Saturday, January 20, 2024

Quick and Easy Valentine's Day Craft

Are you short on time and a little patience this time of year?  I am! There is so much I want to squeeze in to create those special memories in First Grade.  My class loves crafts.  But some take soooooo long and need so much direction from me.  So, I created one that can be done quickly and independently (When I'm meeting with Reading Groups) in about 30 minutes.

Cute? I think so!

There aren't that many pieces to copy and hand out.  Yea! And it can be used again for other holidays! That is what I love most! 

I wanted to make a visual for myself to think about all other color possibilities. Possibilities are endless.

I try to include a simple coloring page for really busy teachers and to let my students take home and give to siblings.  That's always fun!

Quick question: What do you use for Valentine's "collecting" in your classroom?  I know some teachers have kids make bags. I send home this Make a Valentine Box at Home letter with my students. I love seeing what they create at home with their families.  Grab the letter if you want!


Here's a Valentine's Day Clear the Board game that's free, too.  Fun to play! 

Valentine's Day will be here before you know it!  If you want to see my two favorite books to read this time a year and a must-watch quick video/song with a powerful message, click on links!

Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Day  and the awesome LifeVest Video.


Sunday, January 14, 2024

Birthday Celebrations in the Classroom (Update)

This is an update to the post Birthday Celebrations in the Classroom.

What's different?


They are so stinkin' cute though, aren't they?

Then why did I stop this year? My class was taking FOREVER (and a day!) to make them.  Seriously!  

Our schedule is SO TIGHT this year (don't get me started!) and all the kids were taking WAY more than the 15 minutes "Do-Now" time. I mean WAYYYYYY more than 15 minutes.  Heck, some kids are still making a card from October as I write this...

Seriously, it became a huge time suck and I found myself getting agitated.


What do I do now?  

Yep. That's what they get. Nothing fancy, I know. (They still do other things in the original post. This replaces cards.)

What do they think? They LOVE IT! They get to take it home and hang up in their room.

What do I think? I LOVE it because kids can sign name and draw a small pic if they want throughout the day and it doesn't take up really any time since kids sign during "down times."

Note: 3/4 of my class took F-O-R-E-V-E-R. The other ones took about 2.2 seconds and Id have to remind them to put in effort, etc. Their final card never changed much. So, this change, for me, was a "good for all" change.

Honestly, I sort of feel like the Birthday Scrooge by not allowing them to make cards but it works,  For me.  What works for you?  I'd honestly love to know!


Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Affirmation Station

I'm a big believer in Positivity over Negativity! And there is such an easy way to help foster a positive classroom: an Affirmation Station!


What Are Affirmations?

  • They are short phrases that are positive and empowering.
  • They boost a child's self-esteem, confidence, and foster a can-do attitude. A great way to introduce Growth Mindset!
  • When you say affirmations often enough, they shape your reality.
  • You can say them anywhere and it only takes a few minutes a day to feel the positive effects.

How to Use My Affirmation Station

  • Set up an area in your room where you have affirmations visible for the kids to read. I use a mirror but a bulletin board or simply a wall works fine.
  • I tape affirmations around a mirror for the kids to say when they want. Some kids stop by daily. When I introduced the affirmations, we said them together after lunch for a month straight before kids could do so independently. 
  • You can print out cards and give to kids so they can say them at desks or some where more private if needed.
  • Print out and send home a few a day to have kids share with families. 
  • By request, I printed out extra sets for some of my students who said them each morning at their desks after arrival AND I had two requests from parents last year to send home so they could create their own at home. (I'm fine with you sharing this with families. I encourage you to!) 
  • Although I continued to say as a class each day, there were days I would include them in Do-Nows or in center rotations.
  • This resource includes editable affirmations so I did switch out when an opportunity presented itself. For example, after reading the wonderful book The Thing Lou Couldn't Do, we switched out one for the included "I am determined" and typed up one that said, "I have grit."
These also come in black and white so you can print on any color paper you'd like to match your classroom. There is also a separate EDITABLE file so you can add specific affirmations you may want for your students.

