Saturday, April 12, 2014

Product Swap Snapshot + Giveaway!

For the next few days, a few of my teacher/blogger friends are spotlighting some products we swapped.  We're also kickin' off our Product Swap Snapshot with a giveaway!  Starting today (4/12) and ending on Wednesday (4/16), you can enter for a chance to win a $50 gift card to The Vintage Pearl!  The Vintage Pearl makes beautiful hand stamped jewelry. I have several of their pieces and have given several more as gifts. You can enter for a chance to win a $50 gift card to The Vintage Pearl at the end of this post.

For our product swap, I had the pleasure of trying out a product from Jill from ABC's and Polka Dots.  Jill is a fellow Michigan blogger and a kindergarten teacher.  Jill and I have become friends during the past year and we're hoping to meet up sometime soon.

I was lucky enough to use Jill's short vowel (cvc) write the room activities with my struggling readers for the past few weeks.  Next year, I'll be able to use all of these with my 1st graders for the first half of the year.  At this time of the year, they were perfect for my struggling readers!

During the first week, I used the Short A Write the Room, Short E Write the Room and Short I Write the Room activities to work with my kiddos during small group instruction.  Then I was able to have a parent helper use the cards from Jill's product to work on word family sorts. Here are the some of the cards from the Short A Write the Room product.

My students were independently able to use ABC order and write the room pages.

My students loved searching for the short vowel word cards around the room for the Write the Room activities!  In fact, they begged me to do it three days in row.  I don't know about you, but I'm all for  any activity that has my struggling students begging me to let them do it practice it again.

Thank you, Jill, for these great resources to help my students!

Please stop by and visit Jill at ABC's and Polka Dots

And...over the next few days, please be sure to also visit my friends below 
who will be snapshotting other great products!
Chalk Talk
Surfin' Through Second

A Teeny Tiny Teacher

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for the $50 gift card to The Vintage Pearl!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 11, 2014

Voila...My New Design!

I'm in love!  But this time not with my husband, or my dogs, or new box of Mr. Sketch markers...

It's my new design that is making my heart flutter today!!!

The talented Kassie from Designs by Kassie deserves all the credit.
All I really did was choose my favorite colors and send her a million emails. Ha!
I loved working with Kassie! 
She is incredibly talented and patient.
 I truly appreciate her design expertise.

I'll be joining several of my teacher/blogger friends 
for a Product Swap Snapshot and a giveaway!  

Chalk Talk
Surfin' Through Second

A Teeny Tiny Teacher
Please stop back tomorrow for the details!
Oh, how I love my new design!  Thanks again, Kassie!  You are amazing!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

5 Favors We Could Do for Our Kids

Do you ever wake up with your wheels turnin' in the middle of the night and everyone around you is snoring?  It's Sunday and it's too early to go to I'll write my own sermon.  I do realize that those who read my posts are probably in the "choir".

I spend a lot of time at meetings where we discuss what is best for kids.  I am grateful to work in school where we are reminded by our leaders to focus on what is best for kids.

But, I think there are some really simple favors we could do for our children (as parents, teachers, coaches, care providers, counselors, etc).  I've worked with children in each of those roles (except my counseling experience only includes "camp" counselor...not a real counselor/therapist). I am absolutely not an expert...just a person who cares about kids (who is a little worried about the trends I'm seeing).

In my other life, I worked as a Speech-Language most of my "sermon" is related to communication.

1. Make Eye Contact
When I first started teaching, students made eye contact (without being prompted to) unless they had certain special needs.  Now, I spend lots of time teaching all of my students to make eye contact at the beginning of the year.  It wasn't something I had to teach before. But now, it's necessary. Are ya with me?  I wish I knew how many times a day lower elementary teachers say the words... "Please look at me."  "Look at my eyes."  "I need you to look at me when you're talking.".  I don't know that number, but I know it's a lot more these days.  The favor we can do for kids...make eye contact.  We model.  We teach. They learn.

2.  Teach Children to Respond to Questions
When you've been teaching as long as I have, you notice trends.  In order to maintain basic conversational turn have to respond.  Basic turn taking is the equivalent of sharing while playing.  It takes two people to share and two people to have a conversation.  Otherwise it's just a "sermon" like this one. Funny! Question asked = answer. Wouldn't ya think?  If we teach it, they will answer.  I hope.

3. Read to Them
Families are overwhelmed by crazy busy schedules these days.  Turns out I am an expert on being overwhelmed by a crazy family schedule.  Please notice that I said "being"  not "handling".  As recently as 5 years ago, when I asked my students if their parents read a story to them the night the majority of them would say yes and happily tell me about the book they enjoyed together.  When I ask the same question now, less than 5 students each time report that their parents read to them.  I work in a place where we have very supportive parents.  I confess, even I am guilty of skipping story time on some of our super busy nights. The majority of my students practice reading at their independent level each night and return homework consistently.  Snuggling up to read to our kids fosters a love of reading, models good reading fluency, develops imagination, deepens comprehension and builds vocabulary.

