Thursday, January 31, 2013

Just a Little Bit of Inspiration...

I'm going to be really honest here- the last few weeks have been TOUGH in many ways. Between conferences, meetings, district cuts due to the failure of our levy, changing legislation in our state, and the never-ending list of things to do, it has been quite challenging in the teaching world! It is so easy to get sucked into all of the negativity that is going around. I wanted to share a quote that I find so inspiring and timely. When I first started teaching, my principal gave all of the teachers in our building this quote. I ended up laminating it and placing it in front of my desk so that I see it every morning. I read this every day and it reminds me WHY I do what I do...

Don't you just love this?! It inspires me to be the best teacher that I can be each day. After all, I am exchanging a day of my life for it =) Hopefully this quotes reminds you that each day, we, as teachers, are leaving behind something for our kiddos. How powerful is that?!

Have a great night! TGTIF (Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday!)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Life-Size Famous American Projects

This past Friday morning, I was in a panic trying to think of a project for my students to create on the famous Americans that we've been studying. We had parent-teacher conferences the night before so I didn't have much time to prepare anyting. (That's my excuse at least!) An idea hit me at the last moment and I knew my students would love it! I decided to have my kiddos make life-size famous Americans using butcher paper and construction paper. I wanted them to do some writing as well so I thought that each member of the group could be in charge of a box or bubble showing what that person said (Wise Words), did (Amazing Action), thought (Thoughtful Thoughts), and a trait to describe him/her (Terrific Trait). To be honest, I was a little nervous about this project at first because I'd never done it with my students before and it was going to be a little crazy, but it went so smoothly! Their creations turned out absolutely adorable and it was such a meaningful and fun project.

I first put the kids into groups of 4 and assigned them a famous American. Our six people were Abraham Lincoln, Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., and George Washington. One person from each group laid down on a large, white piece of butcher paper while another student traced them. They cut the person out and then began using contruction paper to turn it into their famous American. My teammate, Kristin, has this great skin-color construction paper so we used that for the head and hands. I let them use books that we've been reading so they could look at the pictures for ideas of what they looked like. After they finished creating their person, they worked on the boxes/bubbles. Here are some pics of our finished famous Americans:

I love Abe's beard and bow tie!

It's hard to tell in the picture but Susan B. has ruffles around her neck and wrists!

Doesn't this look just like MLK?!

Sojourner was given patches on her dress and glasses... so cute!

Harriett has patches and some fringe on her dress =)

I LOVE George's curled hair and hat!
 Here are some close-ups of faces and the boxes/bubbles:

This project was amazing for me to watch. The kids worked really well together and were so creative! I love how these look in the hallway and best of all- it was SO easy! If you'd like to make these famous Americans, you can download the boxes/bubbles {here}.

Another resource that you can use when teaching about famous Americans is the new product I just posted called My Book of Famous Americans. This product allows your students to create their own non-fiction book complete with a table of contents! They will love being a real author of a non-fiction book. Plus, it's a great way for you to assess what they've learned.

To create the books for your students just print double-sided, fold down the middle, and staple. My students absolutely LOVE making books like this. To see more views of the book or to snag your copy, click on the picture below!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Guided Reading Progress and Interactive Writing

Last week, I decided it was time to reorganize my guided reading groups. My kids have made so much progress since the beginning of the year and their groups needed adjusted. Some kids jumped up several reading levels and needed to move out of one group and into another. That's what I love about flexible grouping in guided reading. The kids aren't "stuck" in one group. I can move them around easily depending on their needs at that time.

Since I needed to make changes, I collected the guided reading books out of their browing boxes. They keep these browsing boxes in their cubbies and bring them to guided reading when I call their group. They get out the book that they read the night before (this is in their guided reading bag) and reread it. This is when I take a running record on one of my students. When they are finished rereading the book, they place it in their browsing box. During reading workshop, they can choose from the books in our classroom library as well as the books in their browsing boxes. This is an easy way to help your kiddos that are struggling with fluency. Rereading familiar books helps them to read quickly and fluently. My students love reading books out of their browsing boxes because the books are at their level and are familiar to them. (Although lately they've been telling me, "These are sooo easy!")

