Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hi, blogger friends!  I just finished a weekly word wizards packet to go along with our vocabulary unit on "tricky words".  This little unit contains 31 pages of first grade vocabulary words to enhance your weekly spelling/word work, plus two different recording sheets. My students love to switch out our word each week and they are even listing the synonyms in their morning    
                                                     work journals!  Can you feel me beaming?! I'm pretty proud their  
                                             word work this quarter.    You can click here to check it out!

Friends, I'm linking up with some of the most awesome teachers to be part of a GINORMOUS GIVEAWAY of TpT products!  Link up with us or enter to win our products. Just click on Sarah Mackey's button above or the one below to find out the deets on this amazing giveaway! Good luck!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Snowy Day Treats!

If you are from or have ever lived in the South, you know that our winters can be wacky!  Warm, HOT, warm, sleet, warm, snow day, warm again, is pretty much how it goes from January until March. It's hard to know what to wear daily, so we live in layers. As my best friend says, "It's either flip-flop weather, or it's not."  I guess that about sums it up.

With a five-day weekend last weekend and a three-day one this week due to the wacky weather, I've been hard at work (from my couch!) dreaming up some new ways to get my kiddos motivated to read.   
I've noticed that since we've returned from Christmas break, the kids are not as engaged in their independent reading time as they used to be. Books are out and stacked up, but most of the reading I see from my guided reading table looks fake and as if they are passing the time, instead of becoming lost in the book.  Growing strong readers is important to me, so I'm looking for new ways to get my kids excited about reading again. Since most of my kids are on or above grade level, I know that decoding isn't the issue. Advice is encouraged and welcome!
In the meantime, I decided to rework my reading log and book bin shopping list.  You can find them in my TpT store... click here to check them out!

I also created a new reading focus board for our class to use. This week I called the kids to the carpet for a little chit-chat about reading. It was quite eye-opening! I asked them what they thought about reading lately. Most of the kids said that they couldn't find any "good books" on the shelves that they haven't already read a million times. The kids also said that they were "tired" of reading, which was very troublesome to me. We agreed that we needed to fix our reading block in a major way!  So we sketched out a quick chart on the SmartBoard and listed our reading strengths and weaknesses, our goals for reading and a plan for how to get there. I promised the kids that I would stock more books for them to read ---they had no idea that a big shipment of books had just come in from our county the day before, so they were happy to see me follow through on my promise! I am also brainstorming some reading incentives to help them focus on a reading goal and work toward it by doing quality, "close" reading daily.   

You can download the posters for the focus board here, and they can be used for reading, math, or behavior.  Click below to see an example of the board that inspired me.  

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a fun new mental math game I'm working on for my students to play!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's Turkey Time!

It's less than two weeks 'til Thanksgiving, and I am behind, y'all!   We've had so many days off recently that I counted them up and figured out that I will have only been IN the classroom 11 teaching days before our Thanksgiving break. Yikes!  

My best teaching buddy and co-worker, Michelle, has created this awesome Turkey Unit for our grade to use. You can get "Turkey Trouble" here.

In the meantime, you can enjoy this little Thanksgiving Dinner freebie from yours truly. Enjoy!

If you're still out there....

OK, so I'm officially the WORST blogger in the blogging world. I admit it. Freely. Life is just so busy right now and time to blog is scarce. I could go into it, but I won't, other than to say that my littlest sister just got married, so I've been drowning in wedding "stuff" lately.  But I wholeheartedly want to share the resources and ideas I find/create with ya'll, so if you're still out there and following,  THANK YOU!   I'm trying to lurk less and post more, but I shall not make promises I can't keep!!  As my BTF (Bestest Teaching Friend) and co-worker says, "Just do it, already"! about me getting going and blogging on a regular basis.  (Go check her out at My Sweet Success!) So here goes....

Last week we took our kiddos to the Lazy 5 zoo. It was lots of fun and the kids got to feed every animal there except the zebras, who bite!  Here are some of the highlights!

 As you can see, it's kind of like a zoo and a farm combined. The kids ride on a wagon that stops periodically to let them learn about and feed the animals. The ostriches were pretty aggressive, but we loved the tiny piglets!! 

Common Core math is going splendidly again this year, and is--dare I say it?-- even MORE awesome than CC math last year. The way our grade has "chunked" and "stacked" the standards makes it so easy for kids to build on concepts and have plenty of time for mastery, too.  Say it with me: NO MORE SPIRAL CURRICULUM!   We've found that it just doesn't work. When kids miss school, they might miss a whole week of missing addends, and then what happens? With our UBD (Understanding By Design)  templates, we can see exactly where kids are struggling and go back easily to reteach important concepts.    We are creating the units for the CCSS in math and reading each month for the month ahead. If you're interested in what we're doing to chunk and stack the Common Core, contact me to see an example.  Our plan is a day-by-day plan with teaching points and plenty of resources. Just add kids! 

