Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New (School) Year Resolutions

I have just about given up on making New Year's resolutions since I'm never very successful in keeping them.  But I do like to start each school year with some goals in mind, and maybe making them public will help me achieve them!

  • The first thing on any resolution/goal list I make is to become more organized!  Specifically for this year I want to work on keeping my teaching table clear and organized so I can actually teach there.  I'm getting too old to hold my small group sessions on the floor!  I also resolve to file daily- no more sorting a year's worth of writing samples for writing folders in May.
  • I will implement guided math and meet with small groups 3 times a week.
  • I want to spice up guided reading.  After years of doing reading intervention, working with readers in small groups comes naturally, but it has also become a little bit too routine.  I will organize all the wonderful activities I have found on blogs and Pinterest so that I can easily use them to add some variety to my lessons.  I also want to make sure I am providing my higher readers with a lot of meaningful activities to help them continue to grow as readers.
  • I will utilize technology on a regular basis.  This year I would like to start a class blog and work on developing digital portfolios.
To help myself stay on track, I am also resolving to blog about my progress towards these goals once a month.  I'm putting a reminder on my calendar right now!

What are your resolutions for the new school year?  Link up with Amanda at Teaching Maddeness  and share!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Made It: July 30

There's nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of what you think is a fantastic lesson and calling on a student  hoping to get an insightful comment or question only to hear "Can I go to the bathroom?"  Geesh!  Last year's group was the worst for this!  So this year I am going to be proactive.  We are going to have serious discussions about what "emergency" really means and when is an appropriate time to use the restroom.  I saw an idea on a blog or Pinterest to have signs indicating that it is an OK time to go.  The original pinner used red and green signs; I decided to make something that fit with my movie theme.

Click here to download
 When the "Showtime" sign is up, meaning we are having a lesson or read-aloud, the restroom is closed except for emergencies.  Students, one boy and girl at a time, can take the pass at "Intermission."  (These signs have a red star border that is not showing up in the pictures for some reason.)
Then I saw another great idea on Pinterest to use a bottle of hand sanitizer as the pass.  The student will put the bottle on his/her desk so we know who is out of the classroom and then use the sanitizer when he returns.  I made some labels that can be attached to a bottle of sanitizer after the original label is removed.  I got these bottles at Dollar Tree.  The labels come off quite easily and leave a smooth surface.  I'm going to cover the labels with clear packing tape to protect them a little bit as soon as I figure out where all our tape is!

Click here for these labels and more!
I'm linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It. Can't wait to see what everyone has made this week!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Guided Math: Putting It All Together

I just received the summer newsletter my principal sends out every year  and saw that guided math is going to be required in all classrooms this year. YES!  But now the hard part begins...What will this really look like in my first grade classroom this year?
My team leader has asked me to help our team put together binders for guided math similar to what we use in guided reading.  Our guided reading binders contain information about reading levels, strategies to teach, and helpful hints like suggestions for prompting readers and extending thinking, and they house our running records, rubrics and other student data.  We also use them for our lesson plans for each group and to show how our students are currently grouped for instruction.
So what should a guided math binder contain?  This is what I have come up with so far:

  • Objectives/standards to be taught.  Here in Texas, that's our TEKS.  For many of you, this would be the Common Core standards.  No Common Core in Texas:(
  • Road map for the year and each grading period
  • Resources- problem solving strategies, CGI problem types, question stems to promote higher level thinking
  • Lesson plans
  • A section for each student's assessment data and observation records
  • Blank anecdotal record forms, rubrics, checklists, etc.
  • Grouping information
I've been searching for lesson plan templates.  Here are a couple I've found so far.
From Mandy Gregory

I found this last night, but now I don't know where!  If it is yours or you know where it is from, please let me know!

My version

What would you include in a guided math binder?
Do you have a lesson plan template or data form to share?
Any hints for successful implementation of guided math in first grade?

Thanks for any help you can offer!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Made It Monday!

