Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year!

Hello again friends!
I hope you are all enjoying your break and relaxing as much as you can.  We need this time to recharge and refresh.  I have been on a hiatus from all things school related and I'm just now cracking open my laptop for the first time since school let out.  I have been enjoying my time with my little monkeys, making memories and snuggling every chance we get!  We tried something new this year and went to a gingerbread house decorating workshop. It was so much fun (and I didn't have to clean it all up)!  My kiddos were so proud of their creations and probably ate as much candy as they put on their houses.

So, my brain decided to wake up last night as I was trying to fall asleep and I started thinking about the changes I want to make in my classroom this semester.  The biggest thing I want to focus on is my ELA block.  I need to really prioritize my guided reading time and make sure my kiddos are engaged in meaningful activities while I'm working with groups.

In the fall I had my students rotating through stations, inspired by the Daily 5 model.  I didn't follow the Daily 5 completely, my kids chose between Read to Self, Writing, Working with Words, and Listening to Reading.  It was effective, but I felt like we were wasting time transitioning and I want my little learners to start showing more independence and ownership over their learning.

This is what I plan to implement when we go back for the spring semester:

My plan is to let my kids "manage" their learning, but, you know...on a first grade level.  They have three tasks they must complete, and then they can choose from the list of "May Do" activities.  I wrote a grant this summer and was extremely blessed to receive a class set of Chromebooks as a result, so I am able to incorporate a lot of technology into our day.  For the reading "must do" my kids will read a leveled reader on RAZ Kids and take the comprehension quiz.  If you don't have experience with Reading A-Z and RAZ kids, check them out.  Our PTA bought us a subscription and I LOVE it.  My kids are eating it up y'all.  They love choosing their books and earning their stars, and I love that I can monitor their comprehension on the quizzes.  Win-win!

For the Spelling "must do" I will be putting spelling activities in dry erase pouches for practice.  I am using activities from this pack: Spelling Practice in a Snap.

For Writing my kids work on writing prompts from The Moffat Girls.  They love these because they are seasonal and I love them because they provide support with labeled picture cues and a writing checklist for them to use.

If they finish with these tasks, my kiddos can choose from the "May Do" list.  They can read from their book boxes in a comfy spot, use their Chromebook to go to other literacy sites, or do vocabulary and grammar activities in a pocket chart.

I love the idea of my students moving about the room, taking care of business without my interference.  I will be able to monitor from my table as I do my reading groups, and check their progress on RAZ Kids from my computer when I need to. It's going to take some training, but I figure after Christmas break is the perfect time for it, seeing as we are going to be reviewing rules and routines anyway!  Are you making any big changes in your classroom when you go back?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thankful Hearts

Happy Thanksgiving break, my teaching peeps!  We made it through November and we are running head first into ALL THINGS CHRISTMAS!  I love this time of year with my kiddos!

Let me recap a bit about my very favorite November activities.  We have started a little tradition in first grade at our school.  Every year our kids work for a good two weeks on a huge writing piece called "Thankful Hearts".  They have to choose a person, place, and thing they are thankful for and write about them, giving three supporting details for each one.  It's a lot of work getting all of the kids through the entire writing process before Thanksgiving break, especially with the amount of sick kids we have had recently!  Totally worth it though- they come out SO CUTE!  We have an author's celebration the day before the break and parents come to hear the kiddos read their writing.  They are so proud of themselves!  Afterwards we have some cookies and juice to celebrate.

My own little sweetie is a first grader this year, so I can show you a few pics of her work: 

Here is her "Thesis Statement"- She is thankful for her sister, her school, and her zebra blankie (in the picture).

This is what she wrote about the place she is thankful for- our school!

She loves the food.  Bless.

These little books make great keepsakes, and I know I will be keeping this one forever!  After our Author's Celebration we watch Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving and make our turkey hats.  I have made these hats every year for 13 years and I have no idea where the pattern came from, but we trace these bad boys by HAND for each kid.  That's love ya'll.

The waddle is the best part!

So, what's coming up for December?  Christmas around the world, Reindeer, and a SALE!

Have you heard about the TPT sale going on net week?  I'm so excited!  I know I have some things stockpiled in my wish list that I have been eyeballing for a while looks like it's time to move them to my cart!

I just finished my December problem solving pack if you are looking for some great math activities for the next month!  My kids do these in pairs during guided math rotations, but you could easily do them whole group or independently.  I have two levels for each problems- one that uses numbers from 1-20 and another that goes up to 50.  Challenge those high flyers people, or they will be bouncing off the walls for the next three weeks!

Here is an example of the easier problem: 

And here is the harder one:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Spooky Fact Families- Guided Math

Happy October!
I love this time of year with my firsties.  We are finally in the swing of things with our routines and procedures and they are gaining independence.  One of my favorite times of the day is Guided Math. We were working with fact families last week, so I thought I would walk you through my guided math time and share a fun little Halloween themed math lesson at the same time!

