Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You Know You're a First Grade Teacher When

  Abby at The Inspired Apple is having a linky party... "You Know You're a Teacher When...".  Link up with Abby and share your list.

Here is mine...
You Know You're a First Grade Teacher When
1.  You are excited to spend the last 4 weeks of your "vacation" setting up your room to welcome a new class.

2.  You accidently respond, "Wow, that's great!"  when a family member tells you something that is really not so great.

3.  You would feel extremely excited to receive Sharpies or Mr. Sketch markers as a present for any special occasion.

4.  You sneak into the rooms of your own children while they sleep to "borrow" a book that you know would be perfect for a lesson you want to teach. 

5.  You continue to refer children for speech services even though you know you'll be told they "don't qualify at this time".

6.  You are tempted to say, "touch the words" every time you pass someone holding a book.

7.  You shop ebay for leveled books instead of vintage items and cool collectibles.

8.  Your heart feels warm when they a student tells you that you are the best teacher in the world... even if they call you their Kindergarten teachers name.

9.  You never give up on any child.

10.  You love your job so much that you'll still spend all of your free time and all of your savings to be the best teacher you can possibly be... because it's worth every minute and every penny!

Enjoy your day!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

NonFiction Text Features

In preparation for an animal research project that my kids need to do in the next month, we worked on nonfiction text features last week.  We started by doing a fiction/nonfiction book sort with weather related books, since we are currently studying weather.  That helped me get an idea of how much my students already knew about the differences between fiction and nonfiction books.  The students worked in cooperative groups to sort of stack of books while I walked around to listen to their discussions.

I introduced specific nonfiction text features throughout the week and made an anchor chart with our class.  I forgot to take a picture of the anchor chart.  This week, my students will be using the form below to find specific nonfiction features in a book at their "just right" level during literacy center time.

Nonfiction Text Feature Center Form

5 more days till spring break!!!!  I think I can...  I think I can...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Recommendations

Someone asked me about the "Book Recommendation" shelf in my room.  Here is a picture of the shelf - nothin' fancy.  The sign (which you can barely see) just says "Book Recommendations".  The red bin (which is also barely visible) is where we keep the blank recommendation forms.

I use a laminated library pocket to hold the recommendation form beside each "featured" book.  Students are invited to fill out a form for any book that they think is "so incredibly cool that they wish their friends would read it".  The first link below is the recommendation form that we use in my room.  The 2nd link is the sign I use for the shelf.  My "Book Hospital" sign was on the same document, so they are both on this document. 

Book Recommendation Form

Book Recommendation/Book Hospital Signs

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ten Things I've Learned From Teaching

Jennifer at Rowdy in First Grade is having a "Ten Things I've Learned From Teaching" linky party.  It's been fun to read all the things others have learned.

My Top Ten
1.  I could stay all day, spend the night, take a cart full of stuff home and still not feel like I am "done" working - SET LIMITS.
2.  Education is one of the greatest gifts I have been given. Teaching is a blessing and a challenge.
3.  There is a way to reach every child.  Don't give up on them.
4.   It's ok to vent... it's very therapeutic for some of us.
5.  I am so lucky to have a job where I don't have to watch the clock and hope the day is almost over.
6.  It is important for kids to have choices, firm limits and love.
7.  When it feels like everyone (colleagues, parents, students, friends) is trying to suck the life out of you... say NO.
8.  I work hard enough not to feel guilty when people make those stupid comments like "well you have the whole summer off...".
9.  New Sharpie and Mr. Sketch markers - love em!
10. You become what you believe.

Yahoo!  It's almost Friday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Adjectives - 5 Senses Poems

I've been having so much fun teaching about adjectives (and poetry) in the past 2 weeks!  I purchased the Let's Get Poppin' with Adjectives from Abby.  I highly recommend it!  You can check it out here - The Inspired Apple and purchase the unit it on TpT.  We wrote 5 senses poems after doing some cooperative group work to come up with adjectives for each of the 5 senses.

