Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time to Reflect on Writer's Workshop

I'm serving a two week bed. 
Here's the short version of the story. 
On Monday, I had surgery to remove my ovaries and tubes for cancer prevention. My family has an alarming cancer history and turning 40 in November meant that it was time for me to make some big decisions. My mom is an ovarian cancer survivor. She's brave. She's also the oldest living woman on her side of the family (and she's only 61). I made a brave decision about my health. And...I am confident that this was the right decision for me. I'm also grateful that my mom is here to help me make these big decisions.

Why post about it? Because, I'm not Angelina Jolie. I am grateful for her willingness to share her story. I'm just a plain 40 year old mom/teacher living on a two teacher income. Turns out normal people have to make big decisions about their health too.  It's not easy, but sometimes it's necessary.
 And now, this Type A teacher/mom is stuck in "resting" mode.

 Here's my view every time I open my eyes.
Meet Daisy, goldendoodle #1 in our family.
She likes to be very close to my face while I'm resting. 

My guard dog/foot warmer is not far away either.
Meet Kalli, goldendoodle #2 in our family.

I have big plans to try something that I don't normally movies.
I thought it would be a good idea to watch all the girlie movies that my husband would hate.
They are all wrapped in plastic, never opened.
So, I stacked them all up in my "things to do while I'm resting" basket.
I might try to watch day soon.

Luckily, my husband and children are fabulous caregivers.
My own parents are super supportive and came to help on surgery day.
Our friends are delivering food, checking in and taxiing the kids
 while I'm out of commission.

My son even made a business card to highlight his helpfulness.
(excuse the punctuation error 
and I'm sure Martha Stewart would forgive his table setting placement 
since he is 7)

This time at home is giving me lots of time to look through
 the photos of my daughter at her recent dance recital.
Oh, how I love my little dancer!

And, I am sitting around doing the best I can to rest.

Today, I discovered a fabulous blog post that  helped me do some reflecting 
on writer's workshop time in my classroom.

The post is by Kari Yates on her blog, Simply Inspired Teaching.

I love that Kari starts off by reminding us that writer's workshop is not a program or a package. It is a framework for teaching writing.  Kari suggests that there are 7 signs of an effective writing workshop.  Since, I have time (oy...) I decided to use these 7 characteristics to help me reflect on my own writing workshop time.  You can click on the image below to read my reflections.

I made the sheet below, just in case you'd like to use it to help you with your own reflections.  Focusing on the 7 Signs of Effective Writing Workshop by Kari Yates was really helpful for me.

I'm linking this post up with TBA's Freebie Friday!
Freebie Fridays
Off to take a nap...again.  


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Technology Tuesday (7th edition)


I've been sharing some of the technology 
my first graders are exploring this year!
Some of the things in my Technology Tuesday posts 
are apps and some are websites. 
 So you don't necessarily have to have iPads 
to explore some of these things with your students.
If you missed the previous editions,
 you can find them under Technology Tuesday in my side bar.

Today, I'm sharing...
My Favorite Sight Word/Spelling Apps

Spelling Magic 3 by Preschool University
This app has a word builder and an alphabet mover game.

Play Sight Words - Grades 1 & 2 by eFlashApps LLC

ABC -Magnetic Alphabet Lite - Learn to Write For Kids by Dot Next

Rocket Speller by Little Big Thinkers

Spelling Bug Free - by Power Math Apps

Spelling Test Free by
(With this app, you can create your own lists and the students can take tests on those lists.)

Phonics Tic Tac Toe Interactive by Lakeshore Learning Materials

Hope you'll visit again soon! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Winter Themed Freebies

Looking for some winter themed freebies?
You can find them in my Tpt store by clicking on the images below.
Please follow my store if you like these freebies.

I'm heading out to dig out AGAIN!
I do love winter...but the kind where it's not too cold for kids to play outside.
This is bonkers.
Enjoy your Sunday!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Technology Tuesday (6th edition)

Welcome!  It's Technology Tuesday!

Today, I'm sharing a list of my favorite long vowel apps 
and a few other resources that I learned about recently

You can read about how I use mini iPads in my classroom for individualized word work here
In the post above, I also shared my favorite short vowel apps.