We start math with a little warm up and a short (15-20 min) whole group lesson.  I tend to switch back and forth between place value concepts (number of the day type activities) and problem solving for our warm up.  Then we meet as a whole group on the carpet.  For this lesson we made an anchor chart about fact families and practiced creating the equations.  We talked about how Big Papa likes to sit in his chair, so Momma and baby do most of the moving.

After our whole group lesson we break up into small groups and do stations.  My stations are:
1. Teacher Table
2. Technology
3. Independent Work
4. Partner Games

At my table we review the concept I just taught, or a previous concept the group struggled with.  I often use lessons from Kristen Smith's Guided Math lessons, or sometimes I use my own lessons, depending on what my kids need.

At the technology station my kids use their Chrome Books to practice skills on  If you haven't checked out this website, you should!  It's amazing, and free!

During independent work my kids will work on a task at their seat.  Most of the time it is an interactive journal activity (I use Reagan Tunstall's stuff- she's great!), but some days we do a seasonal activity or use a page from our workbooks.  With this lesson my kiddos created a haunted fact family house, and they came out so cute!  I totally stole this idea from the fabulous teacher across the hall from me, and my kids loved it!  Here are a few hanging in the hall.

Our fourth station is partner games.  My kids LOVE working with partners and I love that they are working together and learning while "playing".  We spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year modeling what this should look like, and practicing "math talk".  We discussed how Mrs. PiƱa has magical powers and even from my table I can tell the difference between "math talking" and "recess talking".  Here are some of my cuties playing games from Kristen Smith's October Math Stations pack.

The kids spend about 15 minutes in each station and then we wrap up.  I like to pull everyone back to the carpet and we talk about what we learned and practiced that day.  It gives a sense of closure to my math block and allows my kiddos to reflect on what went well and where we need more work.  All in all, it's a very productive 90 minute block, and my students are engaged the whole time.

What does your math block look like?

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Hello friends!  I can't believe it is already half way through October!  Time is just flying by, and I am doing a terrible job of keeping up with this little blog.  I need some sort of time management intervention!

Every year we  celebrate Johnny Appleseed's birthday during the last week of September.  We call it Apple Week and our kids LOVE it.  We have so much fun!  We use resources from A Year of Many Firsts for guided reading and A Day in First Grade as well.  I love that both of these ladies focus on rich vocabulary, real photographs that build background and schema, and integrating science into every part of the school day.  I rely on resources from both of these ladies constantly!

Here is a small peek into some of the activities we did for Johnny Appleseed's birthday!
First, we got our applesauce started.  I had a fabulous parent peel, slice, and dice ten apples for me.  We put them in the crock pot with a cup of water and a cup of sugar.  Then we added a few shakes of cinnamon and we were all set!  It cooked all day and made our classroom smell heavenly!

After we got the applesauce started we sampled different colored apple slices and graphed our favorites.

We followed up with a quick little craft for our hallway display.  I just had the kids cut out a picture of an apple and layer tissue paper squares on it.  They always look cute outside our door!

We spent the rest of the day reading about Johnny Appleseed and writing about how he was a good citizen.  By the time the kids came back from specials the applesauce was ready!

The kiddos snacked on their applesauce and a few other appley treats that our parents sent in before we went home.  We were able to get out our science journals and record the properties of our applesauce while we ate.  All in all, we had a great day!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Daily Folder Dilemma

I don't know about you all, but every year the whole Daily Folder thing makes me crazy.  It seems like within the first nine weeks I'm already replacing folders or duct taping them back together.  All of the important papers are flying out all over the place and homework seems to disappear.  I was determined to fix that once and for all this, voila!  

Now, I know I am not the first teacher in the world to try out the whole binder concept.  I've seen the STAR binders, the BEE binders, and all of those super cute ideas.  It was just that none of them had exactly what I wanted, so I decided that I would make up my own.

In the front of the binder I have three plastic page covers.  In the first one I put our weekly newsletter.  On the back of the newsletter each week I print one of these handy little literacy handouts for parents.  They are a freebie from Primary Punch and I LOVE them!  In the next page protector I have my homework procedures for reading, math, and spelling.

Behind that I have the kid's login information for Xtramath.  If you haven't checked out, it is a fabulous (FREE!) tool for math fact practice.  It tracks your students progress and introduces new facts as they master the ones they are working on.  We use it almost daily in the classroom and I encourage parents to use it at home as well.  Next, on the green paper, I have our sight word list for the year.  I assessed my kiddos early in the year and checked off the ones they knew so the parents would know what they still needed to practice.

Next up are the dividers.  Behind the first two dividers are my spelling lists and challenge lists for the ENTIRE YEAR.  I got them from Sailing Through 1st Grade, and they go along with the Open Court Imagine It series.  Now each week I just tell my parents what lesson we are on in the newsletter and they can find the appropriate list themselves.  One less thing to type out in the ol' newsletter!

After that I have my reading and math homework...again, for the WHOLE YEAR.  No more passing out papers weekly, then collecting them again on Friday.  I use the Comprehension Notebook and  Daily Math Notebook from Jodi Southard.  

