Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Website

Have you heard of Wonderopolis?
Well, I had not {that is, not before about an hour ago.}

It is this brilliant website that promotes discovery, critical thinking, and using your imagination! It is the brainchild of The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) and sponsored by Thinkfinity.

Each day there is a new wonder. It starts with the Essential Question, a short video on the subject, followed by more information on the subject, vocabulary words, and links to support the subject.

Say what? Too cool!
And there is a new wonder EVERY DAY!

{Click here to go to today's Wonder.}
Choice Literacy has a brief article by Andrea Smith about the website and how she uses it in her Intermediate classroom. {Click here to view the article.}

My "teacher" brain has kicked that hamster onto his wheel and into high gear thinking about how to use this in my classroom! Our kiddos are incredibly inquisitive by nature, so this will be totally up their alley!!

Happy Saturday and GO GATORS!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What is in Your School Bag?

The fabulous Abby of The Inspired Apple is having a linky party this week! 
It's all about what we teachers can't live without: 
Our School Bags

Hi, my name is Andi, and I am a bag-oholic. It all started way back in the fall of 1981 when my mom let me pick out my first school bag. I adored it. However, by the fall of the next year, I wanted a new bag. And as the school years went by, I had accumulated a pretty large collection of bags. So much so, that my dad made me custom peg boards for my bags to hang on!
Here are a few of my personal favorites from my childhood.
Such cute totes!
Along with these bags, I was covered from head to toe in ESPRIT.
Benetton Drawstring Bag
Mine was green with a huge Benetton logo splashed in white.
This beauty was my favorite until the poor thing fell to pieces.
I had this gap hobo bag and a pink one all through high school.
It could hold ALL of my books and a small child!
Flash forward through the college years and twelve years of teaching and here is what I carry to and fro school.
Vera Bradley Zip-Top Tall Bag and a Target bag.
I am very happy with this Vera Bradley bag. It has oodles of pockets and I love that it zips shut. The only problem is that it is a thin bag, which is good but I end up carrying this Target bag to hold my lunch box, purse and anything else that can't fit in my school bag.

skinny mini

2 front snap pockets with 2 open pockets behind them

It might be skinny, but I can shove a lot in there!

There is a zipper pocket inside the bag AND a zipper pocket on the outside.
Now, here's a look inside the bag.
Papers to grade {blech!}

Folder for the random papers and paper work {double blech!} and my idea notebook

Old fashioned paper grade book because I just don't trust the on-line grade book!

My Life Planner that I love, love, love! Thanks, Cara!!

Fundations manual {triple blech} &
Linda Hoyt's Interactive Read-Alouds {triple oh yay} 
If this had been last night, I would have had a picture of about 20 pens, 6 pencils, 3 sharpees {all black, say what?}, 4 highlighters, 8 flair pens, 3 thumb drives {I keep on buying new ones because I can't find the ones that exist in my bag}, 25 paper clips {all bent because they were sitting at the bottom of my bag}, a handful of coins {I counted 14 pennies ...really??}, 8 hair clips, 3 rubber bands, some receipts, stickers, and feminine products {which I somehow find in all of my bags - I guess I have a phobia of being caught without them when I need them - TMI? sorry!}

My bag was so heavy that I was started to develop a serious lean to the right!

The other bag I carry holds my purse of choice and my lunch box.
This lunch box was a gift from a former firstie and it is huge!
Plus, most of my purses are oversized so I really need the extra bag.
Happy Linky!

What's in your wallet--er--school bag?

Don't forget to go back to Abby's page to check out the links from our sister teachers!

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Daily 5 Day

I have something to confess...
I don't do the Daily 5 exactly the way "The Sisters" write about in their book. Well, let me rephrase that. I launch the Daily 5 exactly like the book says, but the management is where we differ. However, that is what is so great about "The Sisters" they don't want you to do exactly what they say. They want you to make it your own. 
{And thank God for that because I never seem to do what the books say no matter how hard I try.}

Once my little firsties have achieved their 20 minutes of stamina time, we are ready to begin the meat and potatoes of our literacy block!

When I first began using the Daily 5, I had one major thing to consider ...
the reading series. 

How do I integrate the reading series with the Daily 5?

I was required to read each week's basal story, learn the high-frequency words, focus skill, and focus strategy. I was to pull reading groups every day and use the intervention kit with my non-readers.

So, I had to think about what would work best with those requirements and still use the Daily 5 management system. Here's what I came up with:

I've since changed what goes above the pocket charts
and I will update the photo when I start my reading groups.
I decided to spend 40 minutes daily (whole group) covering the most important skills and lessons from the reading series. Then, I would spend about 60 minutes to pull reading groups/strategy groups/book clubs. This 60 minutes is when the Daily 5 would happen.