Affirmations Included: 

✿ I am smart.
✿ I am clever.
✿ I am brave.
✿ I am loved.
✿ I am positive.
✿ I am talented.
✿ I am confident.
✿ I am amazing.
✿ I am persistent.
✿ I am caring.
✿ I am polite.
✿ I am unique.
✿ I am wise.
✿ I am friendly.
✿ I am fun.
✿ I am empathetic.
✿ I am responsible.
✿ I am respectful.
✿ I am assertive.
✿ I am flexible.
✿ I am honest.
✿ I am grateful.
✿ I am present.
✿ I am helpful.
✿ I am cheerful.
✿ I am inspiring.
✿ I am generous.
✿ I am creative.
✿ I am focused.
✿ I am eager.
✿ I am patient.
✿ I am interesting.
✿ I am reliable.
✿ I am independent.
✿ I am happy.
✿ I am nice.
✿ I am determined.
✿ I am successful.
✿ I am awesome.
✿ I am in control.

Between my Affirmation Station and My Power Of Yet Bulletin Board, I feel like I'm starting off the year ready to jump in and amp up not only my students' confidence in tackling new situations but the belief that they WILL succeed.  

Have a great day!

Friday, July 21, 2023

Using Crowns and Headbands In My Classroom

I'm a crown and headband kind of girl!  Always have been! When I was little, it wasn't really dress-up without a tiara or two on my head! My love of headbands and crowns has extended to the classroom. I use them monthly and invite other optional opportunities for kids to make and bring home.

Why Use Crowns and Headbands In Your Classroom?

  • a quick, easy, yet meaningful "hat" that highlights a specific day or holiday to celebrate
  • an activity that promotes classroom community and school spirit
  • perfect for a quick Do-Now as kids arrive in the morning
  • reinforce curriculum
  • helps kids practice fine motor skills with coloring and cutting
  • sparks conversations in class and at home which strengthens the home-school connection

How To Make Crowns and Headbands

  • print out the crown you want 
  • use crayons or markers to color in the crown
  • cut out
  • glue onto a sentence strip and size to head
  • staple it

I use 2-3 crowns a month BUT I often out out the ones I didn't use during centers that kids can make and take home if they want. For example, we celebrated coding in September in school and I did a lesson on it but I didn't offer a crown to make. Some kids picked it during centers and brought it home to make while a few decided to make it in school.  

I've packed lots of crowns into each monthly packet. The best part? Many of them can be used ANY time of the year! Gotta love that!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Scholastic News: A Must Have!

Do you subscribe to Scholastic News? I'm lucky that our school pays for the subscription for all of our First Grade classes. If I didn't have it and it wasn't in the budget, I would see if your PTO could purchase a subscription or earmark a fundraiser for it.  It's that good!

What is Scholastic News?

  • It's a weekly "magazine" that features timely non-fiction topics that support your curriculum. It's always engaging and I love the way it builds and reinforces nonfiction reading skills. Here are Grades 1-5 recent topics.

  • You get 4 issues delivered in a bundle each month. Some months are combined which makes sense. That's 32 issues a year. I think it's a really good deal BUT it still costs around $5-6 per student. So it's not like a teacher could purchase a class subscription on their own.
Here are the themes listed for next year.

While I've always loved the content, it wasn't until two years ago that I fully took advantage of everything it has to offer which includes the digital content.

What's included in Scholastic News:


  • A magazine for every student (4 sides total. Just the right size for First Graders.)
  • Lesson Plans/Ideas to implement/discuss
  • Printable activity sheets which I never used until a few years ago.  


  • The news accessible on any device
  • Nonfiction videos that are always spot-on
  • Read-Aloud Audio Option which I use
  • Interactive activity Sheets
  • Games
  • Back Issues which I do access. Sometimes videos are the same but often can get short videos that are so well made on a specific topic.

This is what the online version looks like:

For a long time, I simply read the magazine to the kids and discussed it. But a few years ago, after a lot of nudging from my colleague, I discovered the online version and WOW! A great news "magazine" was made even better. (Thanks, Jane!)

How I Use With My First Graders:

Fridays: I share the online version with the kids. This usually takes 30 minutes by the time I introduce the vocabulary, listen to it online (as it highlights each word) watch the video, do the "dance break" offered, and the learning game that is part of it.  No matter the topic, we always learn SO MANY interesting facts! 

Here is my favorite one from this year:

An example of the vocabulary. You click it and it defines the word then asks class to say the word together.

I will definitely do this one again next year.  Truly inspiring!

After We Read On Fridays:

  • On Monday or Tuesday, I pass out the extension pages that I make into a booklet  Then I allow the students to work together OR work independently on completing the pages. While most want to work with a partner, I usually have 3-5 that prefer to work alone.

