Sunday, July 14, 2013

Comprehension Connections

    This has been such a productive summer for me!  I just finished my third "teacher" book and I am so proud of myself!  I feel like I am ready to tackle the up-coming school year!

     One of the books that I read was Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor.  She does a great job of showing the reader how to teach six specific comprehension skills: visualizing, determining importance, questioning, inferring, schema, and metacognition.  What I loved the most about the book is that she included basic ways to teach each comprehension skill.  She also used thinking stems for each skill.  I created Hollywood themed thinking stems which you can download for FREE below.   

     This idea also came from Comprehension Connections.  I simply used paint samples and attached the labels.  Isn't this an EASY way to check students' understanding.?!?! Simply have them point to the level of THEIR understanding.  You can do a quick check and either reteach or move on.  Love it!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Curious George is Curious About Our Community

     Did you notice Kohl's has Curious George stuffed animals for sale as part of their Kids Caring and Sharing Program?  Need a fun way to incorporate this curious fellow into your classroom?  Well here you go!  Several years ago, I came across a teacher that used Curious George as a means to get her students curious about their community. I thought this was such a great way for students to highlight various places in our community.  This activity is one of the most popular activities in my class.
   At the beginning of the school year, I send home a letter explaining the project and asking parents if they would like to "host" Curious George for a two-night stay at their house.  Once a date is set, I send home this bag with the student.  I ordered this bag from 31 and had it embroidered with the title "Curious About Our Community." 

Inside the bag, I have the following items: for George a (fake) banana, drinking bowl, two of his favorite Curious George books and for the student a binder (with lined and unlined paper), crayons and pencils. 
Students are asked to take Curious George around the community and write back to the class explaining all of the neat places they visited together.  Can you see where all of the learning is taking place??  Students are actively learning about the community and writing a reflection.  When students bring their bag back to school, they share their writing and any illustrations and/or pictures with the class.  I allow time for the class to ask the student any questions about their community experience with Curious George.  After the student shares, I present him/her with a packet of Curious George gummy snacks!  Yes, they actually make them and I love the connection! :)
      Besides students loving this activity, so do parents!  They email me pictures of George in all kinds of places!  Once I went to watch a few of my students play in their basketball game and it just so happened that one of the students was hosting George for the weekend.  Guess who was also at the basketball game??   Yep....Curious George!  The mom took a picture of the boys, Curious George and me.  It really was hilarious! 
      So head on out to Kohl's and grab your Curious George stuffed animal and get your students excited about their community and writing!!!  :)


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

6 + 1 Traits of Good Writing Binder

     Summer is here and that means it is time for me to reflect on the previous school year.  I love sitting in silence (HA!) and thinking about ways I can improve various aspects of my classroom.  Are you like that?!!?  I bet you are!  Otherwise, you would not be spending time reading blogs finding new ideas for your classroom. :)
So... one area that I really wanted to spice up is writing!  In the past, my students had one writing folder where they just tossed everything in.  Most of the time, I would open up folders and there would be stuff from months ago!  I was appalled!  Therefore, I came up with a 6 Traits Writing Binder.  You can download all of the sheets that I have made by clicking on the front cover picture.

      My principal is a huge supporter of 6 Traits.  Last year, she encouraged our staff to implement a trait a month.  She wanted to use a "common language" among all of our students so that as they move from grade to grade it all made sense to them. I typed up the phrases for each trait and mounted it on a piece of scrapbook paper.  I then slid it in the front cover of a 1" binder.  This will serve as the cover page.  Besides being kid-friendly, I think it will be a great resource for students to refer back to throughout the school year.
Instead of buying dividers for all 25+ students, I wanted to find something a bit more meaningful.  I came across quotes from individuals about each trait.  I tried locating link where I found it, but I couldn't locate it!  SORRY!!!!!!  I copied each of these quotes on colored paper so it would be easier for my students to locate that trait in their binder.  I also placed each quote in a protective sleeve (for durability). 
Next, I made a few goodies to have for the start of the school year.  First, I made a hook and wrap-up planning sheet.  My students and I will brainstorm various ways to begin and end our writing.  They will keep these pages in their binder for use throughout the school year.  I did copy both of those sheets on cardstock.  It drives me nuts when papers are ripped and hanging out of binders.  I thought the cardstock would hold up better. :)


I also tweaked an idea I found on Amanda Madden's blog.  I really like having students brainstorm other ways to say overused words.  I made this sheet so we could complete as a class.  I also created one that is blank so that it can meet the needs of individual students.
One other item that I am placing in their binders is a set of mini-labels.  Each label shows a different 6 trait.  I am going to use these during FREE WRITE.  Do you find that your students' free write really has no purpose?  I do!  I am going to have my students select one sticker BEFORE writing in their FREE WRITE journal.  They are going to place it at the top of the entry.  Whatever trait label they select will be what they have to focus on in their writing.  I want my students to be held accountable during this time.  This will also serve as a great informal assessment since they are writing without much guidance from me.

