Friday, July 29, 2011

Love to my Momma!

I just had to take a picture of this and share it with all of you! (Sorry, my picture of the picture isn't that great...) I found this picture of my mom and I several years ago, and I framed it for my classroom. Then I found this cute quote from Emily Buchwald that was perfect! It says, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” My mom taught Preschool forever and she has taught me sooooo much about being a teacher. Although, somehow, her early childhood training has been thwarted by her grandchildren, who can pretty much do no wrong…

The kids enjoy seeing me when I was little, and I tell them that I have been reading forever…Since the picture is in black and white, I think they really do think I’m about 100 years old! Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Classroom Pet Peeves…and a linky party!

So, Alisha at The Bubbly Blonde is having a linky party where you post your biggest classroom pet peeve! Now, I love my job and can’t think of any other profession I would rather have, but I think that when you are sharing a space about the size of most people's living room/kitchen with 22+ little ones, there are bound to be things that get on your nerves! A few of mine would have to be…
3. When kids don’t problem solve: … Mrs. Taylor, I dropped my pencil… (Um, ok, what's your plan now?")
2. When you call a kiddo over on the playground to tell them to stop doing something inappropriate or dangerous and they are screaming, “It wasn’t me,” before you even talk about it…
and my #1 pet peeve of all blasted time is:
#1   (Wait for it…)   When kids step on my toes! Literally step on them- with those darling new Twinkle Toes, or boots, or those Skechers light up numbers…I always say, back up and watch the toes!

Do you have a classroom pet peeve? Click the link above to join the party!

More Growing Readers

I typed this post out and clicked something strange and lost 3/4 of it…grrrr…

Here we go again…
I was rereading Growing Readers (clearly the best book ever written for first grade teachers) by Kathy Collins and I thought I’d share my thoughts (not that you asked) about reading preferences in first grade. If you’ve taught longer than 5 minutes you’ve met the teacher pleaser kid. The kid that will deny how she (it’s usually a she)  really feels about something just so they can make you think they are more precious then everyone else.

It always goes down something like this in my room:

Me: We’ve been talking about all different kinds of books. Would it ever be OK for you to not like a book?
Kiddos: Nnnnooooo (a few tentative yesses)
Teacher Pleaser kid: You should always like every book because reading is fun!

In order to create a culture of diverse reading interests in a first grade classroom, I think we may need to actually directly teach the fact that it is OK (and even important) to all have different reading interests.

To drive this home for the kids, I tell them that I do not- under any circumstances- like reading books about dinosaurs. I tell them I will not do read alouds about dinosaurs (unless someone begs) and we won’t read many non-fiction books about them either. I don’t like dinosaurs. I think their names are hard to pronounce, I think they are scary looking, I don’t ever care to read a book about dinosaurs. Now, I know that most six year olds enjoy dinosaurs, so I have a dinosaur tub full of books just waiting to be read by first graders because they will not be read by me. Ever.

After this discussion (which is slightly controversial to the kids who think that teachers love every book ever printed) the kids turn and talk to their neighbor about different reading interests they have. Then we do the following activity.
The kids get a piece of manila paper and fold it into fourths (This is a lesson in itself considering it’s the first week of school!
Unfold the paper and trace over the fold lines so you have four equal parts.
I give each kiddo a strip that says: Who am I as a reader? I just cut the questions apart into strips.
Click here for download.

Then, the kids glue that strip to the middle of the page and then draw and label one thing (in each section) they enjoy reading about. It may say: space, dinosaurs, Junie B. Jones, etc. I promise when we're back in school, my projects will have pictures of the kids's work for you visual learners out there!

We share these with each other and discuss how fun it’s going to be getting to know each other as readers. This is a cute bulletin board display, too. This activity helps kiddos recognize that they are readers and we are going to work together to discover their reading likes, dislikes, and passions!

Monday, July 25, 2011

We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do!

So, judging by all the cute blogs I’ve found out there, you teachers are a rather stylish crew. You want your classrooms cute, your printables cute, so it stands to reason that you like yourselves to be cute, too…am I right? I’m here to help with that today. One of my favorite etsy shops is My Pink Polkadots by Jennifer Stubbs. Jennifer is located in Katy, Texas and she makes the cutest jewelry! She has made some Disney stuff for me and last year I got her to do a custom school necklace for my best friend and I.
I just love this necklace and her detail is amazing! She added such fun little beads that really make this necklace special! I love Jennifer’s stuff so much I decided that I will give one away when I reach 100 followers! I talked to Jennifer and she is going to design a custom necklace for the winner. She will use your school colors and mascot, or whatever you want her to do! She’s even offered free shipping- so sweet! Can’t wait to reach the big 100! That’s a really big deal for a new lil’ blogger like myself!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Oh Voki, You're so Fine, You're so Fine You Blow My Mind...

