Monday, April 30, 2012

Which Came First?

Riddle me this, Batman.
Which came first
the Egg?

Truth be told. I really, really, REALLY wanted to teach oviparous animals before Easter, but that didn't happen! Then, I was hoping to get to it right after Easter. That didn't happen either. So, today, April 30, a good month after my intended start date, we began learning about oviparous animals finally.
Crazy, I know. Nothing seems to go as planned this year.

I began the unit by passing out a bunch of animals cards to the students.
(I got this idea from Pinterest.)

They shared their animal(s) with the class.

Then, I asked them what the word "Oviparous" means.

Silence. Absolute silence.
It's the first time they have been silent ALL year!
I got nothing! Not even guesses {and, boy, do they ever love to guess.}

I told them I wasn't going to tell them. They'd have to figure it out on their own. 
*I'm really bad about trying NOT to say the answer to something, but then blurting it out accidentally. I hate it when I do that!

Moving on...
Each kid walked up to the pocket charts labeled Oviparous (blue) and Not Oviparous (red) and added their animal(s) to the section they thought it belonged.

After the cards were all put up on the chart. We took a good look at it. 
I did let them know that some were incorrect and we may have to change some cards.
So Wrong!
But first, I had to read a book. Not just any book. A special book. A book that may help them with their cards...

Afterwards, I asked them what they thought "Oviparous" means now???? 
And guess what? They knew the answer this time. Phew!

We took another look at that chart. They asked if they could make those changes now.
Now they're interested!
Move the shark, Emmie. It's the shark!
They did a pretty good job at fixing the cards. They got stuck on the whale and shark.

 That's all for today. More to come.

I purchased April's (Chalk Talk) unit, Chicken's Aren't the Only Ones. It is so awesome. Filled with loads of great lessons, books, and snacks! Totally Worth It.

Please shoot me an email if you'd like a copy of the animal cards I used for this lesson. {} I just made them myself. I had bought some of the clip art from KPM Doodles. The rest, the internet gave me. :)

Ta ta for now!

Oh my goodness. I almost forgot!
Guess what's on its way to my very impatient hands?

So cool!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Work on Writing

There are many reasons why I love the Daily 5.

Like ...
it's research based,
it builds independence and stamina,
 students work at their own level and pace,
the Sisters are the two coolest teachers ever,
and students are engaged in meaningful work.

Seriously, the list could go on and on.

Today, I wanted to share a little about the Work on Writing portion.

I hold 'Writing Workshop' at another time in the day, but for twenty minutes during any given round of the Daily 5 you might see some of my students quietly and independently writing in their journals.

Every year, this 'daily' (as I like to call the fab five - read to self, read to someone, work on writing, listening to reading, and word work) is a favorite among my students. In fact, I had to start choosing the 'dailies' for my students instead of giving them choice because everyone would only choose writing!

During Work on Writing, students are able to write in their journals on any topic of their choosing. Then, at the end of the round, they can share their stories (the kids favorite part.) When we have our mini-lessons, I'll teach them how to enhance their writing. Just some very brief little 5-7 minute lessons. All of the more difficult longer writing lessons are held during Writing Workshop time.

Work on Writing is a 'daily' that my students can start on Day One of school. At first, it is a beast to keep the kids sitting independently. But as you build their stamina and show them how to solve some troubleshooting problems that may arise, you'll notice your students lasting longer and writing better. It's pretty awesome.

Here are a few examples of one of my student's progress throughout this year:

***It has to be noted that this child is OBSESSED with whales and marine life. It is her passion. She has written about other topics, but for the most part, it's all about those whales!***

Beginning of the year:

Mid Year:


I cannot break some of my really southern kiddos of the "git" problem they have!
We have discussed this a million times!!
 I could have picked a longer piece, but this one cracks me up.

Also, I have other students who can fill pages of their journals in twenty minutes. Their stories are great, too. Typically, the girls love to write about their friends and animals.  The boys like to write about vehicles, their cool toys, or cowboy stuff.

I chose this child's work in particular because she is a struggling student.

The Daily 5 is rad!