I am placing blank pocket sleeves at the back of the binder so students can keep "special" pieces of writing.  For example, I always read First Day Jitters on the first day of school.  We complete a writing activity after the book.  I keep this piece of writing until the last week of school.  By placing it in their binder, they will see how much they have grown as a writer just by looking at that piece of writing in their binder. 
This is just the beginning of the writing binder!  I am excited!  I like that it is organized, colorful and kid-friendly! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hollywood Theme

Lights!  Camera!  Action!  I am revamping my Hollywood theme for our upcoming school year!  I really wanted everything to flow nicely in my classroom.  I have been busy recreating many of the things that I already do, but added that Hollywood flare to it! 
I use this as a whole class behavior system.  Display a 100's chart for the class (or use the one provided in my Hollywood packet on TPT).  The class can earn numbers based on specific positive behaviors.  I created posters on how to earn numbers so the class is always aware.  When the class earns numbers, have a student or students pull out however many numbers the class earned.  Use a dry erase marker to color in the 100's chart.  When the class earns a BINGO, they earn a classroom treat (popcorn party, extra recess, no homework for the night, etc.). I have provided class prize tickets in my Hollywood packet.  (I did leave one blank in case you would like to add your own reward).  When the class earns a BINGO, I have one student select a ticket on behalf of the class. 
Helpful Tips:
*I laminate the100's board so you can wipe off the dry erase marker and reuse.
*Cut up one of the 100's charts to use as the numbers the students pull from.  I keep mine in a plastic container.
I love having a book or double copies of the same book on display each week.  The book normally goes along with what we are studying, the season, holiday, etc.  My students love letting their classmates know how they feel about the book.  After they read the entire book, I have my students place their picture magnet under YES or NO (depending on if they feel the book was worthy of having a friend read it).  I switch out the book each week.  To stock up, I always buy the $1.00 in the monthly Scholastic orders. 
I think this is just fun!  I love teaching writing.  I feel the more excitement you put into something, your students will feel your vibe!  I love getting my students pumped about writing.  For fun, I make the labels and place on Tootsie POPS.  The label says, "Your writing POPS!"  I try to find 1-2 pieces of writing that really shows improvement, uses great word choice, sentence fluency, etc.  My students feel super special when they get a Tootsie POP!
Here are my rules for my classroom.  You can download them for FREE!!!!!!  Just click on the image.

You can find my Hollywood set at my TPT store or by clicking on the image above.  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!! :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Exit Slips

Even though summer break has arrived, I have not stopped thinking school!!!!!  I love brainstorming new ideas, creating and planning for the upcoming school year!

      Recently, I put together a set of EXIT slips.  I love having a variety of assessment tools to use in my class.  EXIT slips are quick, easy and a great way to check for student understanding.  The set I created contain sentence starters so students have to finish the rest after the lesson.  You can try them out in your own classroom for FREE!  There are 8 different EXIT slips!!  Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Indiana Bloggers Blog Hop FREEBIE

Thank you, Fun in First, for linking up with me on the
Hoosier Blog Hop!!!! 
Great idea on reviewing sight words with your first graders!  If you just joined in, you can click on the image below to check our Jodi's FREEBIE!

   Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines for the final stretch of another school year! During these last few days of school, it seems to me that it becomes even more difficult to keep my students motivated and excited about school. Here is a fun way to get students up and moving while learning even more about their classmates. Download the FREEBIE called "On the Road to Find a Friend."

Keep the Hoosier Blog Hop moving by visiting Seusstastic! Just click on the image below and check out the FREEBIE Mel has left for you!
Enjoy and safe travels to you!


Monday, May 6, 2013

Red Carpet Movie Premiere Day!

Last week, families were able to walk the red carpet at our "Movie Premiere" day!  Let me tell you about this fun, meaningful writing activity that you can do with your class!

     About a month ago, I sent home a disposable camera with each student.  To cut back on the cost, you could ask parents to email or send in family pictures.  Students were asked to take pictures of their immediate family members (grandparents were welcome, too).  I had the film developed to a DVD only.  I uploaded their pictures to Microsoft Word and resized them to one page.  This allowed each student to see what his or her pictures looked like.  Next, students wrote about each family member.  Following that, I used Microsoft Movie Maker to record students' voices reading their family report.  I matched up the pictures with their spoken words.  The end result.... an incredible family movie!!!  Families came last week to view the movies.  For fun, I gave each family a tub of popcorn to eat while watching the movies.  Each family took home their own copy as a special keepsake.  This is such a neat way to wrap-up the year and highlight your students' writing skills!

