Thursday, December 8, 2016

Random Acts of Kindness

Hop over to Classroom Tested Resources and read about a Kindness Project I'm doing with my students!  There's also a freebie for you to and your students to share some Random Acts of Kindness around your school!




Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fun with Fluency!


The most important part of teaching is making sure your students are engaged and having fun!  This becomes especially challenging during these weeks leading up to Christmas and Winter Break  At least that's my opinion! :)

It's just my style in my classroom to make everything a game... because kids LOVE games!

Several years ago,  I started to create "Go Fish" and "Uno" style card games for my students.  Since I've been using these games with my students, I've seen a huge increase in the number of sight words my kiddos know by the end of the year.  When I first started teaching first grade, in 1999 (whew, that was last century :) ), the district required all first graders to learn the first 100 sight words.  So that is what I taught!

After a couple of years, and some confidence in myself as a teacher, I realized I was limiting my kids.  I started expanding the list in my classroom and raising the bar!  My students loved the challenge and soon, I was expecting them to know at least 150 sight words.  Now all of my students are exposed to at least 200, but many surpass this goal.

I'm sure you have tricks you use in your classroom, and in my classroom the trick is games!
This is one of my favorite and most versatile resources!  I created several themes, but of course, this is the one I'm putting in my Word Work tubs this month!

This resource includes 5 sets of 20 sight words...the first 100 Dolch Sight Words.  I can differentiate which words I want which group of students to use when playing a variety of games.  Students can play independently (matching / concentration), in pairs or small groups!  I love the variety!






I teach my students how to play a variety of games.  Then as the season changes, the cards change, the words may change, but the game stays the same!  So they always know how to play (in theory ;)

I'm not limited to just sight words either!  I still have some students working on sounds and blending sounds.  Here is one of my games that focuses on those pesky Nonsense Words!  



I found that my kiddos were stumped at having to read words that didn't make sense!  So, we started practicing.  This is, of course, great phonemic awareness practice and builds confidence and fluency! Now, they read those Dibels and Aimsweb Nonsense words with ease!

If your students like to play games, click on the pictures above to check these resources out for your classroom!

I hope your students enjoy Playing to Learn!




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Joy of Reading!




Are reading logs killing the joy of reading in your students? “Reading is important!”  That is not up for debate!  But stealing the joy of reading from young children and families does not have to be part of the experience! 

So here’s the scenario: 
It’s 7:00 and your kiddos are winding down.  You’ve established a wonderful bedtime ritual of reading before bedtime.  Your children are in their cozy pajamas and you’re snuggled up together reading some great books.  You finish the last book and your children may or may not remind you to complete the reading log.  You don’t want them to miss out on the reward!  (Yes, I’ve even been THAT teacher!)  Now, the search for the backpack or the reading log begins!  Maybe you complete the reading logs and put it right back in the backpack.  Maybe you complete the reading log and leave it on the kitchen table and then it gets tossed in the recycling when you collect the newspapers.  Now it’s the next morning and you’re rushing to get ready for work and school and your searching for the backpack and the reading log. 

As a mother of 4 daughters, I have completed my “unfair” share of reading logs.  That’s right, “I have completed them!”Typical reading logs are all about the parents, right?  The parents write down the title and the minutes read or record the page numbers.  All of this usually happens right at bedtime which disrupts that moment of connection between parent, child and book!

And this is supposed to encourage our students to read?!

As a teacher for 20 years, I've assigned the weekly reading log.  I've even had parties for reading minutes and celebrated those recorded minutes!  You know...the celebration for the parents that had it all together and completed the reading log!  Well all that's in the past...

I want to encourage reading not make it a chore.  I created reading logs for my students that are fun and kid-focused!  Students take ownership of "logging" minutes and are responsible for completing the reading logs!

I want my students to read every night.  I start by asking them to read for 10 minutes a night.  But soon they realize that they have built their "stamina" and like to read longer!  These reading logs allow for students to record their reading in increments of 10 minutes.  Students, not parents, color one picture for every increment of reading.  In the picture below, students would color one Christmas light bulb for every 10 minutes!  Then after coloring five bulbs, they would have read 50 minutes!  


It's easy for them to add their own minutes (counting by 10s)  and record the weekly total!  I like how they are practicing counting, as well as reading lots!  I have several students asking for extra reading logs each week!  They love being responsible and seeing their success!  The results in my class have been great!   


Tips for Success


  • I teach my students how to set the timer on our iPads at school.  I encourage parents to show their children how to use a timer that's available at home...phone, tablet, kitchen timer...anything that the child can use INDEPENDENTLY!  
  • Practice at school first!  When I introduce Read to Self, we color in our reading logs for practice!
  • Encourage your students to read to younger siblings, pets, or stuffed animals!  It's fun to have an audience!
  • Celebrate class success instead of highlighting individual minutes!  Everyone gets to enjoy a celebration after the entire class reaches a goal.  This removes the competition!
If this sounds like something your students would enjoy,  click on the picture below for a free reading log to try!  







Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving Vacation Writing Freebie

The day back from vacation is always full of excitement!  We've missed our friends and the predictable routine of school!  I love sharing with my students all about my vacation happenings and hearing about their experiences!   I use the excitement of our vacation breaks to launch a new writing piece!  

I like doing this by mingling to music!  I have the kiddos spread out around the classroom.  I start some fun music and they begin to mingle.  When the music stops, they stop and share something that happened over the break!  Then repeat!  I let this go until I can feel it getting too noisy and not focussed!  

Then we get down to business, writing about our break!  We write one thing we shared in each bubble!  This helps organize our writing!  Then we use the Thanksgiving Vacation paper to create a page for our class book!  

Here are some examples from last year!

First, we completed our graphic organizer.

Then, we wrote about our vacations!  I love the complete sentences and "first grade spelling"!


 Freebie


You can download this freebie to use in your classroom this year!  Happy Writing!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fall into M.A.T.H. Stations!



I love this time of year!  The beautiful fall colors, cooler air,  Pumpkin Spice Lattes and knowing the holidays are right around the corner!  I also love seeing the growth my students have made in this short time we've been together!

During the first trimester of school, we have focused on subitizing, showing numbers in different ways, and making 10!  I've been forcing myself and my kids to slow down and really focus!  I want to make sure they have a solid foundation in these 3 areas of math!

This is by far the BEST I have felt about my students' math understanding this early in the year!  Each morning we gather on the carpet for our calendar time!  This is more than the day of the week, etc.  This is the mini lesson before our MATH time.  We make the most of this time by following this daily routine!

I'm so impressed with my students' math minds and plan to continue with this routine!  Here is an outline of what it looks like in my classroom!

For MATH time I use the acronym M.A.T.H. to organize my groups.

            • M - Meet with the Teacher
            • A - Activity Journal
            • T - Technology
            • H - Hands on Tubs


Meet with the Teacher is my time to work with small groups.  During this time, I introduce new games, strategies and/or reinforce concepts.  Often the activities we cover in my small groups will appear in Hands on Tubs for independent practice!

Activity Journal provides an opportunity for independent practice and is often pencil paper.  I try to provide more than a worksheet though.  Usually it is more of an interactive page.

Technology:  I am fortunate to have 5 Chromebooks and 6 iPads in my classroom.  My students use the Chromebooks to access our adopted curriculum's on line portion during MATH time.  We also use the iPads to explore apps.  Some of our favorites are:




Hands On Tubs are filled with games that review concepts previously taught.  Students play games with partners or complete activities independently.  Occasionally, one of the tubs may have an independent activity such as puzzles, tangrams, or pattern blocks.


Hands on Math Tubs offer the perfect time to provide engaging fall themed independent and group activities for students!  Here are some of my students' favorites and a FREEBIE for you!


Print and add DICE!  My students love these!


Get your kids up and moving while practicing math strategies!


Click the Picture to Download Your Freebie!



Sunday, September 4, 2016

My New Morning Routine




We are on day 13 of our new school year and I finally feel like I might be able to take a breath! You would think that after 20 back to school seasons, it would get easier, right?  Nope!  I seem to change, add or tweak something every year!  This year I changed my morning routine!

Why the change?  I wanted to allow my students some time each morning to greet friends, ease into the school day with routine,  start each day engaged in meaningful collaborative activities, and have a few minutes for those early morning tasks like taking attendance and spontaneous chats with parents!  Oh, and did I mention,  I needed this new routine to be something sustainable and easy to manage?  That is a must for me or it will fall apart!

So I did what any reasonable teacher would do...I went to Pinterest!  I searched morning routines and discovered a huge variety of ideas!  I liked some and knew I would never be able to keep up with others!  What I came up with was my own twist on Morning Tubs!  I introduced my students to the idea of  Morning Tubs on day 2!   They love it and I love it! WHY didn't I try this sooner!

Materials Needed: 
Once I decided I wanted to go this route, I went shopping for supplies!  First stop, Amazon!



I ordered 5 Sterlite tubs, one for each table group!  Next,  I needed some engaging activities for the tubs!  The first week I wanted to keep it simple so I simply put a different set of manipulatives in each tub: pattern blocks, linker cubes, scrabble tiles, wooden blocks, and dominoes!  Every morning I rotate the tubs so each group gets to experience a new tub!



Okay, now for the true test!  Remember when I mentioned, I needed this new routine to be something sustainable and easy to manage?  Week two arrived and, guess what!  It was EASY to change out the contents of the tub AND keep my students engaged!







I love walking around, listening in on and having conversations with my kiddos each morning!  I can help when needed if a child has difficulty with an activity.  I encourage my students to ask tablemates for help, but I'm also there for guidance!

Where do I get the activities?
I spent the week before school cleaning, purging and organizing my classroom cabinets, and I had uncovered some hidden gems! I'm sure you have lots of gems of your own!  This is another thing I love about Morning Tubs...I'm using resources that have just been collecting dust!  Now they are being used by little hands!  