Also, I really don't miss creating weekly centers. And the printing of center pieces. And the cutting of said center pieces. Which leads to laminating of them. Then, the cutting, again. Plus, you've got the organizing and storing of these center pieces. Oh ya, the printing of the coordinating work page to go with the center. And, last, the dreaded grading of the center work pages. Yep, don't miss that...

Anywho, if you have read some of my previous Daily 5 posts and there is a document you'd like to have but for some weird reason Scribd is asking you to pay for it, then just shoot me an e-mail and I will send you the document (for free!)

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Management Mon-ERR-Tuesday

Oh, it's that magical time of the year.

The Fourth Quarter

The Home Stretch

End of the Year

You'll notice that some parts of your day run smoothly and some -- not so much. 
In fact, you'll find yourself thinking (or saying) "You have lost your mind!"

On the other hand, you probably have a few cuties who could literally run your classroom for you. Which I L-O-V-E! I've got two girls who stay a little bit longer at the end of the day and set up my room for the following day. They rock. They even did it when I had a substitute.

It really is amazing how consistent routines and establishing a positive classroom environment can shape and mold your students for the better. Sometimes, it may not seem like it works for all of your sweeties, but it does. You just have to look deeper to see how they do have decorum {especially compared to the beginning of the year.}

It's around this time of year {and Christmas} where I find myself feeling like a tyrant.
When I am feeling this way, I think about the things I am NOT doing.

Am I not praising my kids enough?
Am I not rewarding positive behavior?
Have I forgotten to give them more talking time {Think-Pair-Share?}

Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in pacing guides, mandatory testing, and preparing for those mandatory tests that we forget to do the things that we know we should be doing. 
It's the pressure. I don't know about your schools, but the pressure is high at my school. Everything hinges on getting those kids out of the red zone and earning an "A" grade for your school.

When we are feeling threatened by this, we don't have as much patience as we normally would possess. And the kids feel it. They know it. They know we aren't ourselves. Are they compassionate and sympathetic to our plight? Goodness, No! This makes your potential problem students bOnkErS!!!

What to do? Stop. Take a deep breath. Prioritize.

Ask yourself, do I need to stop this lesson? Sometimes our lessons flop. It happens to the best of us. Let go. Move on. Do something else. PLEASE - for the sake of the children - let that lesson go!

Having positive reward systems really help during these times.

Here are three positive reward systems I've got going in my class.

First: Small Group
Really fancy - That's me!
When my kids are not sitting at the rug, or working quietly around the room during Daily 5 time, they are sitting at tables.

Now, I've read about the advantages of letting the kids pick their seats, but I just can't do it. Call me old school on this one. I like assigned seats.  Assigned seating makes me feel better {I'll change their spots about two, maybe three, times a year.}

Each table is a color and that is the name of their group. Real original, I know. I could let them come up with clever names like I did when I was teaching fourth grade. However, first graders aren't great at coming up with names and they usually fight about it, never reach a compromise, and then someone is sad about the name. Hence, me calling them by their table color. Easy

Anyway, when I see their table being quiet, working together, making smart choices, or keeping things clean {whatever, I feel is awesome at the time} I'll reward their group a point. The first group to reach 20 gets a prize. Then, I erase ALL groups points and we start over.

I've had a list of options for their reward, but I got rid of them a few years ago. Now their prize is to each lunch with me in the classroom and I'll throw on a funny video.

My kids really hate eating in that noisy cafeteria, so this reward is a BIG winner every time.

This is an easy system to use. It's on that little white board and I don't forget to do it.

Second: Individual
Reward Inside

Winter Bucket

I saw this awesome idea on the blog, What the Teacher Wants! around Halloween time. Rachelle's system worked out so well, I continued using it throughout the year. I've changed from a pumpkin bucket, to the snowman bucket, and now the cupcake bucket.

The bucket has a little prize inside it. It travels to the students who are caught making smart choices and whoever ends up with the basket/bucket by the end of the day gets the prize inside. I try to make the prize something meaningful like sock time or sitting at my desk for a day.

It's a good one! Thanks, Rachelle!

Third: Whole Group
Idea from Whole Brain Teaching
This whole group system is also pretty easy to do. The class earns smiley's for making good choices and frowney's for not following the rules. At the end of your designated time frame, if the class has more smiley's than frowney's, then they get a prize. My prize may be a song or extra 5 minutes of recess. You can choose the time frame, just as long as you let the kids know how long they have until you do the final count of the tallies.