I realize I have already posted this morning, but I was kind of productive today and wanted to link up with Tara's Monday Made It.
I have been wanting to make one of the teacher toolkits that have been all over Pinterest, and I finally got one almost finished this weekend.  I still need to decide what labels I want for the last couple of drawers.  This was a really fun and easy project!
Then I was inspired by these 2 projects from Pinterest:

Source: mrsestblog.blogspot.com via Carol on Pinterest    
                                                                                          Source: 4thgradefrolics.blogspot.com via Carol on Pinterest

Here are my versions:

I created the "We are at..." sign from clip art from JW Illustrations and then used my ATG gun to attach it to a piece of metal roof flashing that I got at Home Depot or Lowe's.  We will use a magnet to show where we are.  The Welcome sign is made up of 8" circles created from background paper, also from Jessica's adorable Wizard of Oz clip art, and then laminated.  I may put the circles together with ribbon or I may just hang each one separately outside my classroom.
I also started to make some word wall cards to go with my new word wall.  I decided to use "Popcorn Words" this year so I am using movie and popcorn theme clip art for the cards.  today I worked on the words that go with the district's prescribed word families. Here's a peek:

After all this and the canoeing I did yesterday, I think I will sleep well tonight!

New Bloggers Blog Hop

Grade Three is the Place for Me is hosting a newbie bloggers blog hop.  What a great way to discover new blogs!  Link up and tell a little bit about yourself by answering these questions:

 1. In what state do you live?
 2. What's your current teaching position?
 3. Tell about your teaching experience.
 4. When did you start blogging?
 5. Share a blogging tip  or blogging resource.

My answers:
1.  I live in Texas and teach in a suburban district west of Houston.  But I grew up in Pennsylvania and, even after 30 years, still consider that home.
2.  I teach first grade and absolutely love it!
3.  This will be my 31st year of teaching.  I have taught 4th grade, a mixed 1/2 class, reading and dyslexia intervention and many years in first grade.  I have also been a language arts specialist and a literacy coach.
4.  I started my blog this summer in June.
5.  Participating in blog hops like this and linkys are a great way to discover new blogs and help other find your blog.

I hope to spend the day creating some things for my classroom.  We are changing our approach to spelling and word study so I am redoing my word wall.  I plan on spending the day on the computer as I won't be good for much else.  My family took a canoe trip yesterday and I am SORE!  I haven't canoed that much since Girl Scout camp.  It was fantastic to spend the day with the whole family.  My "kids" are 25, 22 and 19 so it rare that we all can do something together.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Freebie

Dice are some of my very favorite math manipulatives.  Give a student a couple of dice and a recording sheet and you have a work station.  I love discovering new types of dice besides the standard dot cubes.  Here are some I acquired this summer after attending Rachel McAnallen's session at Confratute.
I love the decahedron dice because they allow us to work with larger numbers.  Here is an updated version of a game I posted earlier.  This version uses the decahedron dice to  practice addition with sums to 18.  I saw some game boards similar to the original version last summer when I was following the book study of Math Work Stations.  I wish I could remember who created the originals so I could give them credit but I was not good about bookmarking and could not find them again this summer.  If you know whose idea this type of game board was, please let me know!
Anyway, my 2 game boards go along with our first grade team's Wizard of Oz theme for the coming year. (Click the caption below the picture to access both game boards.)  The  board I previously posted uses regular dice with either pips ( love that word!) or numerals 1-6.  The second uses either the decahedron dice-in-dice or 2 decahedron dice.  Having the same game board with different numbers will help with differentiating the activities in the stations which is one of my goals this year.  I'm working on some ideas using the multiples of ten dice pictured above as well.  Hope to have them posted soon!

If your are worried about flying dice or noise level, I use fun foam mats as workmats for stations which helps keep down the noise of rolling dice and helps to prevent dice from flying all over the room.  Rachel had us use small styrofoam plates at her workshop, and Pinterest is full of ideas for dice containers.  You can also find foam dice.
Have a fabulous Friday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Must Have Picture Books Linky