Our campus technologist taught us about Voki at a staff meeting once, but it wasn't one of those things I had a lot of time to play with, so I never used it. I just read a blog post by Ash over at Teaching Happily Ever After and she reminded me about Voki. This is a fun way to create a little avatar that you can program to say things and then imbed the html into a project. I added one to my classroom blog for my kiddos that introduces me, and I'm adding one to this blog so you can see what it's like.

They have all kinds of backgrounds, people, holiday options, etc. It would be so cute to have Santa read the sight words for the week or for you to introduce yourself this way on the first day of school! You could even have an animal introduce the vocabulary for the week. I love the fancy options (haven't tried them all yet) where you can call and actually record  your own voice, or upload your own picture for the background!

First graders will go crazy for this!

How else have you used Voki in your room?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back to School Fave!

Hi all! Jodi at Fun in First is having a linky party where bloggers link up to share ideas. This one has teachers sharing their favorite back-to-school activities! I've already found a ton of new ideas to use this year in my room! I'd like to join the fun since I've learned so much!

Here's an activity I've used for the last several years:

First, I give the kids this printable, and they have to pick just one color to color with.

Really watch- there's always one or two that don't "hear" that part... Then I have them draw a picture on the side that says "one color." I model this since it's the first day of school! I usually draw a picture of a house with a sun, cloud, etc. Remember to only use one color. I usually ham it up and say, "Wow, my picture is so boring...I wish I could use more than one color."

Then, I have the kiddos come to the carpet and I read The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane DeRolf.
This book is so presh! This little girl is in a toystore and she overhears a box of crayons fighting with each other about how each one is better than the other. She takes it home to color with them all to show them that they are all needed to make the pictures beautiful! (Plus, it rhymes and it's darling...)

After we read the book and discuss the author's message, I have them go back to their papers and then they get to draw a picture using however many colors they want. We come to the carpet and share our pictures. We agree that the pictures look better when we can use many colors.

Then we talk about how our classroom is like a box of crayons. All of us are different- different colors, ages, talents, etc., but we will all work together to have a super year in first grade!

The last thing I do is put all the pictures into a class book.

Click here for the cover!

What is your favorite back to school activity?

Shoe Unit!

I love the blogging community (I've just recently joined) because you don't have to recreate the wheel. For years, my teacher friends and I have said, "Somebody else has probably already made this, but here we are doing it..." Anyway, one of the things I've tried to accomplish over the years is to work smarter, not harder.

Which brings me to a cute little unit I have just discovered all about shoes! What first grader doesn't love his/her shoes? Mrs. Tabb over at Another Day In First Grade has designed a cute shoe unit that could be incorporated into the first weeks of school...Click here to check it out!

I love how all these teachers are so willing to share what they have created on Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook. And, it's finally time for teachers to be compensated for all of the hard work they put in on all these teacher-created materials! Thanks, Mrs. Tabb for your great idea!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nesting Cans Activity

I’m all kinds of frustrated with Google docs- I have printables to upload for you all, but I just can’t get the stars to align…I’ll be working on that later. Anyway, I thought I’d post this cool activity that I’ve been doing with my kiddos for the last 13 years. My first year teaching, my mom and I ran into my sister’s kindergarten teacher at a teacher store. Somehow we got to talking, and she told me about this activity that she has always done with her kindergarten kids. I loved this- especially once I got into my classroom and discovered that Texas first graders think they live in the city of Texas, the county of Texas, the state of Texas, and the country of Texas.
Granted, this is a tough concept to grasp, so I love this great visual for the kiddos.
First, I read Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney, or My Global Address by Tamara Nunn.
                                 global address
Then, I get out this can with the world map on it.
You can tell this was before I wanted everything with cute background paper on it…Hmmm, looking at it now, that tape looks really tacky…I digress…
I have a kiddo come up and hold the can for everyone to see and we talk about our world.
Then, I pull out the can that is inside the big one…
And we talk about our continent of North America. Lots of kids recognize the U.S. in this one…
Another kiddo comes up and holds this can and we start from the beginning.
Then, I pull out the can inside…
We talk about our country of the United States of America and how it is part of North America.
I think you get it…
Our state of Texas, and then,
The last one is a film canister (shows how long I’ve had this) with a house on it. I’ve always meant to add one with our city- maybe this year.
When we finish this, the kids make a cool representation of this on paper. I wish I had a picture of an example…They start with tracing a big circle on manila paper to represent Earth, then inside, they trace the U.S., then inside that, they trace Texas, then inside TX, they trace their house. Each one is colored differently and they look so cool. This is a tough concept for littles, and I think this helps them visualize the different sizes.
I’ll try to take pics when we do this activity this year so you can have a visual!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Jacket Junkie!

