Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Telling Time!

Hi there friends,

We've been practicing telling time over the past few weeks and I wanted to share some of the things we've been doing!

We've worked hard building the times on our little clocks during small group-

We've enjoyed Annie and Moby's lessons about telling time-
We love Brain Pop Jr. in our classroom!!
We even had fun with these little snowmen-

I really want to share about a fun center game we've been playing!  It's Laura Candler's Monster Math Mix Up and my kiddos love it!  I taught it to one of my small groups on Monday and they had a lot of fun with it.

It's a group game where each kiddo has a monster puzzle to build.  They take turns pulling a clock card and if they can correctly identify the time- they get to spin the spinner!

I really like the fact that she included a spinner because it really kept the game interesting.  It would be too easy if they simply got to put a piece on after identifying each clock.  My kids were really excited to land on the 'Add 2 pieces' section and were quietly hoping (well, not so quietly) that their opponents would land on the 'Remove 1 piece' section!

They did a great job with the game and it was neat to see them really think about each card before saying the time.  According to our TEKS, we're only required to teach hour and half hour, but this group was more than ready for time to the 5 minutes and they rocked it!  I loved seeing them count by fives along the clocks and how excited they got when they got the right answer!  They even asked if they could play it again today, and of course I let them!  There's a answer key included for the clock cards, so I didn't have to facilitate the game at all- they did it all themselves and were totally sad when it was time to clean up!

The game also comes with a set of cards to the minute, if you want to check it out in her store.  I'll be adding the 5 minute version to our math center routine next week- they'll be so excited!

I hope everyone's staying warm out there!  We had our 2nd ice day yesterday and the driving conditions were just awful!  Our district waited fairly late to call the day off and lots of teachers were already on the icy roads to school when they found out.  Luckily, they made it home safely!  How's the weather in your neck of the woods?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Second day at the conference- what I learned from Rachelle Smith!

Happy Friday y'all!

We had a SNOW DAY today (with very little actual snow!) and I only changed out of my pajamas to go to lunch!  We came home and I'm back in my pjs as we speak!

Yes, our poor cactus plants are now dead.  This has been a colder than normal winter in Austin, and these guys just couldn't handle it!  They really were big and green and beautiful once!  On the plus side, today has given me time to finish my post with more details on everything else I learned at the SDE First Grade Teacher Conference last week!  It really was a lot of fun!

If you missed my post about our blogger meet-up, be sure to click here to read it!  I also posted about the amazing Reagan Tunstall right here!  She gave an amazing presentation about math centers and she blogged about it on her fabulous blog.

On the second day of the conference, I attended 3 sessions given by the awesome Rachelle Smith from What the Teacher Wants!

Rachelle teaches first grade and had tons of great ideas to share with us!  Her first session was about Guided Reading.  She shared this awesome resource for organizing her kiddos into their Guided Reading groups.  I love how easy it is to move students from group to group as the year progresses.

She also has a great resource for ideas about what to do with students at each level and she shares it for free on her blog!  Click here to check out her post about Guided Reading and to grab that freebie.

She shared this adorable picture of her in first grade- look at that bow!  So cute!  :)

Her second session was about Behavior Management.  Rachelle talked about 3 important aspect for great management- Routine, Procedures and Expectations.  One routine she had was for her Fast Finishers.  You know, those kiddos who always finish everything right away and look to you for something else to do?  She uses picture clues on her white board for her Fast Finishers, so it saves her the heartache of saying over and over "Go read a book" or "Go do a puzzle".  The kids are trained to look at the fast finisher spot on the board when they are done and the picture is right there!  Some of the choices she uses are-
   read a book
   marker boards
   ABC games
   math games
   fast finisher folder
   file folder games

She posted about it on her blog here.  I really liked the idea of the fast finisher folder and I made some of my own pages for my students to use!  I'm going to laminate them and have them available for each student to write on with a dry erase marker.  Just click on the picture below if you'd like to download the pages for free!

I also loved an idea Rachelle suggested for organizing math materials.  She creates a math tub for each student that contains 10 cubes, number cards, beans, number line...anything math related that they might need to use during centers or math time.  She assembled a kit for each student inside a plastic tupperware container.  That way, each student has their own inside their desk and they're not having to get up and walk all over the classroom to get what they need.

This idea was easy for me to put into my classroom right away!  I didn't go out an buy 22 plastic containers just yet, but I did already have enough baskets to make a set for each table.  I put 4 number lines and 4 sets of cubes along with some dry erase markers and literacy resources that I want my kids to have easy access to.  It's great! 

One last management tool I loved was her great ideas for lining up.  Cleaning up from centers and transitioning to lunch or Specials can sometimes be a little hectic and those are two things that we do not want to be late to!!  :)

Rachelle showed us some adorable videos from her classroom of different types of "walks" she does with her class as they line up.  Sometimes they do a "syllable walk" and she calls out words as they walk/stomp our the syllables.  Other times they do a "soldier walk" and they count by tens.  We walked our spelling words yesterday and my kids loved it!  I just called out a spelling word and they walked the sounds in each word on the way to their spot in line.  Super fun and it keeps them engaged while they are transitioning.  She also uses some goodbye rhymes with them once they are already in line.  Here's a post about them on her blog and another from Cara over at The First Grade Parade.  You gotta make every minute count!