Here is a pic of my guided reading table after collecting the books out of their browsing boxes...

It was crazy! You can't tell in the picture but I also had books on the window ledge, books on chairs, books everywhere! After putting all the books together, I bundled them up and placed them in the red bins that I use to keep my guided reading groups' books in.
It was so exciting to move up levels for each group and get rid of the lower books altogether. I used post-its to help me remember the level of each group while I was putting the books in the bins. (And yes... if you can read the post-its, I have a span of level from C to O!!!) Now we are all set for guided reading groups this week with new groups and new books! Woo hoo!
 Last week, we had an in-service about guided reading and one of the points that was brought up was that interactive writing can and should be incorporated into guided reading. To be honest, this is something that I hadn't really thought about and wasn't doing. I really liked the idea of having a 5 minute lesson using interactive writing at the end of guided reading with each group. The only problem was that I didn't have any sort of chart paper to use that was small enough for my guided reading table. My teammate, Casi, and I were brainstorming and thought that it would be easy to just cut a regular sized chart paper tablet in half. I already have a table pocket chart at my table, so I could just put the chart paper over it. Here's a couple pics of the table pocket chart before and after.

I'm so excited to start incorporating interactive writing in my guided reading groups. I think it will be especially beneficial for my lower readers and writers!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Magical Product Swap {Plus a Giveaway!}

It's that time again! The amazing Jessica from Mrs. Stanford's Class is hosting another "Magical Product Swap" and I'm so excited to share the gem that I got to review! I was lucky enough to be paired up with Cynthia from 2nd Grade Pad.
Welcome to 2nd Grade Pad

If you aren't following her blog yet, you need to! She has wonderful ideas and offers such creative freebies for teachers. To check out her blog, just click on her button above. Okay, onto the fabulous product that I got to review for the swap- Cynthia's Math Games Galore.

This packet contains 11 math games that are perfect for small groups or partner work. I used these games in my "Quiet Choice Box" which is where my students can choose games to play when they finish their work early. I am always looking for new games to add to the box to keep it exciting for my students. These games were PERFECT for my students to play in partners because they were easy to make and play. The directions are simple and require only a few materials. My kiddos looked forward to these games so much that they've never worked as quickly to finish their work!

Here is a pic of the quiet choice box that I have in my class with Cythia's games inside. This box is just a hanging file box that I use to keep things organized. It works so well! Each game is in it's own folder with the title on a tab at the top. The kids can easily find the games they are looking for and know where to put them when cleaning up. (We all know that our students struggle with keeping things organized!)

Next to the box is a small bin that I use to keep the dice, cubes, coins, spinners, and other materials that go along with the games. When the kids pull out a game, they look to see what materials they need and get them out of the bin. It is so easy to just keep all of the small pieces together so they don't get lost in the box. The cubes won't fit in my hanging folders so the bin works great.

The games in Cynthia's pack cover math concepts including: counting, identifying numbers, more than/less than, addition, subtraction, counting on, counting back, mental math, making a ten, place value, and counting coins. Since there are so many fabulous games in this pack, I'm going to highlight my students' 4 favorites! First up is their ultimate favorite game- Back and Forth.

 This game encourages the students to quickly add and subtract using mental math. The kids place their counter at the beginning of the gameboard and roll the cube (pictured on the right) to see how many spaces they get to move. Sometimes they get to move forward (if they land on an addition fact) but sometimes they have to move backward (if they land on a subtraction fact). The game is won when the first player makes it to the 20. My kids played it like a race and were practicing adding and subtracting quickly. They loved it! Here is a pic of them enjoying the game:

 Next up is the game "21". This is another game that encourages mental math and counting on. The students take turns spinning a spinner (made by using a paper clip and pencil) to see how many points they get. They continue spinning and adding points by counting on until someone reaches the number 21. My kiddos also really enjoyed this game because it felt like a race (they are so competitive!) and because they loved using the spinners. They didn't even realize that they were practicing their math facts... score!