I also visited the Dollar Store and found small 48 piece puzzles in metal tins!  These are PERFECT for collaborating as a team, working together and greeting friends in the morning!  I bought 15 different puzzles.  I've only used 2 each week!  

I added some puzzles from my Short A Word Family resource, Subitizing Matching Games and 120 puzzles! I found some addition and subtraction puzzles that I normally use in math tubs during Daily Math.  I went ahead and introduced them in a morning tub and my kids loved working together and completing these puzzles.  Now when they go into a math tub, they will be familiar and independent!  

In my short experience with Morning Tubs, I can tell you that I love this new addition to my routine!  My students enter the classroom and know exactly where to go and what to do!  They are visiting with friends and engaging in their day right away!  Their school day is starting off with intention and purpose...they are not waiting on me to take attendance or finish up a conversation with a parent.  They are engaged and completing a task!  

If you've been looking for a new morning routine for your kids or want to try something new this year, I highly recommend Morning Tubs!  

Some Resources I'm Using:







Monday, August 8, 2016

Learning Sight Words is Fun!

I'm blogging over at Classroom Tested Resources today!  Check out my post on Sight Word Assessments and grab a fun Freebie!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting Ready for the Best Year Ever!


Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sale!  I love the Back to School Sale!  My cart is overflowing with new resources for my classroom!  I absolutely love this time of year, even it is stressful and I can't sleep! :)

I've been creating lots of new things for my classroom and they are now uploaded in my store and on sale for you!  If you love using games to engage in your classroom, please check out these new resources!  Both include directions and cards for several games for group, partner and independent play! 




I've also updated and added some new math resources to start off the year! 


These 120's Puzzles are great for differentiating at Math Tubs.  These puzzles help students maneuver through the 120s chart and make sense of the patterns.  While your students are having fun writing on the puzzles with dry erase pens or crayons, they are practicing so many valuable math concepts (more than, less than, +1, -1, +10, -10, 



This summer I've been reading about the importance of subitizing with dice and ten frames.  This resource introduces students to various ways to "show" a number!  Students will learn to look at a group and recognize the number....they will learn to subitize!  But they won't know it!  They'll just have fun playing the games!

I also like to build in the 120s into my daily routine!  That's where these come in!
I've created "Fill-it-in" Charts for the year!  I think the changing themes keep it fresh and my kids love to come up and write in the answers!  These sets come with Math Tub activities to play, as well! 



I still have a couple of weeks to enjoy summer, so I'll probably head to the Dollar Spot or maybe check out Amazon to see what I absolutely need for my class!  Actually, I'll probably laminate some of my new puchases and try to get into my classroom!  I'm obsessed!

I hope you'll hop over to my store and see what I've got on sale for you!  





Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Techy Tuesday - GoNoodle

This week's Techy Tuesday is about Brain Breaks!



Hopefully you have heard of and use GoNoodle in your classroom!  But if you haven't, don't wait any longer! This is not the first time I've blogged about GoNoodle, but I couldn't resist adding this to Techy Tuesday!

Brain Breaks!  You know your students need them!  They need them more often than we probably realize, too.   I implemented a new procedure last year and my students loved it!  Do you ever have those students that are "too cool" to participate in a brain break?  Yes, you know the ones!  Since using GoNoodle in my classroom, most of my students participate simply because it's so engaging, but I still have my stinkers!  So I implemented the GoNoodle Champ system.

I keep my eye out for a student that is doing a great job participating during our brain break and they become the GoNoodle Champ!  This means that they get to CHOOSE the next GoNoodle activity! OMG!  They love this!

And let me tell you, we GoNoodle several times a day in our class, so we have lots of chances to be a GoNoodle Champ!

Watch the video above to see my little firsties in action!


I have a GoNoodle lanyard that I picked up at the I Teach 1st Conference, but any lanyard will work. I attach a badge holder to it and slide in one of these cards!  You can download this free.  Just click the picture!  Students wear the lanyard until they pass it to the next champ.  It's simple, engaging and keeps us all happy!



Our first graders love GoNoodle so much, we couldn't resist these costumes last year!
If you haven't signed up for GoNoodle, what are you waiting for?  It's FREE!


Sign up for GoNoodle!  Your students will thank you and you will love it!




Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Techy Tuesday



Welcome back to Techy Tuesday!  This week I want to share a favorite app in my classroom!  It's not new, but it's a favorite!  If you haven't discovered this app yet, you'll want to check it before the kids come back!

Do you use technology during Reader's workshop or Daily 5? Are you thinking of adding some tablets?  This may be something you want to add to your lesson plans!


There are several ways I use iPads during reading time, but this app is one of my favorites for Read to Self!
I've installed this free app on all of my classroom iPads!  My kiddos can use this app during "Read to Self" time!  This app has increased the book choices for my students!  They can choose from and read from a huge library of fiction and non-fiction titles!  Some of the titles offer a "read aloud" option! I've found this app particularly helpful with providing a huge assortment of non-fiction titles!

Check out the website here Epic!

This would be a fun app to introduce to families for summer reading!  Try it out this summer!

Have fun!