Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tried-It Tuesday: Donor's Choose

Donor's Choose has been on my list of things to-do all summer and I am excited to say that I can officially cross it off because I completed my application for my first ever Donor's Choose project!

Wikipedia states, "Donor's Choose is a nonprofit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects."  I had heard of Donor's Choose and thought about doing it but to be quite honest the thought of it overwhelmed me.  One of my teaching buddies got her guided reading table from Donor's Choose and another teacher got "peanut chairs" for her classroom.  It amazed me that both of these projects could get funded from random donors, and I thought about doing my own project but never got around to it until now.

How Donor's Choose Works:

Think about something that would make a positive impact for your classroom and students.  Something you need that can truly make a difference.

As Donor's Choose describes above, it really is as easy as 1-2-3!

It took me so long to complete my first application because I thought the process was overwhelming but really, truly there is no reason to be overwhelmed!   Since all of the questions are classroom related you already know the answers if you take a moment to think about them.

Below are the questions I was asked (not exact wording from the website but hopefully you get the idea:)
What do your students need?
Describe your classroom and students.
If funded, how will you use this project?
See, those questions aren't too hard?! ) The website limits you to a certain number of characters, and seeing as I love to ramble, the hardest part for me was keeping it within its limits and not going over.

Basic Steps in Submitting your Application:

1. Fill out Project Questions and Go Shopping
The questions asked are the ones I wrote above.  Nothing too difficult or time consuming.  After you fill out those you eventually get to go "shopping!" There are specific stores and places for you buy from.  I created an account with Amazon linked to my school email address to shop from.

2.  Catchy Title and Classroom Photo
There are so many projects for donors to choose from so it makes sense to choose something catchy to grab the attention of anyone who is browsing.  Also, you must have a classroom photo. I remember being told this but didn't remember and therefore my classroom picture isn't the best but will work for now.  I am not the most creative person but was able to come up with a somewhat catchy title...

3.  Waiting Game
Your project will get reviewed and should then get approved!  I was nervous for some reason mine wouldn't but I received an email saying it did and I went to the Donor's Choose website and saw these messages below!

4.  Email those you Love
You get an automated email that you can simply add names and email addresses to.  I just did my parents, my hubby's parents and our siblings (I am not too comfortable with asking friends but maybe I will become better in the future?!?!) Anyways, it is incredibly enticing because anything you get donated to you that first week gets matched up to $100!  So exciting!

So that is where I am in this Donor's Choose Project.  I am just shy of a month in and have gotten about a quarter of my project funded thus far. I recently got my first totally random donor and let me tell you, it is so exciting for someone to choose your project (out of the gazillions of projects out there,) to donate to!  This company is from a suburb of Chicago so I believe that why I got picked-but still it is exciting!

Helpful Tips and Tricks I Learned:

1. Connect it to your Facebook Account
I was hesitant to do this at first but am glad that I did because it lets me know when I got donations (without logging into Donor's Choose.) and I have had a couple of very generous friends and some of my parents' friends donate money-I didn't have to email or ask any of them for money it just showed up through their feed.

2. Be the First to Donate to your Project
If this project is important to you donate a little bit to get your project going!  If you are the first to donate you can put in the code and have your money matched!

3.  Under $400
Keep your first project under $400.  You are more likely to get your first project funded if you keep it under $400.

4.  Don't Give Up
I keep reading this whenever I read about Donor's Choose, that even if your project doesn't get funded, keep trying.  Fingers are crossed that mine does get funded but if it doesn't I will stay positive and will try a different project!

Fabulous Resources:

I found two AMAZING resources that really helped me submit my first Donor's Choose project.  The first is from Funky Fresh Firsties and it is a TPT Freebie that will walk you through all of the steps of your project. Click on the picture below to be taken directly to this freebie.

The second AMAZING resource is from a blog post by The Open Door Classroom.  Click on the picture below to see Erin's tips.