I split the kids into three groups {these groups are flexible and kids are moved to new groups all of the time based on their needs.} I bought the mini pocket charts from Target's Dollar spot for my three groups. I just color-coded the groups:

Red Group

Blue Group

and Green Group

There are three rounds and one of those rounds is to meet with me. The kids are only doing two of the Daily 5 choices a day.

I've let the kids pull their choices and I've also pulled the choices for the kids. I tend to lean towards pulling the choices for the kids because I would make sure they would do all of the Daily 5 choices in the week. When they pulled the choices they would only pull the same choices all of the time. My writers would always pull Work on Writing. My non-readers would only pull Listening. My chatty ones would only pull Read to Someone. They needed to do them all, especially Read to Self, so that is when I decided to intervene.

My little tray for the cards.
This system totally works for me, and I am still fulfilling my duties of teaching the reading series. Now, if I had my choice I wouldn't need a reading series at all, but that is not the case. {sad!}

I wish I could remember where I got these cards from so I could give the proper credit but I can't. {If it is you, please let me know!}

Daily 5 Pocket Chart Cards 1 Daily 5 Pocket Chart Cards 2 Daily 5 Pocket Chart Cards 3

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Week 4 Done!

I'd love to come up with some clever title for this post, but this week has been wild, weird, wonky, and quite frankly has wiped me o-u-t! We had our back to school Open House on Thursday, so the majority of this past week has been busy prepping for it.

And then came the big night...

Wait - for -it...

I had a whopping 6 families come.

Actually, I had more of my families from last year come to visit me then this year's class. At least I had somebody to talk to. Ha!

Needless to say, I am a little disappointed. I've had low numbers in the past, but I guess I was spoiled because last year's class was so attentive to all of our school events. Even if my parents couldn't afford to buy things or help with homework, I knew they cared because they always came to show support. Let's hope this one event isn't indicative for the rest of the year!!

However, our class did have lots of fun together. We are becoming budding scientists and learning all about those important "Senses."

Here's our Anchor Chart. The kids helped complete it.

Then, they made their own examples of the anchor chart.

Some didn't complete their chart before I took the pictures, but they have since then.

I cut out the head, hands, and t-shirts for times sake. They did the rest.

Currently, we are working on a flap book as we test all of our senses. I'll post more about it when it is completed. It is a great lesson to help my students to become more aware and observant as they grow and learn.

My Five Senses Labels

On a side note, have you heard of Smilebox?

It is this great program that allows you to use your photos to make great products. You can make digital scrapbook pages, ecards, calendars, photo pages, and slideshows.

I love to use it to make slideshows for my class. For example, for lessons like this Senses one, I will take pictures throughout the lesson and make a quickie slideshow. Then, I can upload it into my class website. By the end of the year, I have almost 20 slideshows from events or lessons throughout the year! My parents loved to see their child participating in school. Some even told me that they would send the link of my website to their family members (ie - Grandma). 

Screen shot of my Smilebox Page
Such an easy and great way to document a wonderful year in first grade!
Senses Kid Tracers

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My First Award!

I've had the longest Saturday! Scott and I had to wake up super early to head up to Orlando for my nieces sporting events. One had a crew Open House event and the other had a volley ball tournament. Wow, what an ordeal sports are! They are both club or comp. team sports, so the events were a pretty big to-do.

Now, I've never been involved in sports {unless high school band counts.} These were cultures, I was NOT familiar with. It was like a little sociology learning experience for me. Very interesting... says the band nerd.

Anyway, I was totally stoked to come home and read in my e-mails that Mrs. Geary from Light a Candle blog has awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award! Too cool! I've noticed awards floating around lately, but I never thought in a million years that my name would come to someone's mind. Thank you, Mrs. Geary! I love it!

Please make sure to read and become a follower of her blog, Light a Candle. It's great!

Here are the rules of the award:

*Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post.
*Share 7 things about yourself.
*Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs. 

7 things about me:

1. I'm a television addict. My mom used to call me the "Walking TV Guide." I don't think that is anything to be proud of, but I love crappy television. ALL OF IT! Currently, my husband is going to kill me because I have spent this entire summer watching Cheers reruns non-stop! :)

2. I hate to exercise {or play sports - especially anything involving balls} but I love to run.

3. I have celiac disease, so I can't eat anything containing gluten. Total drag!!  

4. I can't cook at all. If Scott didn't feed me, I wouldn't eat!  

5. I am very codependent. I couldn't live without my sweet husband, my mom, my dad, my fur babies, my sister, my nieces and nephews, my bff, my parents' dog, Chewy. Oh, the list goes on and on...

