Thursday, November 20, 2014

Turkey Time! Keep Activities Meaningful During Thanksgiving Festivities

I don't know about you, but the week before Thanksgiving is one of the more challenging of the school year. In my district, we have parent-teacher conferences right before the break, which means I have an added layer of objectives to reach this week.

Don't get me wrong -- I LOVE parent-teacher conferences because I get to brag on my students to their greatest fans. But, I have a lot to do if I want to gather meaningful work samples which serve as formative assessments, and complete summative assessments that will direct our progress forward.  (I love using my assessment journal this time of year because the assessment pages give me so much information about my students' progress!)

In other words, this week, I need to...

  • test kids
  • get last minute work samples
  • keep them engaged
A couple of years back, I made a goal to transform Thanksgiving week away from being activity-based (meaning, a lot of things to do, but not a lot of substance), to being instructional activity-based (meaning, the things we do have a meaningful, instructional purpose).  

One of the things I came up with is this cute turkey craftivity that focuses on research and informative writing skills. The kids are loving Turkey Time, and I love the time I get while they are working on their research, writing, and craftivity!

I tie the theme together with fiction turkey books. A class favorite is Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr.  The kids love calling out "Run, Turkey, run!" 

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, and that week leaded up to it isn't too stressful!  Enjoy your family time!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Spotlight! Harvest Time Center Activities

Today I'm putting the spotlight on one of my favorite products for fall.  It's on sale for 20% this week.

I especially love this one the week before Thanksgiving break -- when I am getting ready for parent-teacher conferences.  These center activities are the perfect way to keep students meaningfully engaged while I assess individual students.

This set includes everything you need to set up a center routine. 
•5 math centers
•5 ELA centers
•a list of recommended thematic literature and informational text connections
•display cards (to use on your center rotation schedule and materials tubs)
•blank student name cards (for your center rotation schedule)
•student/center rotation tracking form

Each activity comes with...
• cover page
• activity cards
• cards holder label
• directions card
• response worksheet

Next, I'm putting the spotlight on my of my favorite stores!  Check out 3 Sassy Sisters! 

This trio of sisters creates bright, colorful classroom displays, and high quality thematic activities to keep students engaged. I love their stuff! You can follow them on Facebook and at their blog. They are fun, creative, and energetic!

Would you like to join the Sunday Spotlight linky? Hop on over to Countless Smart Cookies. Here's what you do:

Here's how SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT works: 

1. Pick a product to spotlight from your TpT store. Put the products on sale for at least 24 hours. The amount in which you discount is completely up to you. Write a description in your blog post about your product(s)! If you have multiple products you'd like to spotlight, go for it! If you want the product to stay on sale for a longer time, go for that too! 

2. Pick another TPT-er to spotlight! Post a description of their store, put the link of the store/Facebook/blog/any social media site they use to your post. Encourage your readers to follow the teachers you spotlight and leave feedback! We wouldn't be the great teachers we are if we didn't collaborate, right? ;) -RIGHT! What you share with your readers is up to you and the seller! 

Have a great weekend, and enjoy finding some new teacher creators to follow!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

You Oughta Know About a Reading Group Tool Kit

For today's "You Oughta Know..." blog hop, I decided to write about a tool kit I've been using with my reading groups.  You would think that I'd have figured this out earlier.  Such a simple solution to a complex problem!

The problem: keeping my students engaged during reading groups. I'm not even talking about the rest of the class (I use work stations to keep them engaged).  I'm talking about the four kids who have to sit and listen while one student reads a page orally.

The solution: I created a reading group tool kit with things I had around the classroom. Suddenly,  my students are engaged, even when they are not the one reading orally.

The Tool Kit:

  • transparent discs
  • craft sticks and googly eyes
  • dry erase markers and clear transparency film
  • rubber bands

Here's a quick over view of how I use the tools:
  • Transparent Discs (the kind we used to use with overhead projectors): Have students pre-read the text. They mark words according to your directions. In this reading, I had students mark all the words they knew by sight.  Sometimes, I have them mark specific word patterns or sight words. On other days, I'll have them color code words (i.e. they mark sight words red and phonetic patterns blue).  The advantage is that I can quickly assess what as student thinks they know so I can focus their attention on decoding strategies.
  • Craft Sticks + Googly Eyes = Tracking Stick (to help you keep your eye on the words...): Glue a googly eye to the end of the craft stick.  Have students use the tracking stick while other students are reading the text. Again, it provides me with a quick assessment of who is actually tracking while another student reads orally.  