The Teacher Wife is hosting a linky for Must Have Picture Books.  Asking me to choose a favorite book is like asking me which one of my children I love the best.  Even choosing five is going to be tough.  I love books!
Most of my children's books are at school so I just sort of closed my eyes and let titles pop into my head.  The first books that came to mind are my favorite two books from childhood, Madeline and Horton Hears  a Who.  I read these books to my class early each year to talk about my life as a reader.  I think it is very important that your kids see you as a reader, so I often share what I am reading.  (Probably not a good idea to share if your current book is Fifty Shades of Grey!) Both titles reappear throughout the year for various lessons on characters and lessons on literacy strategies.
A book I use often for lessons is Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.  Patricia is probably my favorite children's author, and I use her books often and do an author study every year.  Thunder Cake is a great book to use for making connections by talking about a time we were scared or a special time with a family member.  It also lends itself well to retelling and as a model for writing a personal narrative.
Another favorite of mine is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.  I love this book as springboard for discussing and writing about how we can make the world a more beautiful place.
Kevin Henkes books- particularly Chrysanthemum- are some of the first books I read each year.  I think the kids really relate to these characters as they experience common childhood events.  Chrysanthemum is such a great story about being proud of who you are.
Wow, I could go on and on!  Each year I discover a new favorite (like Pete the Cat last year.)  After hearing Peter Reynolds at Confratute, The Dot and Ish might be this year's new additions.  I had to open a "secret" account with Amazon so my husband wouldn't know how much I spend on books!  I can't wait to read about others' favorites even though I know it will cost me!


Monday, July 16, 2012

My Favorite Math Book(s)

I'm linking up with Donna at  Math Coach's Corner to share my favorite math book(s).  I have to confess that I have not read that many books about math.  I spent several years as a literacy coach and many more years doing reading and dyslexia intervention and have read MANY books on literacy, but I only started reading math literature when I returned to first grade 2 years ago.  Before that the only math books I really read were Math Their Way and several of Marilyn Burns' books.
But as I was preparing to return to the classroom 2 summers ago, I stumbled across Laney Sammons' book Math Stretches which led me to her Guided Math book. This book really helped me shape my vision of how I would like my math classroom to look!  I was drawn to it because Laney drew on the work of the literacy experts I had followed for years like Fountas and Pinnell and Lucy Calkins and outlined a framework for teaching math in very much the same way I had always taught reading.  I am rereading Guided Math this summer; you can read my thoughts on the first few chapters on these previous posts:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
I wasn't too successful establishing guided math in my classroom the first year I was back, but last year I took another step and set up a workshop using math stations.  Last summer I followed an online book study of Deb Diller's Math Work Stations book, and my team and I used it as our team book study this past school year.  This book was fabulous for helping us develop meaningful activities for our kids to complete!  I've shared a little bit about how I implemented stations here, here and here.
These 2 books have really shaped the structure of my math class, but as far as teaching content, the best book I have discovered so far is VandeWalle's Teaching Student Centered Mathematics.  When I want to know HOW to teach a concept, this is my go-to book!
I can't wait to see what books others choose, although my husband may block my access to Amazon if I buy any more books this summer!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Wednesday at Confratute

Technology was the name of the game for me on Wednesday!  Confratute is set up so you can attend 3 strands every day during the week and then there are forums in the evening.  All week I have been attending a fabulous math strand with Rachel McAnallen ( I'll share this in a separate blog post later!) and another session called "Technology Unplugged" with Brian Housand.  Wednesday I also stayed for a second session with Brian AND attended an evening forum discussing educational apps for the IPad.  Now I want an Ipad more than ever and REALLY want some for my classroom.  I guess it's time to try writing a grant proposal!
Anyway, there are so many ideas running through my head right now, I'm having trouble keeping everything straight.  I know I want to do a class blog/website this year, but what to use?  Weebly? Kidblog? ClassBlogmeister? Google Sites?
Can anyone recommend a 12 step program for technology addicts?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday at Confratute

I’m taking a “reflection break” this evening to  think about some of the things I have learned so far here at Confratute and to really explore all of the many technology tools I’ve learned about. (Plus I am just exhausted! There is a reason people usually go to college at 18 or 19- 50+ year old women get tired too easily!) I’ve found a bench outside my dorm and am just enjoying this beautiful campus and delightful Connecticut weather.

The keynote speaker today was Peter Reynolds, author/illustrator of The Dot and Ish. These are great books for encouraging kids to conquer their fears and to explore their creativity. He has a third book coming out in this “Creatrilogy” called Sky Color. (All three books will be available in a box set.) This message of “don’t be afraid to try” is so important for our kids. I hate hearing my students say “ I can’t do this” or “I’m no good at ____.” One thing that Peter said hit me personally was to be careful about making these kind of statements in front of your students. I am so guilty of this when it comes to drawing. I catch myself saying things like “Well, I’m not a very good artist, but I will try to draw a tiger.” I think I’ll take a clue from Ish and start saying “Well, here is my tiger-ish drawing!”