4.  Encourage Them To Try
When I get old (older), I want our children (the ones I'm raising and teaching now) to be independent, thoughtful adult decision makers.  I think it's important to practice that now.  I was never a cheerleader...until I became a teacher and a parent.  Let's cheer for these kids as we encourage them to try, before they ask for help.  Let's show them that we are here for them.  Let's show them we expect them to try and know they can succeed eventually, without an adult doing the task for them.

When I was a child, my dad put index cards all over our house with the same words on them for my brother and I to read each day before school.  The index cards said, "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again."  If we expect them to, they will become independent, thoughtful little hard workers. When we see a proud smile on the face of a child who did something ALL BY HIMSELF that is our reward for encouraging him to try.

I went on a technology team visit to a school in another district last week.  I spotted this sign on their sidewalk in front of the building.  I love it!  To me, it screams "we trust you to walk in and put your own things in your locker".

5.  Let Them Struggle
When kids struggle, they learn to cope.  When kids don't ever have to struggle, they break down when faced with simple problems.  I see this in the classroom, on the soccer field, in the dance studio, at church, at birthday parties, in the grocery store and in my house.  It's ok for kids to do hard things.  I'm not talking about asking them to do things that are not possible for them.  I'm talking about reminding kids that you believe they can do challenging things.  Encouraging them by reinforcing that you want them to keep trying.  Helping them understand that life is not all roses and ice cream and that it's ok for someone else to win.  Back in the day, not everyone earned a trophy. Only the winner did and I'm ok with that because the rest of us learned to cope, congratulate and work harder to achieve our goals.

Sermon over. I'm now officially tired.  And my husband and my doodles are still officially snoring.

Dear Mom and Dad,
Thanks for doing these favors for me! I promise to keep trying my best to do them for my own kids and students.

Dear "Choir",
Don't ya love that my mom reads my blog?  I sure do!
Thank you for listening...even though I know you're doing this and a whole lot more for kids each day!  Sometimes I just think it's important to throw out a public reminder about some of the favors we work so hard to do for kids...just because we care so much.

Amen goodnight!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Currently in April

It's April! Yahoo for April! 4 more days until spring break for us!

Farley, from Oh Boy 4th Grade,  is hosting her monthly Currently linky party.  Time to catch up and link up!

Listening - One doodle snoring.  The other doodle laying with her fluffy head on my face. Whose idea was it to let them sleep on the bed?

Loving - 4 more days until spring break!!!!  Today was our first glimpse of warm weather (60s). It felt soooooo good to see the sunshine after the winter we've had here.  It was so beautiful outside that after school our family went on a two mile walk and then I took the dogs on another 2 mile walk. It felt so good to be able to feel my face and my toes when we returned to the house.  There is hope for spring...amen!

Thinking - I really need to be sleeping. 5 a.m. is not going to be fun.  I have a meeting before school, a sub for a meeting during my literacy block, a meeting during my afternoon planning time and a meeting after school tomorrow.  In between all of those, I'd love to teach the kids. Maybe that's why I can't sleep. What time do ya'll have to get up for school?  

Wanting - I'm getting a new blog design.  Change is good.  I tend to not change things like the furniture, paint colors, my blog design very often.   But, when I's a complete change all at once.  I'm patiently waiting on a long list and I can't wait to see what my designer comes up with!

Needing - There must be people out there who are not overwhelmed by their to do lists?  Or people that don't even have a list?  Yikes. That does not work for me, but I would LoVe an uninterrupted day to work on my list.  Why can't I just accept that a to do list is not an over and done event for teachers?  It's just a process that keeps going over and over until June finally rolls around.  Ha!

Hours/Last Day -  Seems like we should start at 8:00, but 8:06 is what someone picked for our start time.  Our last day was supposed to be June 6.  But, after 8 snow it's June 10.  We have 6 snow days built into our schedule.  So, we only have to make up 2 days (so far).  

Now, I'm really going to try to get some sleep.  I hope.

Stop by to visit to check out the other Currently posts.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Photos from Camp Read a Lot

My students went to Camp Read a Lot again this year!  
I'm packing this post with photos.
If you want to read more about Camp Read a Lot, you can visit my previous posts (which can be found in my sidebar under Camp Read a Lot).  I host Camp Read a Lot in March, but it also makes a fun end of the year activity.

Welcome to Camp Read a Lot!

Parent volunteers work at the registration desk on the first day of camp.

one of our teepees and one of our campfires (outside the room)

Keepin' it simple with 3 rules.
I only have 3 for my classroom as well (be kind, work hard, have fun).

The campfire in our meeting area.