  • Dry Erase Markers + Clear Transparency Film  (I'll upload a photo when we use this tool next week): Have the students pre-read the text for decoding. Have them each place a piece of transparency film over the page, and mark the page (per your directions) with the dry erase marker. Example...mark the words with a specific cvc pattern, or circle the punctuation mark that shows excitement. Again, you've got a quick visual assessment of what they students can do.
  • Rubber Bands: We use lots of terms when reminding kids to use a variety of strategies.  "Tap it," "Chunk it," "Stretch it..." The rubber band provides a visual and kinesthetic tool to stretch words out to hear the sounds. They love it! (So far, no one has shot a rubber band at someone else!)
What tools do you have in your reading tool kit?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Farm Fun in the Apple Tree Room!

It has been a busy month in the Apple Tree Room! Take a look at a few of the things we've been doing to develop our research, reading, and writing skills!

We started our farm unit with our week long Apples, Apples, Apples unit. We started by reading The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons. The kids did this cut-and-paste activity in which they matched the illustration of the tree to the appropriate season.

Later in the week, they began painting their trees to illustrate the changes in the trees throughout the seasons.

I love this activity because it is so easy to differentiate.  Students who are ready to write independently write sentences describing the trees. Other students can choose an appropriate description and glue it on the page.
The culminating activity was to make an apple pie!  We read How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. The students wrote "how-to" paragraphs about how to make an apple pie, and then we made it! Yummy!  The how-to posters sure were a big help when students were writing!

Next we started our Farm unit. This group of kiddos needed to spend a bit of time learning how to conduct research before moving into informative writing, so I developed a research chart to help them gather their data.  It's so exciting to see what kids can do when they have the right tools!
We added a simple flap to their charts, made a cute craftivity, and voila!  The student work was displayed in an adorable format!

Throughout the unit, we learned more about how food gets from the farm to the table...
 ...identified the names of farm animals....
 ...and learned to label animal body parts....

The final step was to transform our researched facts into informative sentences and paragraphs.

I pulled in our Three Little Pigs and The Little Red Hen unit resources to provide students with differentiated reading books. They loved reading these booklets over and over again to each, and couldn't wait to get home to read them to their families!

They especially loved reading a Southwest version of The Little Red Hen and comparing it to the traditional version.
From here, we'll be moving on to a Zoo unit, and then revisit the Farm in late October with our pumpkin unit.

Happy Fall!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School! (Scissors, Glue, and Assessment, Too!)

There is nothing like the feeling of back-to-school. Teachers, students and parents are all anxious to meet each other, and full of wonder and excitement for the new year!  I have nine siblings in my group this year! I held some of these little ones when they were newborns!  What an honor and a privilege it is to welcome them into my class as first graders.

We sure have had a busy couple of weeks!  I have two main goals during the first weeks of school:

1) Establish classroom routines and expectations.
2) Get to know my students' personalities and assess their strengths and needs.

To accomplish these goals, I use some key classroom resources.

I love this new cut and glue, interactive, "All About Me" Book.  My students have been busy cutting, gluing and following directions to create their own books to share with each other and then with their families. What a great way to get to know each other!

First, the children cut out letter cards and glued them onto foldable flaps to to create a name page...

(student name blurred)

Then, they made an adorable "This is Me" page with a cut-out paper doll. They designed their own clothing, added hair, and drew a face. They followed directions to make a pocket envelope.

They made height and birthday pages...

...and address and phone number pages!

And a page with all of their favorite things!

Finally, they introduced their "family tree".

Of course, the whole time the students were working on their pages, I was informally assessing their ability to follow directions, cut, color, use glue, and write.  The kids loved it, and I got so much great information about them!  

If you think this would be a valuable resource in your classroom, hop on over to my TpT store. Scissors, Glue and All About You is available for $4.  Photographic directions are provided so you know exactly how to make each page.

Once I got my kiddos started on each page, I pulled them back one at a time to assess their academic skills.  I used pages out of my 1st Grade Assessment Journal to gather data on each student's math, letter and sound knowledge, sight word identification, and writing skills.  The assessments are aligned with common core standards, and give me a really good idea of baseline skills.

I will continue to assess students throughout the year, creating an informative binder of data to share with students' families during conferences.

Here are a few sample pages and some pages showing how I use them with students.

1st Grade Assessment Journal is available on TpT for $10.

I'd love to hear your strategies for getting through the first few weeks of school!  Share some of your ideas below!