Before I get to her last session, here's a picture of me with Rachelle and Katie from Following My Heart to First Grade!  Both of them are super sweet 1st grade teachers!!  It was so fun to meet them in person!  Katie and her team came up from a town not to far from Austin and they were all such nice people!

Last up on my stalker tour of all 3 of Rachelle's sessions was Journal Writing!  She shared the way she does journal writing in her classroom and gave a lot of tips for creating stronger writers!

She uses journal writing for her "bell work" each day.  The students get started on their journal when they come in.  At this point in the year, the journals consists of writing paper with blank lines.  Each student has their own journal, but the size and number of lines is differentiated for each kiddo.  They are allowed to write about whatever they want.  When she introduces her journals at the beginning of the year, she gives her class a different sentence stem for the first 9 days.   The stems are usually get-to-know-you sentences, based on favorites, "My favorite movie is..." "My favorite drink is..." "I am afraid of...", things like that.  After that, she lets them write about their own topics, but has established lots of expectations for how journal time will work.  (write independently, sound out words, use writing tools, capitals, punctuation, finger spaces, etc)  There is a space for an illustration on each journal page, but that space gets smaller as they number of lines increase throughout the year.

Once they get the hang of the journal writing, she does daily conferences with them.  Her kiddos bring their journal over when they are done and they read her their post for the day.  She always starts off with a compliment about their work.  Then they quickly identify together any errors or things that could be better and the student goes back to fix them.  Once they are all done, they read it to her again and are able to do a fast finisher choice once they are finished.  She also does weekly conferences that are more in depth, but I definitely like the idea of a quick daily check in about everybody's writing!  Rachelle also makes time for 4 students to share their journal entry each day.

Our school is making a big push for writing practice/stamina this year, so I might start doing daily journal writing after Spring Break.  My kids write every day in our writing center, but I like the freedom of doing daily journals where they can pick their own topics.  Rachelle has her year-round journal in her TPT shop and it's next on my list to purchase!

I learned so much during the conference and am so glad that I went!  I've been teaching for 8 years now, but still love finding new ideas to put into place!!  If you ever have a chance to see Deanna, Reagan or Rachelle speak at a teacher conference, I highly recommend that you go!

Now I'm off to enjoy the rest of my 3 day weekend!  :)  Did you have a snow/ice day today?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Second day at the conference- what I learned from Reagan Tunstall!!

Hello Again Friends,

{So I started this post on Tuesday night right after the conference and then this thing called SCHOOL happened and I haven't been able to sit with my computer since then!  Now that it's Friday, I can finish all my random thoughts about what all I learned!}

I just finished up the last day of the conference and wow, did I learn a lot!!  I attended 4 sessions today by 2 great presenters and I can't wait to implement some new things in my classroom!  I really am excited and hope that I can keep my enthusiasm going for the last months of school!

I started the day with a math center session given by Reagan Tunstall.  If you don't know Reagan's blog, you MUST visit it today!  She always has the greatest math ideas!  Definitely a must-read!

One idea she shared I would totally use for counting on and making addition sentences.  You take a pipe cleaner and wrap an address label around it.  On that label, you can write any number you'd like.  Then you have task cards that say "Add 3" or "+5" and the students add that number of beads onto the pipe cleaner to get the sum.  So if they take the pipe cleaner that is labeled with a 6 and then pull the card that says "Add 3", then they put on the beads to get 6+3=9.  Throw in a recording sheet and you've got your self a math center!  She also has this great post about using pipe cleaners to make number bracelets. 
She went through the organization of her math time and, even though I do mine a little differently, I still really liked seeing hers! You should definitely check out this post about the way she does Guided Math in her classroom.
 She had a great game idea for these cute little rubber duckies, where the kids pull two, read the facts and see if they have matching sums.  So cute and I know my kiddos would LOVE it!

Another great idea was to take large foam dice and cover them with whatever concept you are learning at that time.  I can think of lots of ways to use these in a center- students could roll one cube with the regular dots and then roll another one with +2 or +3 or +6 and write addition sentences...they could roll a cube with shapes on it and graph the number of times they rolled each shape...they could roll the digital times and then make those on an analog clock...the list goes on and on!!

She had so many great ideas and has so many on her blog (including this post about her Math Sticks) and her presentation was just awesome!

The rest of my day was spent stalking listening to Rachelle Smith and I came away with even more awesome ideas!  I went to three of her sessions (Guided Reading, Classroom Management and Journal Writing) so I think I'm just going to have to dedicate a whole 'nother blog post to everything I learned!

Happy Friday!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fun at the First Grade Conference!

Hi Friends!

I just got home from the first day of the SDE First Grade Teacher Conference and I really enjoyed the sessions I attended!