Camping Graph (pieces included in my Camp Read a Lot pack)

Campfire Stories

one of our camp crafts

Each day of camp we had lots of letters (from parents and staff).

Campfire cupcakes
Seriously, how cute are these? 
My parents ROCK!

Read Under the Stars (one of the daily themes for camp)

The resources I use for Camp Read a Lot and more ideas about the crafts, daily themes, literacy activities and a list of books that I use are included in my Camp Read a Lot pack.

Camp Read a Lot was a huge success again this year!
And...this camp director is glad she pulled off another week at camp.
It was so worth it!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lucky Day and Road Signs

Seriously, I never win anything just by "luck".  I only win things like races against my 8 year old or bets with my husband.  But, last week I WON!  I WON!  I WON!

Remember when Jennifer, from First Grade Blue Skies, had the Jo Tote giveaway?


I WON!!!  For real, I won!
Can you tell that I'm still jumping up and down?
I received an email one morning last week that said I won.
It was real. I picked out my Jo Tote camera bag online.
And then very special delivery.
That's what the box said - love it!
I picked the pewter color because I like my camera bag to match everything.
Seriously, it's so fancy!  It has dividers inside for my lenses
and the cords (even the ones that I have no idea what to do with).
I love it!

Lucky, lucky, lucky!
Thank you, Jennifer!
Thank you, Jo Totes!
I LOVE my stylish new camera bag!
I might just stick my ipad in it (plenty of space for that)
and take it to school tomorrow!

Now, on to the road signs.  If you've visited recently, you know that my school is celebrating March is Reading Month with an informational text theme.  The name of our theme is Information Highway and we have weekly themes as well (food, music, exercise and animals).

My principal had these amazing signs made to hang all over the building to help us get the kids pumped about our road trip!  I just took pictures of a few on my way down the hall the other day.

And here are the reading graphs to track our minutes by grade level. 
I work in a K - 2 building (plus we have Young 5's). 
Each grade level has it's own road.
The vehicle on each road moves up the wall 
as the students bring in their reading logs. 

Here are some of the resources we are using for our Information Highway theme.

I'm off to bed so I can be ready to take on Monday!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How to Writing: A Peek into Kindergarten

We finished week two of our journey on the Information Highway at my school!  Our whole school is doing an Information Highway Theme (to focus on informational text) for March is Reading Month.   You can read about my food themed week post here.

Lots of the teachers are using resources from my Information Highway product.

My post about week 2 will be ready soon, but today I'm sharing a peek at the how to writing that the kindergarten classroom across the hall did during our food themed week (which was our first week).

My friend, Nicole, is an amazing kindergarten teacher! She is truly a kind person and constantly impresses me with her dedication. Nicole works across the hall from me and was nice enough to share how her class used some of the resources I made to help them do a how to writing project.  The description and the photos below are from Nicole's kindergarten classroom. I only labeled them "Funky First Grade Fun" to protect the photos.

Day 1 -
-We read and discussed numerous books about pizza, discussed how to make pizza and looked at recipe books. 
-We talked about our favorite ingredients to put on pizza and made a class anchor chart of our ideas. We called it our Class Grocery List.  We listed our ideas and spent time talking about making a grocery list, instead of writing in complete sentences.
- After we made our Class Grocery List, I explained to the kids that I wanted them to think about their own personal favorite ingredients.  Then the students made an individual grocery list of the ingredients that they would need to make their own personal pizza.

*Sundance/Newbridge has a great level C book called Making Pizza.

Day 2 - We discussed the grocery list and talked about the fact that once you have all the ingredients to make something you need a recipe to know how to make it.  I reminded the students to focus on explaining how to make a pizza to their reader . We reviewed the steps whole group and then talked about that the next step would be to add their own toppings, so their writing would be their own. The students filled out the graphic organizer sheet from the Information Highway pack to help the students focus on first, then, next and last.

Day 3- We used the information from each section of the graphic organizer to write complete sentences about each step. The students also drew a picture of each step.

Later in the day we played a math game.  First they had to total the amount of ingredients that the had on their grocery list. They then played a penny, nickel exchange game to earn the ingredients to make their own real personal pizza. The students had to roll a die labeled with the numbers 1,2 and 3. Once they got 5 pennies, they exchanged the 5 pennies for a nickel. The students had to earn 1 nickel for each ingredient. Once they earned their ingredients they were able to make their own personal pizza by following the How to Make a Pizza directions they wrote themselves.

*Since Nicole is awesome, she purchased all the ingredients from their Class Grocery List anchor chart so the children would have all their favorite ingredients to make their own pizzas.

It was so much fun to hear the excitement in the little kindergarten voices as they told me about their writing project!  Thank you, Nicole, for sharing your week and your photos! As always, you rock!  So proud to call you my friend and so lucky to work with you.