My Movie Stars!
Student Movie and Popcorn Tubs

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Raise Money for Your Class or School by Sponsoring a Used Book Sale

    Here is an easy idea to raise some extra cash for your classroom or school... sponsor a USED BOOK SALE!  This is my second year of sponsoring it at my school and it has been a success both years.  Begin by sending out a letter to all of the students at your school asking them to DONATE any of their books.  My donation period lasts for two weeks.  As you collect books, begin sorting them according to genre.  Find the perfect spot in your school to set up your book store.  Last year, I had it in our cafeteria.  It was a lot of work since I had to pack up the books every day by lunchtime.  This year, I discovered an unused classroom.  It is the PERFECT spot, since I can leave out the books all day.  It also looks and feels like a quaint little book store.  (Be sure to check out the cheap banner I purchased for the room.)  When it is time for the USED BOOK SALE, send out another flyer announcing your GRAND OPENING!  All of my books are on sale for 50 cents each.  I display the books according to the genre.  The bookstore is open before school for 30 minutes.  I am very fortunate to have parent volunteers come in and oversee it.  Last year, we raised $500!  As of today, we have raised $371!  Not too shabby for selling used books for 50 cents each!  Please let me know if you have any questions!  Good luck!
Check out my cheap banner!!!

Chapter books were displayed on the shelf.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A-Z Days of School-Fun Activities for the Last Days of School

     If I counted correctly, our school corporation only has 37 school days left!  Do you know what that means?  It means it is time to send home the A-Z Days of School letter!!!  I look forward to this every year!  Yes, it does mean that summer is closer, but I know how much my students LOVE this activity!  For the last 26 days of school, I plan something fun for each letter of the alphabet.  For example, the letter B means my students can chew bubble gum in class that day.  The letter P means we will have a picnic lunch.  I cannot even count how many parents have commented on how much they LOVE the A-Z Days of School.  They tell me how excited their child is to come to school!  Honestly, I feel at times we have taken "the fun" out of school.  This is a quick and easy way to sneak it back into your school day (well at least for the last 26 days)! 

    I have a family letter, plus signs for each letter.  Be sure to check it out at my Teachers Pay Teacher Store.  If you purchase it and need to change the theme for the day (For example: "P Day".... change picnic lunch to Play-Dough Day) just send me an email and I can switch it for you.  Enjoy the rest of your school year!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Earth Day Activities: Create a Solar Oven

     I love Earth Day, because it means warm weather and opportunities to get outside!  One of the activities that I do each year with my students is to make solar ovens!  I buy pizza boxes from the local pizza restaurant for 10 cents each and everything to make the perfect s'more.  I normally send home all of the materials for students to make their solar oven at home, but you could make them in class.
    Once you have a sunny day, head outside with the solar oven and s'more materials in hand.    Have students face their oven toward the sun and watch it cook!  Students LOVE this activity!  Besides getting to eat a tasty treat, they learn how the sun is a valuable source of energy!

      Be sure to download for FREE the directions on how to make a solar oven.  I have an awesome Earth Day packet at my TPT Store.  It includes the solar oven activity  (and observation sheet) plus 12 more Earth Day activities.  Be sure to check it out.             

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Data Tracking Binder

    I jumped on the Data Tracking Binder bandwagon at the start of the school year and it has been the best ride ever!  I cannot stress the importance of having students keep track of their own learning.  I really feel students can track their learning at any age as long as you teach them how to do it

    The first week of school, I gave each of my students a Data Tracking Binder.  I had all of the tracking graphs already hole punched and placed inside.  For younger students, you might copy each graph on different colors of paper to make it easier for them to identify.  I took my time explaining and modeling each graph.  Depending on the grade you teach, you might introduce two graphs  a week.  However, you certainly know what your students can handle.  I would model how to write in the date, my score and color in a bar if applicable.  After a few times of modeling, my students became pros!

    To add to the fun, I made circle labels (using Avery labels #22817).  I created labels to indicate improvements with their Scholastic Reading Inventory (Lexile) Score, Monthly Reading Counts Goal, Math Facts, and DIBELS scores.  After any of these assessments, I would take five minutes to reward any student that earned a circle sticker.  Students decorate their Data Binder with the circle stickers.  Who knew such a small token would be such a BIG deal?!?!  My students take pride in celebrating the accomplishments of each other and showing off their own growth.


