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.