One of the neatest things about Confratute is learning from the other attendees.  While back in our suite this evening I mentioned something called StoryBird I had seen on a blog.  One of our suitemates had used it and gave me more information.  (I can't wait to try this with my kids!) Then my roommate was sharing a website she had used to publish student work.  This has been the most incredible experience, and I am SO grateful to our PTA and administration for enabling us to attend!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday at Confratute

The first full day at Confratute started with a keynote address by Joe Renzulli and Sally Reis.  Renzulli has always been kind of an idol of mine- OMG does that sound geeky or what?- so it was quite a thrill to hear him.
My first session was called "Technology Untangled"  The presenter, Brian Housand, will be sharing different web tools this week.  Today we learned about Google Docs, Dropbox and Weebly.  I have used Google Docs to share documents but I didn't realize how useful it could be for collaboration and creating documents as well.  We learned about using it for creating a survey.  The information collected is automatically stored as a spreadsheet.  I'm thinking it would be a great way to collect information from parents this fall.  My team and I use Dropbox a lot to share teaching activities.  I love it because I have access to my documents from any computer.  Since I am considering blogging with my class next year, I will definitely check into Weebly.
This evening I attended a forum on Google. I need to go back and review my notes because they  presented a lot in short period of time.  I was intrigued by something called Search Story but there wasn't really time to play with it.  My husband already thinks I spend too much time on the computer- wait till I get home and start playing with all of these new tools!
Our suite mates are from Nova Scotia, Canada.  It is so cool to hear about how things are done in another country. Plus, they are great partyers- I tagged along with one of my suitemates and some other Canadians she met up with.  I haven't danced like that in years!  This is truly an awesome experience!

Sunday, July 8, 2012


I am attending Confratute for the next 5 days at the University of Connecticut, and after the first evening, all I can say is “Wow! It will be an amazing week!"  What is Confratute? Confratute (from conference, institute and fraternity) is an institute on enrichment-based, differentiated teaching held every summer at UConn. One of my school’s instructional coaches attended while teaching in another district and recommended that our PTA consider providing funds for some of our staff to attend. I was one of the lucky ones who got to go! Joe Renzulli, one of the directors, was one of the first names I heard when I attended graduate school for gifted and talented education many years ago. In fact, one of my assignments was to write a bio about him for a “Who’s Who in GT” type project in a special projects class. It was such a kick to see him in person.

I have spent hours perusing the course offerings available to plan out my week. I am most excited about some of the technology sessions. Just last week I was a reading about blogging with young students on Mrs. Patton's Patch.  I am comfortable using technology myself, but I’ve been a bit hesitant to try much with my students other than using games or software with them during our weekly computer lab session. This year I want to explore other options : blogging, research and using other tools. I want my students to understand that there is more to computers than just playing games. I also want to attend some of the math sessions. The keynote speaker tonight was Rachel McAnallen and her topic was “Math Lies Your Teachers Told You.” She was very entertaining.  After the speaker there was a reception on the patio complete with a DJ and adult beverages.  (Although I was too exhausted from all the traveling to stay very long.  I left Houston at 6:30 this morning!)

Stay tuned this week as I share what is happening at Confratute!

Friday, July 6, 2012

There's No Place Like Home!

There's no place like home even if I am only here for a day!  My husband and I just returned from our trip to the Smoky Mountains and Pennsylvania.  It was a great trip even though I didn't do half of what I had planned to do while in PA.  It was just so nice being home with my mom and my brother's family that a lot of the little trips we had planned didn't happen.
Now it's time to repack my bags for my next trip!  Our very generous PTA is sending 2 of us to the University of Connecticut for a conference on differentiation and gifted education called Confratute.  I leave Sunday morning which barely gives me enough to time to unpack and do laundry.  I am very excited and can't wait to share what I learn!
Unfortunately I am very behind on my blogging and book studies.  With limited access to the internet while at my mom's house it just wasn't possible to do much blogging.  In between loads of laundry and catching up with my kids tomorrow, I hope to get some posting done.  If not, I will definitely be blogging from Confratute!