Both of these ladies helped me tremendously when starting on my first application!  Make sure to head on over to both their freebie and blog post before you get started with your first project!

For my first ever Donor's Choose application I am linking up with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper for her Tried-It Tuesday!  Don't forget to head on over to see the other projects teachers tried this week! Thanks Holly for always encouraging us to try new things!

Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Beginning of the Year Activities!

The beginning of the year is such an exciting time. It is certainly exhausting, but I always love getting to know my new friends and their abilities, interests, learning styles right from the start. I absolutely love pulling out my "beginning of the year" book bin and reading all the various stories I have in there along with doing some sort of literacy activity. Here are a few ideas as you head back to school!

For beginning kindergartners, it can be a real struggle to recognize the difference between letters and numbers.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a wonderful book to help kids learn what letters are in the alphabet. I pair this book up with a hands-on sort where each little friend comes up to choose a magnetic letter or number and put it under the right category.  This is a great early identifier of who knows their letters and who will need a little help!

 Another variation of this activity is for those who have a little better understanding...they don't have the letters and numbers already up there on the board to match it up with- they have to figure it out on their own. All you need is a bag of some sort, letters/number tiles and a board!

It is also important to see which students can identify beginning sounds of letters already- this I generally do with my 1st graders, but would work for kindergartners too if you have some who already know all their letters. I got this container from a hardware store a few years ago and it's been in my classroom ever since! I have a basket of small pictures- my friends choose a picture card, say what it is and then open the little drawer with the correct beginning letter on the front. They love this! L, M, N, O Peas is a great book to help get students recognizing the beginning sounds of words- it lists a few words for each letter as you read through the story.

The Letters are Lost and Boom Chicka Rock are two more letters-focused books that are perfect for back to school reading! I break out the sorts/matching activities right away in my room, so here's another chance for my little friends to show me what they know when it comes to beginning letter sounds.

Who doesn't love a little hunt?? If you don't have the Alphabet Adventure, Alphabet Rescue and Alphabet Mystery books yet, I highly recommend them! My little friends love these stories because of the engaging story lines and fun graphics. These tie in well to then doing our own hunting as well...for vowels vs consonants!

Of course I also love to see who can already read basic words and who knows their sounds within words. Matching CVC words to pictures is always a big hit because my friends can practice saying their sounds and search for pictures to go with each word. What will Fat Cat sit on? has a lot of CVC words within the text so it is great for having students read along with you!

Identifying who can rhyme early on is very important to recognizing struggling readers. Not being able to rhyme is a HUGE indicator for struggling readers because it means they aren't hearing the sounds in words like the rest of us do. Even if students can't read yet, you can read the words and then have them search for a word that looks the same at the end or listen to you read words to find a match.

 I'm also so very excited to get going on Close Reading right away with my little friends this year to get us paying attention to the text we are reading/listening to right away! This will help develop their comprehension skills right from the beginning- I want my little friends to really listen to what we are reading and use specifics from the text to support their answers. I know they are going to love these poems, non fiction & fiction passages all about heading back to school!  If you haven't tried out close reading with your little friends yet, check out these posts here and here for more information and examples of how I get my students really reading closely!

Thank you to: Hello Fonts by Jen Jones &  i Teach What's Your Super Power for the amazing fonts and graphics! Click on the images below to check out more details about these packs!

Have a great day!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Word Work in First Grade

Aylin is back in school with kids and I have started my new teacher training this week but the kids do not officially start for another week.  As I sat down with one of my new teammates to plan for our first week of school we discussed jumping into Daily 5 that very first week.  

We will do a modified version of Daily 5/Cafe with our own twists to make it work best in each of our rooms.  Right away, we begin by building stamina in read to self and then will jump into building stamina on our work on writing time.  Remembering how quickly we get into each of the 5 essentials made me want to compile a list of my own of the word work ideas I have used in the past as a quick reference throughout my upcoming school year!