I heart book jackets. I do. I hate throwing them away, but leaving them on the books just doesn't work with little first grade hands. They're like works of art, but what to do with them? I've been collecting them forever, and a few years ago I decided to decorate with them. Behold- my book jacket wall!

From the ceiling...
 and the bottom...

I was super-sad at the end of last year when they said we had to take EVERYTHING off our walls so they could clean them. It takes awhile to get the jackets exactly where you want them and it's not exactly a quick and easy job. I decided that I wouldn't do it again if I was going to have to take them down because of the time involved, but then I decided to take a picture of them before I took them down. I just came up to school and stapled them (using my picture as a guide) and it took no time at all!

Cheap and easy decorating...Well, you buy the books, but I would do that anyway...

I read a question somewhere (probably the 2sisters website) about classroom design. It asked, "If a stranger walked into your room, could he/she tell what you value?"

I hope it's clear! :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Year Stupids…

I hope you all are lucky enough to have a best friend that understands your job like I do! Thirteen years ago, I went to a PDAS training and met this girl at my table. We had just been hired to teach at the same school- her in second grade and me in first. By lunch, we had decided to be best friends! I was so grateful that I had found somebody to share the ups and downs of this new career with and I honestly believe that we were put at that table together for a very special reason.

Over the last thirteen years, we have been in each others’ weddings, delivery rooms, there for kids’ baseball games and birthday parties and have pretty much shared the ups and downs of life together. She is the most dedicated mother and teacher that I have ever known and I am the teacher I am today because of her. Which brings me to today’s post:
A “first year stupid” is what my BFF and I call anything we did our first year  teaching (or after)  that is either ridiculous, ultra-time consuming, or just plain “stupid!” Now please know that I’m not saying that anyone else out there has done anything like this, I’m merely telling my story. Which brings us to the picture. Yes, those are unifix cubes. And yes, those are alphabet letters written on them. In Sharpie. On. Each. Side. That’s four sides times however many dang cubes are in that box. Seriously…

What? My kids needed an opportunity to build words…

One of the most important things I’ve taken away from the Daily 5 and the Daily CAFÉ books and Teaching With Intention (Debbie Miller) is that you should focus your time and energy on things that really matter. The cubes don’t. So, Katie(new baby teacher across the hall from me), I have a tub of First Year Stupid for you. You’re welcome.

Do you have any FYS to share?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Growing Readers

I've been blogging for about five minutes, and I've never tried to link to a printable before. Let's see if this works!

Growing Readers by Kathy Collins may just be my favorite professional book ever written. Most reading books are written for elementary teachers, but this one is written from a purely first grade perspective. Love it!

My team always does her mini-lessons during the first few weeks of school to prepare the first graders for a year full of reading fun. I made up this little activity for the kiddos to do after the mini-lesson about their favorite reading memory. The kids talk about their favorite memories with family or friends and then they get to record it. There's not much writing space because we usually do this the first week of school!

Click here for the download!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Linky Party?!

Oh, y’all- I’m learning so much about this alternate blog-i-verse…
OK, Yearn4Learning is having a Blog Mixer Linky Party- a chance for us to find new blog friends. Here’s what you do: link up and find:
1. A blogger who is a "New Kid on the Blog" (Let's say someone who has blogged 2 months or less and has less than 200 followers)
2. Post a blogger in your same grade level
3. Post a blogger in a different grade level
4. It's all about the button. Find a cute blog button and post it.

Here are my picks:
1. Lauren Blackmon over at the Weekly Hive has 48 followers, but hopefully soon it will be lots more!
2. Cara Carroll at The First Grade Parade is in my grade level. I know she’s pretty popular already, but I kind of feel like I owe her love because she’s the first blog I found when I was looking for ideas. Super cute stuff, here, folks and if you stalk her other blogs, you can learn some awesome recipes! Smile
3. I hope this counts: Shannon Long is a technologist and has a kick-apple technology blog. She also some some uh-ma-zing finds on Pinterest.
4.Cute button award: One extra degree

Growing brain!