My Favorite Long Vowel Apps

CVC Sorts 2 by JFK4SDK

Pocket Charts! Long and Short Vowel Sounds by Good Neighbor Press

*Pocket Charts has lots of great iPad apps for different skills (inexpensive and worth the money).

ABC Spelling Magic 4 Silent Final e by Preschool University

Little Stars Word Wizard by Innovative Mobile Apps

*My favorite thing about this app is that two students can turn the iPad sideways and play against each other.  Or, I can challenge a kid to a game as a reward!

Last Friday, I attended a conference about using iPads in the classroom. 
 The presenter, Kelly Harmon,  was great!  
She was truly a wealth of knowledge 
and I left feeling like my head was going to explode from all the ideas.  Ha!
As I explore the things she taught us, I'll share some of those on my Technology Tuesday posts.
Here is one of my favorite apps that she shared.

Educreations Interactive Whiteboard by Educreations Inc.

You can use this app as a white board (goodbye whiteboard/eraser/marker drama).  You can also use this app to create presentations.  It allows you to add photos, voice recordings and text to the screen.  I'm  planning to use it for mini lessons for reader's and writer's workshop.  If I take a screenshot of a page from a book that I want to use to model something, I can use the voice recording option to highlight something that I want students to think about or to give directions for the students to use during independent practice.  The things I create can be saved and/or emailed for future use.

It is easy enough for first grade students to use to make their own presentations as well.   
Speech Buddies also contacted me last week, to ask me to share a link for an article on their blog.
Since it is technology related and I have a speech and language background I agreed to share it.

Looking for little 100th day of school fun with your iPad(s)?
The app below will allow you to take a picture of your student
 and "age" the photo to show what that person might look like at a certain age.

Aging Booth by PiVi & Co. 

Next week, I'll be sharing more about what I learned at the iPad conference along with my favorite apps for blends and digraphs.  Have a great week!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's Almost Super Bowl Time!

If you think your students might enjoy some football themed activities to prepare for the Super Bowl, you might want to check out my newest product. 

If you're like me, you feel like you are constantly trying to hold onto the fun 
and still meet the standards.
That's why I created this product.

Hot off the press...

Funky Football Fan Fun

This product includes:
football themed making words activity
Everything You Need to Play Football
How to Play Football (graphic organizer & writing pages)
Football Poetry Challenge
The Best Football Team (graphic organizer & writing pages)

If you follow my Tpt store and leave a comment here with your email address, 
you'll have a chance to win a copy of this product.  
I will randomly choose a winner from the comments that are left 
before 8p.m. on Monday (1/20).

A Day in the Life Linky

Doing a quick link up today about daily schedules with Amelia, from Where the Wild Things Learn.

Where the Wild Things Learn

Here is a sample of a typical day in my room. Our special class schedule changes each day, so each day my schedule looks different as a result.

You can head over to visit Amelia at the link above to view other sample schedules. There are lots of great ideas that are inspiring me to rethink my current schedule to change things up a bit.  For me, it's always a good idea to reflect and change...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

March is Reading Month Planning

At my school, we are beginning our planning for March is Reading Month.  We'll have a school-wide theme, which has not been agreed upon yet.  I also take my own kids to camp for one of the weeks!  Well, I should say that my kids come to our classroom!

Last year, my class went to Camp Read a Lot (which was really a classroom campout in our classroom). I honestly think it was my favorite week of teaching (in 15 years)! My little campers (and their camp director) had so much fun!

 Here is a picture of the outside of my room all set up for camp!

 We used the table in the picture as our camp registration table. As I welcomed the campers on the first morning of camp, one of my parents worked at the registration desk to register each camper. The registration form is in my Camp Read a Lot (Classroom Campout Fun!) product.
 I did my campout during the last week of March, 
but it could be done at any time of the year.  
I'm thinking it would also be lots of fun at the end of the school year.


Don't ya love my teepee?!?!  It's actually not mine.  My friend, who teaches across the hall, let me borrow her teepee.  I had another teepee (from our library) and 3 small tents (borrowed from parents) set up in my classroom throughout the week.