The kids are so engaged and take this seriously. It's a great way to reinforce so many skills as they work.

Here is a free online sample that you can see for yourself.  

And in case you are wondering, I don't know anyone there and don't benefit in any way at all if you sign up.  I just wanted to share a product I truly love!


  • The only thing I'd change that I find really annoying is that you have to print our each PDF worksheet separately.  Why not just have them all together? It would save time. The way it is, I have to open up onw page, print. Then go to next, etc. 
  • It seems like my district renews late each year. We usually don't get the print versions of first set until late September. Since you need a code to log on, it's annoying. We are at the mercy of our secretaries. just know that if they received your P.O., they will give you the code even if they haven't sent out the printed copies yet. Just call and ask. 
  • I know Second and Third grade teachers who are equally happy and my sister teaches Middle School and uses that version which she loves. I believe it's called SCOPE.
Enjoy! Let me know if you use Scholastic News in your class and what you think?

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Writing Prompts

If you know me or have read my blog for a bit, you know how much I love to teach writing. I suppose it's not a surprise since I'm also a children's author.  My love for writing must be contagious because as much as I love teaching writing, my Fabo Firsties always seem so focused during writing time and love to blow me away with their writing.

How lucky am I? I teach the interactive lesson, put on some writing workshop music and we get down to business right away. We write so much in my class that I'm forever sharpening pencils!

Dull Pencils need sharpening for Writing Workshop

But I can't take all the credit for their enthusiasm! It all starts in Kindergarten and our K teachers rock! They work their magic and by the time they enter my room, it's honestly a rare occasion that I hear, "I don't know what to write about." Many of us use some variation of this quote which connects the dots for our young writers and readers.

Writing Quote for Kids

We use Lucy Calkins for writing and the kids must generate their own topics all the time. As much as I love that, I also wanted them to be able to respond to a given prompt. Since they use all of the Lucy Calkins strategies during their responses, I feel like it's a win-win situation!

I decided to make my own prompts so I could make sure I had monthly topics that meshed well with our curriculum. BUT, I still wanted to give the students some choice. SOOOOO....Pick-a-Prompts were born!

Pick-a-Prompt September

Writing Workshop Prompts

What are Pick-a-Prompts?

  • Writing activities that give your students a choice in what they want to write about. There are 3 prompts on each page and everyone gets to choose the one that interests them the most. They will highlight their chosen prompt and respond. 
  • Varied writing opportunities since kids can often pick between stating an opinion, making lists, writing letters, songs, poems, write a How-To, etc. 
  • Themes related to the month so the writing naturally supports curriculum topics.

How Do I Use Them In My Class?

  • In the beginning of the year, I don't run these two-sided. Once I sense kids need more writing space, I'll print two-sided with the back being the fully lined page that’s included in this packet. I always have extra lined-only pages run off for my voracious writers! I get quite a few two-three page responses in the later part of the year.

  • As always, I model, model, and model again several of these before giving them out. We do as a class all throughout September and October. It makes such a huge difference in the quality they produce! The kids know that I won’t accept one word or sentence answers! The more I model and have kids share responses, the better the results are from the whole class.
  • I always have some printed ready to go during this time in case a child wants to do one. Usually I have 6-8 kids that opt-in by October.
  • If you walk into my room, you'll see several of these hanging up around the room. I also use these worksheets as homework once a week starting in January and the kids partner share responses during morning meeting the next day. Sharing responses allows the children to get to know their classmates a bit better and helps foster a stronger classroom community.
  • I also use them for Do-Nows, Free Choice (I can even put same ones out because kids still have two unused options to pick from) and slip them into Fast Finishers folders. They've really come in handy during writing workshop too. I have a rule that during writing, we write. That's it. Finished a story? Write a new one! But I've realized that sometimes kids want to continue writing but starting another How-To or All About with ten minutes left of the period may not be ideal or could feel overwhelming. So, these fit the bill!

What's Included in Each Packet?

  • 8 pages of prompts with 3 prompts per page. Students highlight their chosen prompt or simply put an ‘X’ on it and respond to that prompt.
  • Two full lined pages to run on the back of the prompt for those students who need more space to write their response.
  • All prompts are available with primary and secondary handwriting lines which make these appropriate for Grades 1-4.
  • Writing topics for September include: Fall Fun, School Rocks, All About Me, Labor Day, School Rules, Grandparents' Day, Friends, and What If...?