Years ago I went to a CAMT conference and saw these little growing brains. Since then, I've had one in my classroom. On the first day of school, I tell the kids that the brain is so small because it hasn't been doing anything over the summer. It hasn't read, solved math problems, it's just been having fun and hanging out...
I put the brain in a clear container and add water to it. I tell them that the water is all the learning we do in first grade. Anytime we are working hard, our brain gets bigger. They are fascinated with that brain in a jar- it's kind of gross-I guess that's why they like it!
Over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, I take the brain out of the water and we talk about how it has gotten smaller over the break. My hope is that they will remember this analogy over the summer break and remember to read! I also use the brain as a reference during the year, "Make sure you're busy so your brain doesn't shrink..." They look over at that brain-in-a-jar and get back to work!
The brain will grow pretty big- it has always grown to touch the sides of this container:
I’ll post some pictures as our brain gets bigger this fall! Click here to get a growing brain from Amazon.

Crayon sharpeners!

My friend Carolyn teaches kindergarten and she told me about these gems! They are pencil sharpeners, but for some reason, they sharpen crayons really well. With the paper on. If you’ve ever taught primary grades, you know that those poor babies wear their crayons down within the first week of school. It’s hard to color anything with a flat crayon! I’ve tried lots of crayon sharpeners- even bought an electric one by Elmer’s (rip) and I spent most of my time using this little scraper tool to get the jammed up wax out of the wretched thing.  These are uh-ma-zing! She found them in the school supply aisle at Target (not the seasonal school supply section, just the regular one). I think they are $1.68 or something close. You just put the crayon in the biggest hole and be amazed by the sharpness! :) When you are a teacher, it’s all about the little things…

Cute sight word site and activities for littles…

 We just got home and my four year old asked to do school work. Weird, but, whatever. I hopped online and found this. Mallory wanted to do the sight word caterpillar and here is the finished product:

Head over to this cute website for free printable sight word activities and other activities.

There’s a method to the madness…

Yikes! Each year, my classroom tables always look like this. Some teachers can come up for three hours the day before back to school night and it looks picture perfect. Um, not me. I usually start going up in July, just a few hours here and there. I load everything on the tables and then move junk materials around and around to other tables until everything is put in the right spot. Just thought you’d like a glimpse into the madness… Are you a neat un-packer or crazy like me?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Target Vinyl Wall Decals

Yesterday I was alone at Target. Alone. I may or may not have stayed for 2 hours. It’s not really relevant. Anyway, I was strolling through the aisles (did I mention my kids weren’t with me?) and I ended up on the hardware aisle, with Goo Gone, drawer pulls, and painter’s tape (which they now make in zebra print, if you ever need some- you’re welcome). I came across these pretties:
Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear vinyl wall decals
Dr. Seuss decals

How fun! I have the Seuss bulletin board set, but the decals would probably work on our red cabinets. I switched to Dr. Seuss décor last year, and I can’t really justify changing just yet, so I may have to add these to my wishlist! Any new Target finds I need to know about?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Classroom design

The more I read the greats, (Daily CAFE, Teaching With Intention, Pinterest) it has become clear to me that my classroom design needs some tweaking. I've always had the four standard rectangle tables, one kidney table (that doubled as my teacher hovel desk, and then all sorts of other furniture treasures I've acquired along the way. At the end of last year, my principal asked me lots of questions (she could tell I wasn't thrilled with my room arrangement) and encouraged me to think outside the first grade box and work on an arrangement that suited my personality and teaching style. I do lots and lots of one-on-one conferencing, a tiny bit of small group instruction, and whole-group mini-lessons. 

There are not a lot of times when every kiddo in my room needs to sit at a table at the same time, so I'm really thinking of following the advice of the 2 Sisters and getting rid of some furniture. I'm a little nervous about it, but when you are in a room of 22 little ones, you really need an open space that flows well. What are your thoughts on seating? 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pinterest interest!

If you are a visual learner like I am, you must head over to Pinterest! This site is a fun place where you can create online pinboards and collect images from all over the web. You can follow your facebook friends, or other random people you find there that have cool style! I have pinboards for food, home, classroom, gifts, etc. It is slighty addictive, but tons of fun! Check out some of my boards by clicking here!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hugs to Half Price Books

My mom dropped by HPB the other day to ask if they had any boxes of books for teachers. They gave her 10 boxes! Wowza! I had to wade through a lot of junky stuff, but ended up with a full crate of books for myself and two full boxes for the new 2nd year teacher on our team! Stop by your local HPB and ask if they have any boxes they're trying to get rid of! Free!

Look at all those books!

These are all for the new baby teacher on our team! I only call you a baby teacher if you don't know the lyrics to Hangin' Tough...