Monday, January 28, 2013

Your Chance To Win Big!

Want to win a mega prize pack for your grade level? Olivia over at Liv To Teach is having a giveaway for reaching 1,000 followers on TpT!  Go, Olivia! There are so many TpT products you can win including one from yours truly:

The contest runs for a week and there are several prize packages to choose from.  Enter all of them!   You know what they say: 

You Gotta Be In It To Win It!

I cannot believe that February is just a few days away!  Eek!  Here's a freebie poem for you to enjoy!  It's linked to my TpT Store because it won't upload for some strange reason in Google Docs.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Snowmen Make Me Happy!

Aren't they adorable?  First Grade Blue Skies offers the patterns in her TpT Store.  This is the second year I've used them and they just make me smile, smile, smile! 
I had the kids name their snowperson and write two interesting facts about them.  Very cute!  Feel free to grab the paper from Google Docs.  Just click on pic.  Since the paper uses very little ink, I printed them out in color.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Family Journal: A Versatile Tool

One of my favorite activities in class is having the kids write in their Family Journals on Fridays. I've been doing it for years. It's so easy to implement and serves multiple purposes! (Can be adapted to any grade level!)

First, it's a great way to communicate what's going on in the classroom.  Of course I send newsletters all the time so what makes this different?  The kids are sharing what they feel were the week's highlights. 

Second, it's a quick assessment of the child's skills.  At one glance, I know what I need to reinforce with the child and many, many mini-lessons have been born this way.  Sometimes individually and often, whole group.(Sometimes I use as a formal assessment and conference with child.)

The skills are broad and besides the obvious, handwriting is also in the spotlight here.  I admit, it's so much fun to look back to the first entry of many of my kids and see the change.  Whoa!  Big changes for most! 

Third, it's a great way to create a memory book of the year!  Easy peasy lemon squeezy style!  (And be prepared for babies and pets responding!  A hoot!)

If you plan on implementing a journal like this, here are some TIPS!

When I started this years ago, many of the journals were returned on Monday mornings CORRECTED with writing splitter splattered all over it.  Boo to that! 

Those eager parents certainly deflated my budding learner's enthusiasm for writing.  Now, I include a letter to the parents explaining to them that while light editing goes on at school, they are NOT to correct the letters.  However, I encourage them, when they write back/respond, to stick to what the child has written about and use the correct spelling/format in their letter.  I assure them the kiddos are geniuses but don't have all the skills necessary at this point in the year to spell everything the right way.  Temporary Spelling, as I prefer to call it over Invented Spelling, is a good thing! We know that but you know how parents need the reassurance! 

So if a child wrote:  tsday was fin in schol. 
They can respond:  Wow!  Tuesday really did seem like a fun day in school! 

It's also important to make sure parent's stick to the topics their child wrote about.  Why?  First of all, you don't want novels coming back!  The kids share these with partners and often with the class during Morning Meetings on Mondays.  I don't want the sharing to be too long.

Also, if parents are throwing in info about their vacation coming up or such, it gets the kids sidetracked AND the beginning readers won't know most of the words.  Then guess who has to read them all to the kids? :)

Since I include a letter in the front, it doesn't happen too often anymore.

Another tip I've garnered this year: if a child's parent doesn't respond, have someone else respond.  In all my years, this has never been a problem.  Until this year. I have had one parent who hasn't responded. The child also "lost" two journals . Since he never brought it back with a response in September/October, I found someone else the child writes to (after discussing with the child) and it's worked out well. 

Occasionally, I've had a child forget to bring it back on Monday morning and even the whole week!  It doesn't happen often but I'm ready if it does:  keep extra papers handy and have kids write a letter in school along with their buddies but insert it into their journals over the weekend. Simple!

I offer the packet in my TpT Store .(includes secondary handwriting lines as well as the primary ones shown here.)

While I always start mine in September, January seems like a good place to implement this super activity as well!   Do you have journals go home?  Any tips to offer me?  I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Toss It! Make a Quick Place Value Game

I have no idea where this game- TOSS IT- came from except that I saw another teacher playing it with her class last week.  Investigations materials?  Everyday Math? Made up herself?  Who knows but I will ask tomorrow!

It's so simple and yet really gives the kids another approach to counting those tens and ones.  (I didn't introduce until after we used connecting blocks/base ten blocks, etc.)

Ready to make it?

Have Popsicle sticks? Okay- you are probably like most teachers and have millions.  You need ten for each student and I made 21 bundles. OR just make enough for half of your class/partner work.

