Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sparking Student Motivation: How many stories will your class read this month?

Sometimes all it takes is a friendly little competition to spark some student motivation!  I mean, competition gets adults going so why not use this with students as well?!?  This year in first grade that is just what we are doing to help encourage our students to read (and be excited about stories) each and every day!

My team partner and I each have these posted in our classroom. With each story we read aloud in class, our star student,  makes a tally mark on the page below in our own separate classrooms.

We only had about a week in August but we were able to do a lot of read alouds these first few days of school-which I absolutely love! 

Then, at the end of the month we tally them up for our total and post it on our doors!  This is a display by Teacher Created Resources and can be found by clicking here

It is a fun easy way to encourage students to read.  Although we are the ones doing the reading right now-at some point the competition might change to have students do more of the reading.  Right now, I am loving how excited my first graders get to add another tally to our chart because we read a book!  As we are approaching the middle of September, my students are saying, "When can we read another book?" Simply because they want to beat our "August Score."  I can only imagine the math activities too we will be able to do with this information later in the school year!  

Grab your copy of the "Monthly Book Challenge"  by click here or the picture below.  

This is one way I am "Sparking Student Motivation" by putting a friendly competition behind our read alouds.  Thanks Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for hosting this wonderful linky!  Head over to Joanne's blog to see how other teachers are engaging their students!  

Happy Saturday!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Contraction Action!

Contractions can be a difficult concept to teach to kids...especially to struggling the more interactive the lessons can be to teach contractions, the better!

Normally I'm not used to teaching about contractions so early in the year, but my 2nd graders were ready for it and it fit right along with our guided reading texts, so we dove in last week, learning all about contractions! Most of these ideas I found on Pinterest, so I'm not claiming these ideas as my own, but they did work super well in helping my friends understand contractions. :)

First we made an anchor chart and each day repeated "A contraction has an apostrophe that takes the place of letters you see." It's a nice little rhyming sentence which helped my friends catch on quickly.  We then made contractions out of the various examples at the bottom for practice taking two words and turning them into the shorter form.

 I then read Alfie the Apostrophe. Both my friends and I just loved this book- Alfie is quite the apostrophe! This story gives great ideas about how and when to use apostrophes.
We also loved the apostrophe page in this book- after I read this short story to my little friends, we used highlighter tape to find different examples of apostrophe's in the text. We'll be doing that in our guided reading texts next week as well. It's a super way to make sure my friends are actually reading the contraction forms of the words rather than the longer format because that is definitely a common problem when reading!

We then made these two contraction foldables- super simple, but so useful! My little friends loved making their own too- I told them to make sure they quizzed their parents at home this weekend to see if they could figure out the contractions. :)

Of course it's always fun to practice contractions with QR codes too! All my friends do is find the matching long form for each contraction and then scan the QR code to make sure they grabbed the correct card. You can check out this pack here!
Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Close Reading

Wow! My year is well underway now with 3 weeks already gone. If you've stopped by our blog before you know that I can go on and on about a few things, including: Evernote, QR Codes and Close Reading...mainly because I'm totally obsessed with all three of those things and I incorporate them a whole lot into my room. Since we've already got 3 weeks down, I'm ready to begin Close Reading with my friends.  This year I'm introducing close reading with anchor charts that will focus on the ideas below so they can get an idea for what we'll be doing when we close read and why we are going to be close reading all year long. It is important that both we as teachers and our students understand why there has been a big push for close reading lately.  By including all the components listed in the first pic below, we are helping our readers become deeper thinkers and getting them to rely ON THE TEXT to support their answers. 

One of the reasons I incorporate close reading into my weekly lessons is because I want my readers (even if they are struggling readers) to truly pay attention and understand the text they are hearing. By making them think more deeply about a text and listening to it repeatedly, I feel much more confident in their abilities to truly comprehend a text when reading on their own, with a partner, at home, etc. This in the end will then only make them better readers as the years go on.

Take a look at how I outline my close reading lessons for each read & reread! Our daily close reading lessons last 3 days and for about 20 minutes for each reading and responding activity.

Close reading passages and the follow up activities have been a great way for me to make sure I'm exposing my students not only to a variety of text types but also we are covering so many Common Core standards along the way!