I got to meet some lovely bloggy ladies first thing in the morning!  I'm sure they need no introduction, but it was so nice to meet Kristen from A Day in First Grade, Regan from Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits and Deanna from Mrs. Jump's Class!  They are all such sweet people!!

I started off the day with Deanna's session on organization and learned a lot!  I want to share some of the tips from her session and others, but I'll try to be as concise as possible!

From Deanna's organization session-

1. She had a great idea for school boxes.  She liked the school boxes to be matching, so during the summer, she would buy a class set of school boxes when they were big time on sale.  Then, when the kids brought in their own school box, she would load it with a box of crayons and a few pencils and tell them that it was their "Homework Helper" to keep at home.  I love that idea!  I don't know how many times I get homework turned in written in pen, highlighter, crayon because they claim to not have a pencil at home!  The Homework Helper would definitely help eliminate that issue.

2. Another great idea she shared was using one journal at a time for each nine weeks.  She called it her Thinking & Learning Journal, and used color tabs to separate sections for each subject.  It would be nice to have one journal, because right now my kids do have a center journal, math journal and a morning work journal.  In the past, we've even had science and writing journals.  I labeled the math journals and center journals in two different colors, but I still have kids asking, "Are we using our math journal?" or "Is it the red one?".  I know the idea of using one journal is a no-brainer, but what I really loved was that she used one per nine weeks so that she could have it as a reference for parent conferences.  Plus the kids got to take home their journals each time they were filled up, rather than having to wait until the end of the year.

3. Deanna also shared that she uses plastic plates as individual white boards because they wipe off nicely and all stack together nice and neat.  I have to share a quick moment from our discussion about the plates, because it was just too cute!  She was talking about certain plates that have a plastic coating that makes the markers write weird, so to try not to get those kind of plates.  Now, if you've ever met Deanna or attended one of her presentations, you know that she has a great Southern accent.  I'm from Texas and have no accent compared to her!!  So, in her adorable accent, she told us to just "Take you a white board marker into the Dollar Tree and write on that plate when no one's looking!"  Cracked me right up!  :)

Another session I went to was Melissa Dickson's about interventions for struggling readers.  I came away with a lot of great ideas from her as well!

She went through different problem areas and gave us strategies and ideas to help our students reach higher in those areas.  For high-frequency words, she had a fun game called Read My Mind.  I can totally see my students enjoying it, both struggling and higher level ones!  The game is focused on the word wall (or part of the word wall to start with) where you have one word you're thinking of and the kiddos get to "read your mind" and try to figure out the word.  Each child writes 1-5 on their paper.  You slowly give 5 clues about the word and the students write their guesses next to the corresponding number.  The first clue is always, "This is a word on the word wall."  They make a guess.  The next 3 clues should highlight more information about the specific word you have chosen (and you can make it on whatever level your class needs.  For example, "This word has 2 syllables."  "This word has a word inside a word."  "This word starts with the letter b".  The students continue to make a guess for each number, writing the word they think will match the clues.  The 5th and final clue is something that gives the students context clues about the word.  "This word would fit in this sentence..."  Once everyone has their final guess, you can share the word and see who was able to narrow it down.  Maybe a few of them will be able to get it by clue number 3 or 4, but always take the time to go through each clue and see why that particular word met that particular rule.  I really can't wait to try this out with my class on Wednesday!

Day 2 of the conference is tomorrow and I know I'll have a lot more to share after that!

Tonight, we had a blogger and teacher meet-up at Pappasito's and it was so much fun talking shop with all of these great teachers!

Be sure to check out all of their amazing blogs!!

Deanna's blog
Alyssa's blog

Rachelle's blog

A Day in First Grade
Kristen's blog

Reagan's blog

Following My Heart to First
Katie's blog

Ari's blog

A Modern Teacher
April's blog

Jennifer's blog

Tomorrow I'm attending Regan and Rachelle's sessions and I cannot wait!!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fun at the Science Fair!

Today was our school's Science Fair!  At our school, the 5th graders do individual and group projects and the younger grades typically do class projects.  Is it similar at your school?

We did our experiment yesterday (how's that for last minute??) and we did the old stand-by...Sink and Float!

Tuesday was our first day back from break, so we watched a couple Brain Pop Jr videos about the Scientific Method and Science Projects to get us started.  We talked about the key steps to the Scientific Method and concentrated mostly on the vocabulary words of hypothesis and conclusion.

I asked my kiddos to each bring in a small object on Wednesday so that we could do our experiment together.  We sat together on the carpet and each student got to write the name of their object and their hypothesis on our data sheet before they set their object in the water.

 They had a lot of fun and we were able to come up with some good conclusions about the materials of each object and how that affected whether it would sink or float.

Today we visited the Science Fair in the 5th grade pod and had a lot of fun exploring the projects!  We had a little work to do as well, writing about our favorite project and listing what we learned from it and what we might do differently if we did the same project.

Here's the wall of 1st grade projects, along with a close up of our poster.

There were a few 5th graders in the pod when we got there, and one of my former students was excited to tell us all about her project!!  Such a cool moment!

When do you have your Science Fair?  Is it a big ordeal or pretty low key like ours?