"This is How We ROLL!" sparked their interest immediately because of the catchy name =) This game reviews many concepts all at the same time including place value, addition, and comparing numbers. The kids roll two dice, add the numbers together and then record it in the thousands place. Then, they do the same thing but record it in the hundreds place. They continue doing this until their place value mat is full. At the end, they compare numbers to see who has the biggest (or smallest). They are the winner!
Last up is the game "Coin Toss". Students take turns grabbing a handful of coins and tossing them into a cup. They count the coins they grabbed and then compare with their partner's amount. Whoever has the highest amount gets a point. Students can record who won each round by using tally marks on a dry erase board. The first student to reach 5, 10, or whatever you chose is the winner! Instead of having my students toss them into a cup, I had them pull out a handful of coins and place them in pile in front of them. This worked just as well and kept all of the coins together!
Alright- now that you want to grab this amazing product, here is the exciting news.... Cynthia and I are both offering 20% off of our Math Games Galore (Cynthia's product) and  Math Games with Dice (my product that she is reviewing)! To snag your discounted copy, just click on the pictures below:
We are also giving away any item from our TpT stores ($10 or below) to 3 lucky winners! To enter the giveaway, just follow the directions below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 11, 2013

"Friday Box"

Do your students have a hard time keeping track of their things? Every day at the end of the day, I go around picking up glue sticks, scissors, dry erase markers, pencils, etc. (even though we have two floor cleaner class jobs that are supposed to do this!). My students are losing things like crazy! To teach them the importance of taking care of their things, I introduced them to the "Friday Box" this week.

The Friday Box is just a container where things that are found on the floor or out of place are kept until the end of the week. If a student loses their glue stick on Monday, they don't get it back until Friday. When I explained this to the class, you would've thought the world stopped turning! Instantly, they started asking "What do I do without a glue stick for the entire week?" or "What if I left my eraser on the floor. How can I fix my mistakes?" I told them that they would have to be problem-solvers and figure out a way such as borrowing, etc. Now I know this may sound a little tough but for some of my kids, not being able to find something that they lost was wasting SO much time. I introduced this box on Tuesday of this week and it has already made a HUGE difference in the amount of items found around the classroom. We did have a pretty good collection going though- pencils, scissors, glue sticks, bookmarks, chap stick, Pokemon cards, among many other "treasures". Today, the kids got their things back at the end of the day. I saw some of them putting their materials in their pencil boxes right away and pushing it towards the back of the desk. I really hope this helps them develop resposibility for their things! We'll see how next week goes =)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Opinion Writing Graphic Organizer FREEBIE

Today my kiddos started learning about the five parts of opinion writing. I taught them that an opinion piece has to have: 1) an introduction where you state your opinion, 2) reason #1 to support your opinion, 3) reason #2 to support your opinion, 4) reason #3 to support your opinion, and 5) a conclusion that restates your opinion. I am a visual person so I think about this like a sandwich/hamburger. Here is a picture of the hamburger display that I showed them to understand the five parts:

This is just a placemat from Walmart that I cut apart into five different sections. I hot glued magnets on the back and wrote each part of an opinion writing on the pieces. This helps the kids to understand everything that they need to include in their writing. After learning about the five parts, I modeled how to support an opinion with reasons. I told them that my favorite sport was volleyball and gave them three reasons why I thought this. Then, I asked them the question "What is the best Unified Arts class?" and boy, were there plenty of differing opinions! Some chose P.E., some chose Art, some chose Computer Lab, etc. I told them that they were going to practicing supporting their opinion with reasons just like I did by using a graphic organizer. They used the organizer below to state their opinion and write three reasons.