We had a theme for each day of camp.  The themes were Read Under the Stars, Hike and Read, Campfire Stories, S'more Reading Please and Camp Sing a Long. Activities to go with the theme for each day are also included in my Camp Read a Lot (Classroom Campout Fun!) pack.

Here is a picture of my kids on Read Under the Stars day. I hung glow in the dark stars from the ceiling so the little campers could read with their flashlights.  I also played one of those sounds of nature CD's since there are always crickets chirping in the dark at camp.

You can read two more posts about Camp Read a Lot  here and here.  

You can also check it out at my Tpt store!  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Technology Tuesday (5th edition)

I promised myself when I started Technology Tuesday that I wouldn't stress myself out if I skipped a few Tuesdays.  I just didn't really want to commit to one more deadline.  This is supposed to be fun, ya know?  I met that goal...skipped several Tuesdays.

Our literacy centers each week focus on the spelling words and the word family of the week.  The whole class practices those, but I also have time for each student to do individualized word work built into my plans for each week. 

I've been using my mini iPads for individualized word work with my students.  First, I use the Ganske Developmental Spelling Inventory to determine the type of word work that I want each student to focus on.  The categories I have for word work include:  short vowels, blends, digraphs, long vowels and basic sight words.  At the beginning of the year, I might also have a few students working on beginning and ending consonants.  

Once I know which skill each student needs to work on,  I make a chart to keep on a clipboard.  The chart is kept in our iPad "home" (the place we keep the iPads when we are not using them), so the children can find their own name and look up which category they are supposed to choose games from on the iPad.  Most of the students don't have to check the chart, but it helps them stay independent since they rotate the iPads while I am working with small groups for reading. Our rule is that each student plays 2 games with a partner from the same category, before they pass it to another student.

Here are our favorite short vowel apps.

ABC Phonics Make a Word Free

ABC Phonics Short Vowel Words Lite

ABC Reading Magic 1 Short Vowel Words Deluxe

ABC Spelling Magic

ABC Phonics Word Family Free

CVC Sorts 1

Spelling 3 Letter Words by Good Neighbor Press

Do you have favorite short vowel apps?  
I'd love to explore some new apps with my students.

A few are free and a few I purchased.  The ones I purchased were worth the few dollars I spent.  Over the next couple weeks, I'll be posting our favorite apps from other word work categories.

It's -13 degrees, with a windchill of -35,  here in Michigan and we are snow day #2.  Yesterday, I enjoyed a lazy day.  Today, I'm hoping to be productive and get some things done.  Oh, how I love to cross things off my list...
  Stay warm everyone!

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Plans for Teaching Informational Text

Hope you are all staying warm and safe if you have stormy weather at your house.  We had at least 12 inches of new snow yesterday (on top of the snow we already had on the ground). 

Not sure if we'll be going to school tomorrow either because wind chills are predicted to be around -40 degrees. What?!?!  When I do get back to school, I need to start working on teaching informational text features.  I use my Exploring Informational Text unit to help guide my reader's workshop lessons.  It goes well with Lucy Calkins unit: Nonfiction Chapter Books that we'll be working on for writer's workshop.

Then my students practice the new skills we learned about informational text features while we do a little penguin research.  I made the Nonfiction Penguin Unit last year and my students loved it.  You can check it out by clicking on the image below.  One of my goals in creating this unit for my students, was to provide a little more depth of knowledge (the focus of the common core standards) before each student writes his/her own animal research report in the spring.  This unit really helped me model how to research, while practicing the skills we learned in the Exploring Informational Text unit.

As I mentioned, in the spring my student write their own animal research report.  My students LOVE doing their own animal research reports each year!  They choose their own animal and then they use the Animal Research Book below as a guide for writing their reports.  You can check it out by clicking below.  It's my best seller on Tpt.

I guess I should bundle up and start the 4th big dig of the last 24 hours.  Fingers crossed that the city snowplow did not push the snow from the whole street into the end of my driveway again.  Stay warm!