I love that both of these resources are broken up into one daily task for each day of the week.  It's a great reinforcement tool for those comprehension and problem solving standards and the format for each week is the same, so my kids know what to expect.  This helps them become independent and successful.

I'm super excited about my binders for this year and I'm hoping they hold up all year.  If not, I guess I will have to bust out with my cute pineapple duct tape and do some binder surgery.  So far my parents are loving it, and I am loving not having to run back and forth to the copy machine to get ready for the new week!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Our First Day of School!

Well, I made it through the first week.  You would think that after 13 years it would somehow all be less exhausting, but it wasn't.  Trying to be a mom and a teacher on the first day is rough ya'll, but I managed to grab a few quick pictures of my wee ones before the chaos started.  They are starting first and fourth grades this year!

The first day is always kind of a blur, but I managed to grab a few pictures of the highlights.  We started the day by reading Jitter Juice and doing the Jitter Juice activities from Babbling Abby's Fun with Firsties pack.  My kiddos looooved the jitter juice and had so much fun with the "Find a Friend" activities in this resource.  It's first week gold, I tell ya!

Next we went over our classroom rules and practiced some of the Whole Brain Teaching attention getters I use on a daily basis.  We learned "Class, Class", "Hands and Eyes", and "Mirror".  We practiced, practiced, and then practiced some more!  I had dabbled in WBT before, but this summer I read Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids (and the rest of your class, too!) by Chris Biffle and it got me really excited to try out the rest of the strategies with my class.  Once we had practiced the rules several times we watched my "Why Do We Need Rules?" power point.  Afterwards I gave them their science and social studies journals and they wrote down one rule that helps them be a good friend at school.  This was great for me, because I could wander around and observe.  On the first day I was able to see who my strong writers were and who was going to need more support.

Later that day we made our rainbow names.  This is one of my favorite first week activities for several is good fine motor practice, it makes a cute hallway display, and it takes them a long time to finish it...let's be honest, by the end of the first day you just want something to keep them busy for more than five minutes so you can catch your breath!  I got this idea from Deanna Jump's Names unit, another one of my first week must haves.  I love the name chants and class books...we use them throughout the entire first week!

Aren't they cute??

All in all, the first week was great!  I forgot to mention this before, but I only have fourteen kids right now.  FOURTEEN.  This is unheard of...I've never had a class this small!  Last year at this time I had 24 and I cried at the end of the first day, I'm not gonna lie.  I am tickled pink about my tiny little group! 
I hope everyone had a great week!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Classroom Reveal

Tonight is my Meet the Teacher Night.  In just a few short hours my new firsties will be here to meet me and see their new classroom.  I thought this would be a good time to share pictures of my new classroom, because Lord knows it won't look this put together next week!

This is the view of the back of the room, by the door.  You can see my cubbies and my reading corner.

Here is my calendar board and what will soon be my concept board.  This is where I will do my read alouds and morning meetings.

This is the front of the room.  Can you see the big book holder/easel my hubby made me?  He's so handy!  :)  Ignore the random boxes sitting out...I use them on Meet the Teacher Night to sort supplies.

The other side of the front of the desk and small group area.  I will attach my mini anchor charts for reading concepts to the strips of border as we learn them.

Back to the front of the room!  Here you can see my word wall, mailboxes, and where my kiddos keep their water bottles and lunchboxes.  Check out the cute burlap pineapple my bestie bought me as a back to school gift!

It's my new favorite thing!  

This is outside of my room, by the door.  I just need to add my class list to my little board and I'm all set!  Have a great year everyone!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Must Read Monday: First Week Favorites!

It's the last week of Must Read Monday...I'm so sad!  I love, love, love introducing my kiddos to great literature, and read alouds are my favorite part of the day.  This link up has given me so many great ideas!

This week I am linking up with Kindergarten Planet and The Kindergarten Connection to talk about our favorite back to school books!

I absolutely love the Gilbert and Friends books from Diane deGroat.  The series begins with Brand New Pencils, Brand New Books and goes all the way to No More Pencils, No More Books, No More Teacher's Dirty Looks.  My class loves following Gilbert and his pals through their first grade adventures!

Another favorite of mine is Horus's Horrible Day (First Graders From Mars).  This super cute story is all about Horus's disastrous first day and how with the help of a new friend he finds the courage to give first grade another try.

Last summer I picked up this little gem, Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker. It quickly became one of my new favorites.  It's adorable!  Lacey talks A LOT...all day, and all night.  Sound like anyone you know?  It seems like there's always at least one, right?  Anyway, Lacey looses her voice one day and learns an important lesson about listening.

My last pick is a silly little book by Jerry Pallotta that is always a hit with my kiddos, How Will I Get to School This Year?  Every year during the first week we talk about how week get to school and make a graph.  This book is a perfect addition to this lesson!  I like to make the class graph with my kids, read the book, and then let them draw and write about how they would choose to get to school.  Elephant?  Mosquito? Pig?  The possibilities are endless!

Well, that's it!  I hope you found a new book  you can use this year. What are your first week favorites?