Use a marker to draw 10 black dots on the front of each one and one dot on the back.  If you do 5 and 5 on the front, I think it helps kids "see" the ten a bit better.

Unbundle the sticks and "toss" in the air.  When they land, sort into tens and ones and then count and record. Expanding/ decomposing numbers can be tricky but this game really helps reinforce the concepts.

And this little one below was the first to get all tens in a toss!  It was her 7th toss...the paper is two-sided. She was proclaimed the Boss of Applesauce!

We've played it a few times this week and I sent home the sticks and a recording sheet for homework tonight.  You would have thought I was sending home candy!

Grab a recording sheet by clicking on pic:

Two tips:

If you have a parent volunteer, have them make the bundles.  While easy, they do take time! 


Easy to differentiate for those kids who are ready for higher numbers and those who might need more practice with smaller numbers under 50.  Just add or take away sticks to meet their needs.

Happy tossing!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Heart Morning Meeting!

While I've always had  "morning meeting" each day in school, it wasn't until I started working in a Responsive Classroom school that I've followed a specific "schedule."  I really do "buy into" the whole "it sets the tone of the day" thing!  Yep- hook, line, and sinker.  Love, love, love it!

Starting this month, I'm inviting parents to join us for MM any day they'd like whenever they like.  I pointed out that they are not there to observe, but rather participate along with us.  That means joining in our greeting, sharing period, activity (oh, so much fun!!) and our daily message. 

As a parent, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall and see my kids' MM time.  I think it's insightful for the parents and FUN for all.   Besides a quick wave hello and a hug good-bye, the parent is just one of the special perks to the family or anything.  It's business as usual when they are present. They come in at 8:30 and leave at 8:50 sharp.  (RC wants a 30 minute MM but our district says 20.  I have to say, I start off at 20 in the beginning of the year and taper down to about 15 minutes for the last two months of school. Don't get me wrong, I could seriously do 30 minutes a day because while we do an activity (game, dance, or such) I still just have to sing!  So, we do sing a song (or three!)  almost every day.  There's just something about kids singing that makes my heart sing!

What goes in that 15-20 minutes is amazing and sometimes I think I teach a whole's day worth of lessons in that time frame!  The time flies by and we move immediately into writing workshop each day.

I've always infused lessons/reviews into my message BUT, from what I was taught and read, the Responsive Classroom really doesn't want you to do that.  (EDITED TO ADD:  my district frowned upon this but had a change of heart last year.) But a teacher's gotta do what she's gotta do, right?  Here was my message for today:

I usually have a question on the bottom that they have to answer or a Do Now like the one above. They do this DO-NOW as soon as they arrive and unpack each day. (EDITED TO ADD:  All of my Do-Nows are now Open-Ended Format Journal Responses.  So. Much. Deeper!   Before reading the message together at MM,  we use swatters to "Whack a Word." I draw names out of a jar and that child gets to come up, say a word, and whack it.  After we have lots of whackers (and I do allow for kids to repeat words. That in itself is telling!) we read the message together.  Sometimes I'll ask if anyone wants to read it to us.  Yesterday, one of my struggling readers read the above to us by herself!  Sniff, sniff!  After reading, I simply ask the kids if anyone has a compliment for me (since I've been working SO hard on my friendly letter format!) or if they want to tell me something they've noticed.  I'm always amazed what they come up with!  Sometimes they point out that I didn't spell a word right and you know what?  That's never on purpose!  It happens, right?

In this letter, some kids commented on:

*Rhyming words/silly words
*Contraction Let's (quick mini-lesson)
*The word TO being a "no excuse word" and the child who said it is one who struggles with sight words...I was thrilled!
*I remembered the date!  (Yea, me!)
Someone noticed some short a words
*That the "ir" in First sounds like the -er sound
 A Chunky Monkey pointed out that EAR is part of Dear, etc.
But my favorite comment today was this: 
You made a funny smiley to entertain us.  As a writer, you have to make it fun for your reader.


How can I not seize the moment with my kiddos?  It's a quick activity but so valuable on so many levels!  Then one child gets to take the message home.  I pick a stick from the jar UNLESS it's your birthday.  The birthday king or queen ALWAYS gets the message. 

I always tell them to keep the message for a few days and then recycle it but from what I've heard, they are plastered around bedrooms, on the bathroom mirror (!) and even on the fridge! Cool, huh?  That's why I'll never project the message...I want the winner of the jar to have a living, breathing document to take home. 

I know everyone reading this probably does a MM and a message.  It's nothing new. I just wanted to share an example of mine with all of you!