I am so grateful to Pinterest, which has helped me compile a "Word Work" Board with over 100 Pins specific to hands-on ways to practice spelling, sight and/or vocabulary words.  Many of my ideas below came from other bloggers and Pinterest ideas!  I continue keep pinning away because this board has been a great reference to me as I continue to build more word work ideas for my first graders.  I find that the more engaging the activities, the more they remember their words and the quieter they are so I am  constantly looking for new interactive ways for students to practice.

Hands-On Word Work Ideas

Each of the activities below are simple, hands-on ways to help students remember their words.
Students choose a flashcard, read the word to their partner and carefully place beans over each of the letters.  

Students write their word and place a dot next to (or under) each sound in the word.   
Students take out each of the vowels and place them on one side of the plate and take out each of the consonants and place them on the other side of the plate.  Then, students make their word in the bottom part of the plate.  
Student use anything magnetic and make their words with letters.  
Students use Play-Doh to roll out and make their words.  

Students use a "blob" of Play-doh and stamp their letters onto it to make their words.  
Students use Q-Tips and paint to write each of their words.  
Students using Kids Doodle on the i-Pads to practice their words.  
Simple, right?  All of these word work ideas above provide minimal prep and maximum fun for your little ones to practice their words!  I hope you were able to get at least one new, low-prep word work idea from this post!

If you have a chance, share your favorite word work station that you use in your classroom in a comment below or direct me to a similar blog post of yours so I can learn some new ones to incorporate into my classroom for the upcoming school year!


Happy Friday!

Friday, August 8, 2014

School is starting!

Well I can't quite believe it, but my summer is now coming to end...school officially starts for me on Monday! Getting in my classroom a little more this week helped me get real excited for this new year in a brand new school! Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for this Five for Friday is basically all about things I did in my classroom this week...and you'll notice I don't follow one specific theme, other than all things literacy, color, happiness and fun designs!

1. I'm so excited to be a reading specialist again and am thrilled to be expanding my grades taught all the way up to 4th grade! I've always taught Kindergarten and 1st grade, so teaching 2nd-4th graders in addition this year will be totally new to me, but I'm ready for the challenge. I'm definitely excited that I'll get to still teach my little ones that I adore so much but also add other grades into my daily mix! I've got my room almost all ready except for a few more things to hang up-- I'm reserving lots of wall space for new anchor charts I'll be creating with my students and for posters/student work that'll get put up as the year really gets going.  I've got my little buckets all set...just need to actually put some materials in their for daily use in our guided reading groups. :)

I've also got my "We heart to read!" banner up. I ended up just taping sturdy string to the back of the little pennants and kinda just love it! I'll be hanging student created "I love to read about ____" under this pennant once groups start and then update this display throughout the year with favorite character/favorite book student creations as well. All about reading and writing in this room!

You can check out this pennant and student decoration ideas here!

2. I'm not quite as crafty as other people, but I jazzed up a few clipboards with a little wash tape and fancy duct tape just to get rid of the plain old brown back...now they've got a little more color going on while my friends will be working on them! 

3. At the beginning of the summer I got this ridiculously cute burlap ABC banner for $3.19- talk about a steal! I love the way it looks right above my very blank boards...haha...those boards will be filled up with that student work/anchor charts/teaching posters I was talking about.

4. One thing that will be new to me as a teacher is the use of D'Nealian print...all my years as a teacher, I've only used Zaner-Bloser, but it'll be fun to perfect my handwriting in D'Nealian this year! I'll still be doing lots in Zaner-Bloser just because I think kids need to be exposed to all sorts of handwriting styles, but now i'll put more of an emphasis on my own handwriting in this new fancy way.  So I've got my new ABC posters with D'Nealian font right next to my word wall...also all in D'Nealian.