Real Pick-a-Prompt Responses

Janaury Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts for Kids

January Writing Prompts

NOTE: These were from January packet. I'm in the process of tweaking all months a bit: fonts, clip art, and some of the prompts. The changes can be seen in the September and October covers above,

Here is one from one of my Book-It Packets. Each Book-It gives a little support to the books teachers love and use all of the time. They feature the same 3 activities in each one: Pick-a-Prompt, Make-a-Word, and Retellings. Want 3 free Book-Its that you'll love? They are an hour of meaningful work and you'll feel good about leaving them with a substitute. 

President Pennybaker Writing Prompts

Are you ready to give Pick-a-Prompts a try with this FREE packet? I sure hope so. I promise you that you're going to love them and reach for them time and time again! Let me know what you think!

Happy writing!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Making Class Books

My most favorite time of the day (after Morning Meeting!) is when I sing our writing workshop song as the kids gather on the carpet with their writing folders. They are so excited and eager to participate in the lesson and get started. While teaching writing is one of my favorite subjects to teach, I also think it's the hardest subject area to teach. (Feel free to grab the song. It was given to me with no name to give credit to. I just added border/pics.)

If your class is like mine, you have some struggling FRUSTRATED writers.  Only minutes before, they looked as if they were ready to write a novel. But their confidence falters. Even drawing a picture and labeling it seems quite challenging to them.

That's exactly why I like to make CLASS BOOKS! Immediate success for ALL writers! 

Because each page has the same starter sentence or prompt, all students can read the phrase independently within minutes which is a great ego boost for the kids.  (Example: The Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Book for September has Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Name) is in our room. That's it! A very easy one for all to read. Every child can read the book on the first try! 

Why Make Class Books?

  • They allow students to see the writing-reading connection and empower them to think of themselves as authors and illustrators.
  • They are repetitive in nature so kids can often read the entire book after the writer has shared his/her page.
  • The books help strengthen your classroom community. You learn so much about each other when you read the books.
  • It's a "quick win" for the entire class. From start to finish, the whole book can be made/shared in about 30 minutes. The students see their writing published in a book and there is something very  satisfying and powerful about that!

My Method for Making Class Books

  • We talk about the theme. This can be in the days leading up to our writing or minutes before. Depends on the topic.
  • I pick a name out of my cup to see who gets to color in the cover. (We do so many books that each child will get to color 1-2 covers. NOTE: You can use the COLOR cover that comes with the packet but I have the kids color them. Up to you.

The Apple of Our Eyes Class Books

Classroom Books

  • Kids pick the paper they want to use. You can see how it's differentiated. Choice is important.
  • They complete their page.

Apple of My Eye Class Book

  • We gather back on the carpet. We take turns reading and sharing responses. I collect each one immediately after a child has shared. Within a few minutes, I have all in my hands.
  • We then vote on WHO we want to dedicate our book to. Sometimes I give them 3 people in our school to pick from. Other times, I take nominations.  The principal always seems to be the first book we dedicate to.
  • I fill out the DEDICATION page.
  • I print our a recent class picture and glue it on the last page. The person coloring the cover also gets to add design elements to this page.

  • After the cover is done, I staple the book together and put it in a bin for the kids to read and enjoy! It's exciting when they see me put THEIR book in the same space as their favorite authors and illustrators.  "It's because you ARE authors and illustrators!"
First Grade Classroom Library by Bloomabilities

  • At the end of the year, I put them all into a bag and kids reach in to pick one and take it home. A great memory book for them!  They love to look back and see how much their writing and drawing has improved. 


  • Next year, I'm going to make sure I add a page to each book too! Why should they have all the fun?
  • The books make a cute interactive bulletin board. Kids can grab one to read at any time!
  • I have a sign-out sheet for library books in my class. It's simple but effective. 
  • The kids are so proud of their book! It's too good not to share so from time to time, I make sure the kids pick a friend or teacher they want to share it with.
  • Kids often record each other reading the books and they share with parents on Seesaw.
  • The most exciting aspect for me is that by the end of September, we have completed 3-4 books and that means that EVERYONE in my class can read all the words in those books. That's thrilling for my struggling learners.

If you are interested in the September packet, I lowered it to only $2 for the next couple of weeks. That's only 40 cents per book! If you end of making any of the books, please let me know!

If you end of making any of the books, please let me know!

Happy writing!