6. I secretly wish to have a SMART Board in my house. I'd use it every day!

7. I can be really immature at times. Like, certain names make me laugh or think of really inappropriate jokes. 
For instance,
"Amanda" - Amanda Hug and Kiss
"Penelope" - Is really pronounced PEEN-OE-LOPE
"Eddie" - In my head, I think of the Eddie Murphy joke where he says "Eddie! Pay Me My Money! I want HALF, EDDIE!"

My Top 15 Blogs:
Check 'em out, Yo!

1. Mrs. D @ The Silver Lining

2. Mrs. Ibarra @ Always First Grade

3. Shelly @ Asprec's Apple

4. Lori @ Bee the Change

5. Robynn & SueBeth @ Busy Bees

7. Miss Griffin @ Fantastic First

12. Jamie @ this kind of love

14. The Ladies of The Lemonade Stand

15. Ms. Thomas @ The First Grade Jungle

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rooster's Off to See the World

One of my most favorite math lessons uses this wonderful Eric Carle book, Rooster's Off to See the World. I love these lessons because they are easy, use very few materials, incorporates literature, and they are F-U-N!

Book - Rooster's Off to See the World By: Eric Carle
white drawing paper (one per kid for each day)
crayons, pencils, or markers

*This is a 2 day lesson.

Day 1:
You will see how well your students can make growing patterns. Read aloud the first half of the book and when the rooster meets up with the five fish {to go see the world} you stop reading any further. 

Ask your kids to predict {in their heads, not to share yet} what they think will happen next. I usually like to reread the first half again just in case someone wasn't listening. Then, I send them off to their seats so they can draw, write numbers or words about what they think will happen next in the story. After you've given them about 10-15 minutes to work on their papers bring them back together and share everyone's predictions.

This is a great way to see if your kids can count, predict, explain, and some might even express higher order thinking. One year, I used a students work to show his giftedness! {It was such a cool answer!!}

Day 2:

Review some students responses from the day before {real quick} and then reread the book. PAUSE where you had stopped reading on Day 1 {for dramatic effect} and then read the rest of the book. The kids will be surprised to find that after the 5 fish join the group, the crew finds out that they are scared, homesick, or hungry and decides to go home. Typically no one will have predicted that, so it is a big shocker!!

After you have read the story and discussed the sequence of events, you will ask the students if they can recall how many animals TOTAL went on the trip {in their heads, not to share yet.} You may want to reread the story again before you send them off to work. Remind them that they can find their answer using pictures, numbers or words. Send them off to their desks to work on their papers. Give them about 10-15 minutes then meet together to share our answers.

This is a great Number Sense assessment. You can see if your students can: use a variety of methods to represent information about a series of groups, can they combine several quantities accurately, and what strategies do they use to solve their problem.

Here are some student examples:

Note: This is NOT an original idea. It is out of our old Investigations series, but I love it so...

If you have the book, spend a few days on something fun for your firsties!

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I was inspired by this pin on Pinterest:
*Aside: I just love Sarah Cooley's blog, First Grader last! She is so very creative.*

As long as I can remember, I've begun my school year teaching with Kevin Henkes' books. I just love them!

Chrysanthemum and Lily's Purple Plastic Purse are two books I never miss to read aloud {several times!} These stories have many cute lessons to go along with them. In particular, I like to do a character study with Lily and Chrysanthemum, a number sense lesson using our names, and discussions on following rules, being respectful and our feelings. *Note: These lessons aren't new; you can find them easily online.

HOWEVER, after seeing that above mentioned pin, I decided to add a little art to my anchor chart. I'm a tracer!

During our character study, I had the kids recall characteristics to describe Chrysanthemum and Lily. I drew this picture of Chrysanthemum because I loved this outfit with her seven pockets.

Our name chart
I usually keep this up all year. The children like to refer to it when they are writing in their journal or writing stories. When we do this activity, I have the students build their names with connecting cubes first and then they must transfer it to the pattern block page. Some kids have a very difficult time with this part. Once again, assessing their varying ability levels.

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"Real" Mail!

I am SO excited! I received mail today! Rather, my class received mail today. Real mail. You know, the kind that is hand delivered by a mailman.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a large decorated M with a friendly letter so dear.

It's my first letter! So cool!

I'm a part of Brooke Perry's Letter Exchange.
Click here for an explanation {Primary Perspective's Letter Exchange}.

By joining this exchange, I've agreed to decorate and send my assigned letter to each teacher in my group. By the end of September, we should have a completed alphabet from all over the U.S.A.

I can't wait to {re}open the envelope tomorrow and share it with the class!