If you are looking for some passages to use throughout the year like the examples above, please check out my passages and activities that I love using with my kindergartners and 1st graders by clicking the pictures below!

This is everything that is included in each pack for each passage.
Thanks to i Teach, What's Your Super Power for the graphics and Hello Jen Jones for the fonts!

Have a great day!

Monday, September 1, 2014

September Currently

It is always exciting to start a new month-I love flipping the page on my calendar and starting over on to-do always seems like a fresh, blank canvas to me!  AND I must say I love starting this new month with a day off! There are so many things to get done and so little time especially at the beginning of the school year-this extra day gives me the opportunity to start the school week off fully prepared and ready for my little ones (or so I hope!)

It is fun to connect with new bloggers over with Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade!  Thanks for setting up this great way for us all to get to know one another! I am heading over now to meet some new bloggers! 

I hope you too enjoy your day off and are able to relax and cross things off your to-do lists as well!  Thank you for stopping by!

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 29, 2014

First Week in First Grade: Expectations and Anchor Charts

The kids started on Monday which means I have officially began my 8th year teaching first grade!  Still sounds a little crazy to me to know that I a. graduated from college 8 years ago and b. that I have been so blessed to work with this age level for the past 8 years.

I say it every year but first grade really is a super fun age because of the tremendous growth students display academically as well as socially and emotionally.  The level of independence from a beginning of the year first grader to an end of the year first grader is amazing! I remind myself of that often this first week, as my little first graders come into the classroom each day!

This year, our first week consisted of modeling and teaching many of the routines students will need to know in first grade.

Goodbye Summer/Hello School

This anchor chart has been all over Pinterest and I couldn't wait to do it with my new firsties!  It is so much fun to hear about the things they did over the summer as well as to hear about the things they are excited to do this school year! 

Class Promise

This is my first year creating a class promise with students. We read the book Swimmy to start and talked about the importance of working together to accomplish a goal.

How do you go home from School

This was an important first day activity not only for the students but also for me! We did this activity at the end of the first day of school on Monday which helped me to know exactly how students were getting home.


Students began working in partners (and groups) this week.  This poster was a perfect reminder for them on the expectations of working with classmates.  Grab your free copy by clicking on the image below!

To see some of the other activities I did with my first graders this week click here! Many of my first grade activities for the beginning of the year can be found in the pack below!

I hope you too had a great week-- whether it was your first week back or you are in full routines by now!

Happy Friday!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Guided Reading Groups Organization

Let me tell you I am SO excited to be working with more grade levels for the first time in my teaching career- after starting some groups and testing students this week I just really think I'm going to love working with so many grade levels!! (Of course, I still dearly love Kindergarten and 1st Grade- just excited to explore teaching other grade levels!)

Since I'm working with Kdg-4th this year, I realized I needed to update my overall organization of materials for each group. I'm also one of those people who likes to plan and get set up for the whole week (as much as possible) so for me I like to see everything that I'll need for each day for the week in some sort of organization...otherwise I end up spending too much time each morning running around grabbing things and that just doesn't work well for me! Plus it also ensures that I'm not wasting any of my precious time with my friends when they are with me.

So, my solution for this year comes straight from the Target Dollar Spot (of course!). :) I don't even know how many of these accordion files I now own, but they truly have helped keep me so organized in my classroom from keeping all my files stored together by theme to now guided reading group organization!

 So all I'm doing is having one accordion file for each grade level with each tab labeled for M-F and then within each tab, I am storing all the materials I need for the day for each group within there. I love that it is all in one place and not spread out all over our room! The guided reading books, graphic organizers and word cards are all small enough to fit within each little tab- amazing!

Anything larger that doesn't fit within the accordion file I'm just keeping in the nearby buckets for each group/grade.

I also have my anchor charts right where I can easily write on them and all my friends can easily see them from their spots at the guided reading table so they are truly accessible for my friends and me! 

(The accordion files aren't pictured, but they sit right next to each grade level bucket.)

I also am still using these wonderful orange drawers for items that I end up using with all my guided reading groups, regardless of grade level.
Thanks to Hello Fonts by Jen Jones & i Teach What's Your Super Power for the fun fonts and graphics!

Have a great day!

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!

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