If you'd like to pick up a FREE copy of this organizer, just click on the picture to download it! The download includes both color and black and white versions of the organizer. If you're interested in more common core opinion writing resources, you can also check out my unit on TpT below. Just click on the picture below to check it out!

Tomorrow we are going to focus on the conclusion and how to wrap it up. It went really well today- such a nice break from personal narratives! Enjoy =)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday Made-It and My New Blog Design!

Well today was my first official day back to work after break, although it was just an in-service. Let me tell you- it was great to slowly ease into things and have time to work in our classrooms. I feel so much better about starting back tomorrow. I feel like it's the first day of school again- I have little butterflies in my stomach thinking about seeing my kiddos again! I'm going to miss my little man, but also glad to get back into the swing of things.

I'm excited to share several "Monday Made-Its" with you. A few weeks ago, I shared a post about the stools that I made my colleagues for their classroom. I decided to make one for myself and I just adore it. Here are a couple pics of my finished stool...

Seriously, these were so easy to make! I used leftover fabric from my classroom curtains and chair pockets so that everything is coordinating. I love it!

Okay- next up for "Monday Made It" is a project for home that I did over break. My son, Grady, who is 18 months old LOVES to color and draw. My sister-in-law built this adorable table for him on his 1st birthday and I've been dying to paint it and make it all "cutesy." I was inspired by the picture below on Pinterest:

love this!

Here are some pics of my little man's finished art area: (sorry for the picture quality!)

He is having so much fun coloring at this table! The chair pockets would be great for a classroom also. I love the bows at the top (can you tell I like bows?!) The curtain rod holds little pails with crayons, markers, etc. So fun! =)

Alright, last up is the Common Core Opinion Writing unit that I created over break. I am so pumped about teaching opinion writing to my students. When I first started searching for ideas, I found a lot of prompts such as "Pretend you are and ant. Write a letter trying to persuade someone not to step on you." I was struggling to find what I was looking for so I decided to make it myself! I started by thinking about times in life when we write opinion pieces. I came up with 8 different types of writing- speeches, editorials, letters, book recommendation letters, book reviews, movie reviews, advertisements, and campaign posters. I'm proud to say that the 8 writing activities included are all authentic writing opportunities for kids. If you'd like to learn more about the unit, just click {here}. You can also check out the unit by clicking on the pic below:

Hope you all have a great week!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Year in Preview and Fun with Fairytales Unit!

Happy New Year everyone! I can't wait to see what 2013 has in store for me =) I have a feeling it's going to be a GREAT year!! I'm linking up with Michelle from Making It As A Middle School Teacher for her "Year in Preview" linky party. Here's what I have coming up:

I am especially looking forward to a weekend away with my husband in the Amish country. It is absolutely beautiful there and so relaxing. We love to shop for furniture and enjoy all of the delicious food (cheese and wine especially!) that you can find there. I also am already excited for our Field Day at the end of the year. Our PE teacher, Mr. L, always plans the most amazing field day for the kiddos and staff. Each year has a different theme and all 20+ rotations are centered around this theme. Last year was pirates and it was such a blast! He sets up a slip-n-slide on the hill in our school's backyard, water balloon sling shots, HUGE bounce houses, cornhole, and so much more. It is definitely the best day of the school year! (Alright- I am really getting ahead of myself here- we still have months until Field Day!)

For those of you going back to school tomorrow, I hope you have a great week back! I still have a few days off, so I've been planning for what my kiddos will be doing when we return. Before break, we started a fairytale unit and the kids have LOVED every minute of it! We've really only covered fairy tales so when we go back next week, I plan to focus on folktales and fables. If you're interested in checking out my "Fun with Fairy Tales, Folktales, and Fables" unit, click on the image below. (My favorite part of this unit is the fable writing activity. So fun!)


Happy New Year everyone!