That's it.

I like easy systems that I can remember to do. Plus, they are mostly acknowledgments of positive behaviors. Which keeps me positive!

In the past, I have used the clip chart and the "flipping cards" thing, but I could never keep it up. I'd forget to move the clips or cards. It was too much work for me. I'd only move the misbehaving students down. Then, I'd feel bad about forgetting to move up my good students' clips. It just wasn't simple enough for me. Plus, I felt awful about having a visual reminder of my "bad" students for everyone to see. They are always the same kids. We want to reverse the behavior pattern not continue it!

Heather, over at Heather's Heart has some really great blog posts about Conscious Discipline. They get you thinking critically about how you speak to your students and your classroom management. I'm digging it! I'm also learning about some of the bad things I do that I need to ditch and some of the good things I'm already doing {yippee!} 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Moon Over My Bloggy

Where to begin? How to begin?
How do you explain your absence when there is so much to explain?
But - then again - it really isn't that exciting either.

So the long and the short of it is: 
report cards, paperwork, working out, final evaluations, hanging out, paperwork, helping out, meetings, dance lessons, showers (baby & wedding), paperwork, 1st communions, {Did I remember to mention paperwork?} and EXHAUSTION!

So, I had to prioritize. And my friends, I let you {and my sweet laptop} to the wayside.

Anywho, I still have been teaching, creating, and loving those wacky first graders of mine. Actually, we have been busting our butts!
They know it is crunch time.

Also, they changed the date of our open house to about 5 weeks later. My room has been Ancient Egypt for so long, even I am sick of it. I did take some of it down recently to make room for some of our other projects. I tried not to BUT I couldn't stand it any longer.

Just today, we did one of Cara Carroll's Moon Unit lessons.

First, we read the story, Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me.

If you haven't read this story, you need to. It is really cute. It also leads the kids to ask questions, infer, and think critically. Love Eric Carle!

Then, we completed our Moon Anchor Chart with facts we had learned in the computer lab about the moon. Let's just say, some of my kids "get it" and some don't. We'll keep working on it. I'll have to find a good video - maybe.

Then, the kids picked three of their favorite facts to write on their papers.

On to the favorite part of the lesson: PAINTING!

They were so excited to get to paint their moons. Some of them chose to write the shortest facts just to get it done quickly. Others - who were chatty - did not think of this strategy.  *At least, I'm not getting the same three facts on all of their papers!

I can't wait to do some more of this unit. Cara really knows how to rock a fun lesson!

If you are still a follower of my blog - THANK YOU!
I really appreciate your kind words, sentiments, and helpful suggestions.

Be Back Soon...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Currently ~ APRIL

Please disregard my last post. Apparently, I'm a sucker!
Hey, I REALLY REALLY wish it was true!
 What can I say? I've got a heart of gold and wish good tidings for others {that deserve it} all year long - even on April Fool's Day!

Thank God, Farley has her Currently post up so I can divert the attention away from my stupidity.

Here's mine for April:

My super power is the same mutant ability Rogue has on the X-Men comic book series.
I'm totally geeking out here, but I love Rogue. I think her ability is awesome.
Sure she has some flaws, like sucking the life out of people when she touches them.
That's nothing a little pair of gloves can fix, right?
Sometimes, a girl could use some super powers to help her out.
We can't do everything all of the time!

Have You Heard the Big News?

*UPDATE: In the dictionary, next to the word GULLIBLE - there is a picture of me!
What a MEAN April Fool's Joke! I hate this day! ;)

I have to share this because I am BURSTING!
If you haven't had a chance to read your TPT Newsletter, you need to do so NOW!

Deanna Jump has been invited by President Obama to attend the next State of the Union address! He {and Michelle} are thrilled with Deanna's TPT success and want to make teaching a more attractive career choice. 

Personally, I think Deanna is the perfect choice. She is the total package and will be the best representation of the American teacher.

We all know they need to work a little a lot harder on the actual problems with our education system, but I couldn't be more happier for Deanna.

It is a step in the right direction.

Mazal tov, Deanna!