!
My son would hate this picture...he thinks dolls are creepy!

When I said it was hard to stay focused on school, I should have specified "this" school year.  Along with summer trips and hanging out by the pool, I'm already starting to look ahead to next year, and the first thing I'm thinking about is my summer professional reading list.  I recently purchased  2 books so my first "assignment" is to finish them.
The first book is Building Mathematical Comprehension  by Laney Sammons.  Discovering her book Guided Math got me started on my road to math love, so I can't wait to really dig in to this book.  Approaching math instruction by comparing it to literacy instruction is perfect for me since I spent so many years immersed in just literacy!
The  second book is an e-book by Kathy Cassidy, Connected From the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades.  I first heard of Kathy last summer when I was trying to figure out how to use some of the wonderful technology tools I was learning about with my first grade students.  Her work with her young students convinced me it could be done!  I love this book so far, especially since I am reading it on my Kindle Fire and can click on the links within the text to see examples and videos of students' work.  Utilizing technology effectively is my number one goal for next year.  Our wonderful PTA is providing each teacher with an Ipad mini  so I will be exploring all the ways I can use it to enhance my students' learning.  This book seems to be full of wonderful ideas for learning!
Click here to read more.

What are some books you will be reading this summer?  Do you have any recommendations?  Please share!

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Currently May

I always plan to link up with Farley each month for her Currently linky but I've missed it most months.  Finally got on track for this last full month of school!

Listening: I wanted some music to play for my Reading Restaurant (read about it here) on Friday and thought John Denver would be perfect.  I loved John Denver and had many of his albums when I was in high school but for some reason I never purchased any on CDs or MP3s.  A friend at school came to my rescue and burned me a CD of some of his best songs.  I have been listening to it all weekend!
Loving: I am absolutely loving the weather so far this spring- even the unexpected cold front that brought record May lows to the Houston area.  Usually by this time the Texas heat and humidity have started to move in.  I am not a fan of Texas in the summer time!
Thinking: There is still so much I want to do with my class this year, not to mention all of the end-of-year paperwork and preparations.  I'm trying not to get stressed yet!
Wanting: I want an Ipad (or 2 or 3 or..) so bad!  I love trying new technology, but I know there is a lot more I could do with my class with Ipads or even Itouches!
Needing: My house is a mess!  It needed cleaning before my little hospital stay, and since then I just haven't had the energy.  I hope to be able to make it a little more presentable today.
Summer Bucket List: My husband and I plan to drive to Colorado this summer.  We have been there a couple times when we took our daughter to visit Colorado State and again when we took her to school her freshman year, but we've never had time to really enjoy the Rockies.  We had planned to go last year, but there were so many fires at the time we wanted to go that we decided to head East and visit the Great Smoky Mountains instead.  Our daughter is staying in Fort Collins for the summer again, so this year we are visiting for sure!  Then we need to spend some time painting our downstairs and just freshening things up a little.  Once I get my sewing room reorganized, I am going to finish up a couple of quilts I've started so I don't feel guilty about buying more fabric and starting something new!  I always have good intentions of getting a lot done over the summer, but it's just too tempting to be lazy!

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our Mother Earth Cafe

The first graders at my school hosted our annual Reading Restaurant for their parents yesterday.  What a blast!  Each class chose a theme and created a "restaurant" around the theme.  In the weeks leading up to the event, we read books and completed writing activities that went along with our restaurant theme.  My class was "McNab's Mother Earth Cafe" and our theme was saving the Earth.

On restaurant day, parents are served from a menu of books, and they get the opportunity to hear their children show off the reading skills we have worked so hard on this year.  Each child greets his or her guests and escorts them to their table.  While the children read, I just got to move around the room taking pictures and listening in.   I was so proud of my little readers!  One little boy was so involved in his Robert Munsch book that he could hardly read because he was laughing so hard. I overheard another little girl explaining reduce, reuse and recycle to her mother.  And all of the parents seemed very impressed with the reading progress their child has made this year.

We created a Reuse, Reduce, Recycle bulletin board for outside our classroom.  We used a freebie from Teresa at Fun in K/1.  I read The Lorax to get us started on our Earth study, so he greeted our guests as they entered the classroom.

My teammates all had adorable "restaurants."  We had a Mexican theme based on the book Chicks and Salsa, a pizza parlor, a bakery and an ice-cream shoppe.

It was a fabulous day, but exhausting!  I'm going to try and take a day off from schoolwork today and just relax so tomorrow I can start working on plans for the last 4 weeks of school.

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