5. Oh and here's a freebie for you! I want to actually remember to include more time for my students to share their work, whether it is their reading of a story or a writing piece they created. Last year I feel like I kept forgetting to do this on a regular basis, so, now i've got a visual that I'll be hanging up right above a special "author's chair" which I *hope* will actually keep me doing this all year long. It's so important for students to share their work that they take so much pride in and for all of their audience members to get a chance to recognize their awesomeness! I'm sure my friends will also remind me if I forget...I'll get pictures of this special chair and poster up soon..none taken yet. I made a few versions- mainly because I couldn't decide which one I wanted to use yet and I thought you all would appreciate some options as well...including b&w if you don't want to use a lot of ink. :) So, go ahead and choose your favorite...you can grab this freebie here!

Of course I'll be adding more pictures of my classroom once it is all complete...soon, but hope you enjoyed these for now! Thanks to Doodle Bugs Teaching and Teaching Blog Addict for some of my favorite link ups!

Freebie Fridays

Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tune into Technology: QR Codes

We are back for the last week of our linky and today is an extra exciting linky because we've got new freebies for you AND a giveaway! You can link up right here or over at iTeach1:1.  So...read on, link up, grab some freebies and enter to win!

Thanks to Megan Favre and Ashley Hughes for the fun graphics!

This week we are chatting all about something near and dear to our hearts...QR Codes! 

Thanks to Graphics From the Pond and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs for the graphics!

There are so many ways that you can use QR codes in the classroom- to review concepts, choose rewards, check answers, etc.  There are also plenty of fun ways to actually implement the use of them: centers, scavenger hunts, whole group, etc.  Regardless of what you do with them, all you need is one single device that has a QR code scanner on there or a whole 1:1 classroom full of devices- no matter how much tech you have, QR codes will transform the engagement level of your students! We most often use QR codes within centers where each student is scanning the QR code on the cards to check their answers after doing some work, whether it is solving a math problem, making words, etc!

Our little friends LOVE when we do QR code centers. We either have them at a table or spread out on the floor where they can really see all the different cards that they need to match up.  They love having the chance to scan the QR codes to check their answer!

We use QR codes all the time in all subjects for any concept and our friends get SO excited every.single.time.  We've done QR codes now for quite awhile and still can't believe how excited they get each time- we love seeing how engaged they get with each center simply because they get to scan a little code! We love them because students get instant feedback.  As we are busy working with other small groups of students we know at our independent QR Code centers students are practicing the skill correctly because of the immediate answer.  It's as if we are standing over their shoulders saying, "Oops! try that one again!"

You can see more QR codes in action in our classrooms here and here.  If you are looking for QR code resources for your class, visit Aylin's store and Amanda's store for some freebies and products!

As you can tell we have tons of QR code resources that we use every week in our classrooms, so of course, I had to have some sort of organization with all these.  I love the Target Dollar Spot- I get so much of my classroom storage materials there...and lots of cute notebooks and whatever else I seem to find... :)  But anyway, I always grab the mini (and regular size) accordion file holders to help keep me organized. I simply cut out all my center cards and stick them in the mini accordion files based on content of the cards and then I put my recording sheets in the regular size accordion files so everything is right there for me to grab for a center. I also like to put my cards on a key ring if it is something that is supposed to stay in a specific order and then stick them in the little organizers. You can check out more about storage here!

We created two new freebies for you to grab to use this upcoming school year.  This first one is a great back to school "getting to know you" activity. For this, I'll choose one friend to scan a card and either read the question or i'll read what the question says and then everyone will write their response to the question on their recording sheet and then share their response with a partner or the whole group. Ten "getting to know you" QR code question cards are included so it'll be a fun way to get my friends chatting with each other while learning a little bit about one another.  You can grab this freebie here!

This next activity is to help students with subtracting tens from two digit numbers!  This is a tricky concept for first graders so I knew I had to come in equipped with an engaging ways for students to get a little extra practice!  You can grab this freebie by clicking here!  

Now enter for your chance to win some more QR code resources for your classroom! We're teaming up with our favorite iTeach1:1 to pick one winner to fill their classroom up with QR codes this year. The winner will receive $10 to spend in all 3 of our stores!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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