Recently, my grade level buddies and I got to take a school day off and visit some of the other first grade teachers in our school system to see how they create a balanced literacy block. We saw some fabulous teaching going on, including some great ideas for mini-lessons and interactive readings. We also saw some teachers squeezing in poetry every week by introducing a shared reading poem on Monday and recording students reading it together fluently. Students practice in pairs, groups, and teams (think: boys vs. girls) and get better all week. On Fridays, they record again and compare it to the Monday read. It seriously takes 10 minutes and what a fun way to share reading and boost fluency! 

The thing most of us took away from our day of visits is room design and decor. It's always so much fun to peek in other classrooms, but we really got to take pictures and get ideas for our own classrooms. It was a little discouraging for us, to be honest, because we work in a very old school and we visited some very new schools with nice, clean furniture and carpet! Check out this cute reading table with IKEA chairs:

                                             And we loved these guided reading bins:

We really thought long and hard about the "stuff" in our classrooms and realized how much teacher stuff takes up our rooms.  Since we don't have offices or storage areas, pretty much everything has to be in our rooms somewhere! We just needed to: 

1. Get creative about hiding the "unused but still good" stuff.
2. Throw out all the junk and eliminate unnecessary furniture to free up room for kid spaces.

We all immediately went back to our rooms and got to work!  It's still a work in progress, but here is the "before" picture of all my clutter! I hope to post the MUCH BETTER "afters" soon!

What a mess.  This shelf sits on top of a counter, too!  I hate it but there just wasn't another option for this monster shelf!   I love the blue reading and math center tubs, and I'm keeping those. I am on a mission to eliminate the primary colors from my classroom and replace with softer ice cream colors. We also begged our principal for new tables so that we can get rid of the old desks that our students have now. To our surprise, he agreed and they have been ordered!  We are so excited for this change!  It's hard knowing that we won't get a new building for our students anytime soon, but our fabulous principal has been on a mission to make our school look as "new" and "fresh" as possible for our students and staff. We're pretty lucky.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wow, am I having a tough time updating this blog!  It has been such a whirlwind of a year, teaching first grade. I am loving it, though, and will hopefully get to teach first again next year. One of my summer goals is to update weekly, keeping you in the loop about the materials I create and the awesome blogs I discover! 
 I will be uploading some freebies as soon as possible...until then, please go check out
 Our Sweet Success.  Michelle is a good friend and the lead teacher on our team. She is responsible for the sweet Common Core-based units we have used this year in first grade. If you are new to the Common Core, these materials (like the checklists and mini-lesson guides) will be invaluable to you! She has many of the units we used this year available on her TpT site.  Let us know what you think!

Our Sweet Success

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lesson Plans

Guided Math Lesson Plan Freebie
Alright,I a m attempting to upload my first freebie! Since our county switched to the Common Core Standards this year, I had to totally revamp the way I plan. After MANY trials and scrapped ideas, this is the lesson plan format I created and use for guided math. You can find out more about guided math by going here and reading Debbie Diller's fantastic book, Math Workstations. While you're at it, check out her other lifesavers, Spaces & Places, and Making the Most of Small Groups.  She has many others, but I recommend these for first grade teachers, especially!  Be aware that you will probably need to download two fonts to make this plan look just like mine: smileymonster and annoying kettle, both of which can be grabbed over at Kevin & Amanda's.
 Tell me what you think and how you use it!

Guided Math Lesson Plan
 for 1st Grade
Giving Thanks.....

So it occurred to me on Tuesday that I really needed to stop and talk to my kiddos about giving thanks.  Sometimes I think that I spend too much time teaching pilgrims, mayflowers, and turkeys and not enough time modeling thankfulness. All month, I have had students take a fall leaf cutout from the writing center and write down something they are truly thankful for. We have been adding the leaves to the fall tree on our door. I noticed recently that most of the leaves named mom, dad, and toys as things they were thankful for. I thought this was a great start, but it seemed like students just couldn't think up any other things they were thankful for, because all the leaves were beginning to look identical!  I wondered if my kiddos were struggling to understand the idea of being thankful, so as a little experiment, I decided to make an anchor chart of the things that I am thankful for.  I started with our assistant, Mrs. Evans. We discussed all the ways Mrs. Evans helps us each day, and we talked about how we could thank her for all she does for us. Some suggestions were simply saying, "Thank you!" more, making her cards, and just remembering to use our best behavior when she is taking us to and from specials. I really think that going that extra step and having them brainstorm ways that they can say "thank you" for the things they are thankful for helped them see that they have SO many things to appreciate. 

Monday, November 21, 2011


Welcome to my teaching blog! I am eager to share my adventures in first grade with ya'll!  Hopefully, I can share some of the resources I have created as well. I have been so inspired by the amazing blogs out there that it only seems fair to "pay it forward"!  Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Inspired to blog, but moved to 1st grade. Check back with me to follow my adventures in 1st!