 I found the Data Tracking Binder to be so useful when conferencing with parents.  They were able to see their child's growth.  Also, it holds students accountable for their learning. 

     I have an awesome collection of Data Tracking Graphs at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  For many of the graphs, I created different levels of the same graph to accomodate various grade levels. Be sure to check them out. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mother's Day Class Activity

    I put together this packet to make your Mother's Day Celebration the best possible.  Invite mothers (or other special lady) to the Lovely Ladies' Cafe where they can order an appetizer (play a math game), main dish (read a book), a side dish (complete a reading activity) and dessert (share an acrostic poem) along with their child.

     As the mothers arrive, lay out the word search or making words activity on the table (included in my packet).  This will give students and mothers something to do until the cafe officially opens.     

     Once the cafe is open, have any students that do not have moms act as waiters/waitresses.  I purchase aprons for them to wear.  Have these students pass out the Lovely Ladies' Cafe menu and the Order Form (included in my packet).  Mothers and their child will mark on the Order Form which appetizer and side dish they would like to "order".  Have the waiters/waitresses "fill the order" (gather the materials needed for the two activities).  I always have everything laid out in baggies so my waiters/waitress can just grab what they need and deliver it. 

     For the appetizer section, students and mothers can select from two different math games to play together.  I have included both math games in my packet.

     For the main dish, have your students select a book they would like to read with their mother ahead of time.  After they read the book together, they will complete one side dish activity.  I have included both reading activities in my packet.

     When it is time for dessert, I have students share an acrostic poem they wrote about their mother.  I have included two different templates (in case the mother is not present) with this packet.

        After the dessert, I present mothers with their "Lovely Ladies' Carryout Bag."  It includes Lovely Ladies' Cafe Coupons (created by the child and included in this packet) and a mug (designed by the child and filled with Hershey Hugs and Kisses). 

     There are many other options of where you can take this day.  I always share a picture slideshow with mothers.  This gives them an idea of what we are learning and doing in school this year.  I also invite my mothers to stay and eat lunch with their child.  You can take bits and pieces of this packet or all of it to make your Mother's Day Celebration the absolute best!

Check out the menu below. I placed it in stapled plastic sleeves to give it that "menu" appearance. 
You can purchase the entire set at my TPT
store by clicking below. 
The first two people to leave a comment will
 receive this set for FREE.  Be sure to leave
 your email.  Please feel free to ask me any
 questions or leave a comment!

Monday, March 18, 2013

April Center Give Away

   I am giving away my new April Centers Set to the first ten people that become followers to my blog.  Just leave me a comment with your email and I will send you out the packet!  Thanks! 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Math Egg Hunt

  Have some fun reviewing math problems (or really any skill). For this activity, type or write out as many questions as you want to use.  Be sure to number each of your questions (#1, #2, #3, etc.).  Then, place one question inside a plastic egg.  Write the number of the question on the outside of the egg.  This makes it much easier for students to know if they have already solved that problem.  Students are to "crack" the egg open and solve the problem inside.  Students can write their answers on the Egg Hunt Answer Sheet (download below).  Have students place the question back inside the egg, place the egg where they found it and continue until they have answered all of the questions.  For added fun, I hide my eggs outside as long as the weather cooperates!  This is always a spring hit among my students!

Mystery Unit: The Case of the Missing Earrings!

  My class just spent the last two weeks on a mystery unit.  We read Cam Jansen and the Basketball Mystery and Nate the Great & the Phony Clue.  My students really enjoyed putting on their detective hats and trying to crack the case before the main character! 
On Friday, I presented my class with a "real" mystery to solve called "The Case of the Missing Earrings!"  Prior to letting my super sleuths interview the four main suspects, I had to set the stage for this engaging activity.  First, I asked four colleagues to act as a suspect.  I presented them with the case and their alibi.  Days earlier, I showed off my beautiful earrings that I had just gotten from my husband (not really :).  Come Friday morning, the earrings had VANISHED!  Now it was time to solve the case!  Students brainstormed questions to ask each suspect.  I was fortunate, because our local police department always provides me with junior police badges to give to each of my young detectives.  With their clue collector sheet in hand and detective badge on, it was time to get this case solved!  
After interviewing the four suspects, each student created a WANTED poster on the suspect they felt was the guiltiest.  We created a class graph showing our results.  In the end, my principal safely returned the earrings.  Download for FREE the WANTED poster.  Please be sure to check out the ENTIRE unit at my Teachers Pay Teachers store by simply clicking on the image below.  Let me know if you have any questions on how to create a mystery in your classroom.  Your students will love it!