After havin' a little fun with popcorn, we made another 5 senses anchor chart about rain.  We are working on a weather unit in science, so the students used a graphic organizer and wrote another 5 sense poem about weather.  Here are some pictures.  I am so proud of their work!

5 Senses Graphic Organizer

Monday, March 21, 2011

Field Trip Writing

My class went on a field trip to our local public library today.  We are extremely lucky to have a brand new fabulous library for our community members to enjoy.  On our trip today... my kids were great, the library staff was friendly and my class had 8 parent helpers show up to help with the trip.  It was a great day!

I like my students to write about their experience whenever we go on a field trip.  I modified the writing page that I use to make it generic for any trip.  Hope it is useful for a few of you.

Field Trip Writing

Now, I'm gonna pretend that I didn't just hear the words "winter storm warning" come from the meteorologist on the evening news.  Enough already!!!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reading Tickets

 A few weeks ago, I added a post about the quiet reading tickets my kids use.  My students use the reading tickets during quiet reading time.  They are expected to read to 4 different friends during our quiet reading time.  Each friend they read to signs their reading ticket.  It's never quiet, but kids are busy reading the whole time.  Here are a few extras that I made for my class to use this spring.

Quiet Reading Ticket - Spring 1

Quiet Reading Ticket - Spring 2

Is it almost spring break?  10 more days!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

CAFE - comprehension

Using The CAFE Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Mosher has really helped me focus my mini-lessons during reader's workshop.

One of the strategies from our CAFE menu that I am constantly revisiting with my students is "check for understanding".  I made  a form to help my students record their thinking in writing as we "check for understanding".  We use the form throughout the year and the students do a pair share after they complete their writing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Scrappin' Doodles Gift Card!

The First Grade Sweet Life is having a giveaway!  She is giving away a $20 Scrappin' Doodles Gift Card.  Visit her blog to find out how to win.  Good luck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who doesn't love containers? A giveaway!

The gals from What The Teacher Wants are having a giveaway!  A $100 gift certificate to The Container Store.  Check it out!  Oh how I love containers!
Wow!  Doodle Bugs Paper and Primary Graffiti have teamed up for an amazing giveaway!  Check it out!

Primary Graffiti

Doodle Bugs Paper

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Leveling

Ok - I confess.  I love to level books!  I spend lots of time and way too much money searching for, buying and leveling books for the leveled library in my classroom.  I send books (my own books) home with each student to practice at night.  My students take the books home in special book bags, get a parent signature and return them the next day (hopefully).

One of the tools I use to help find the levels of books is the Scholastic Teacher Book Wizard.  If you don't already use it, check it out!

I made this instruction sheet for the Book Wizard site for my staff and our parents to use. We use the Fountas/Pinnell leveling system, so we use the guided reading level from the site.  I adjusted the form so you can just check off the leveling system that you use.  Hope it's helpful!

Book Wizard Instructions

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Connect Four Games

Ok - I am happy to report that I survived the slumber party we hosted last night with seven 2nd grade girls.  It was my daughter's birthday party. And...if I make it through the party (for my son's birthday) with twelve 5 year olds this afternoon... I should receive a special award, right?

I decided to squeeze in a few minutes of peace and quiet (ha!), so I thought I'd share these Connect Four game boards that I use with my students.  Early in the year, I use different versions to help reinforce short vowel word families.  At this time of the year, I use different game boards to reinforce long vowel word families.  I often leave them out for kids to play when they finish their work.  I'm including the directions and three different game boards.

Connect Four Game

Connect Four a_e

Connect Four i_e

Connect Four o_e

Please feel free to leave feedback.  Hopefully the links will work for you. I've been having a bit of trouble posting my documents.  Now... off to the next big event.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


A few weeks ago, I was inspired by one of the fabulous ideas from First Last! So, we worked on nouns in my room last week. I started by asking each student to bring in a picture of a noun. We used the pictures to make an anchor chart together. Here is the anchor chart and the note I sent home.

I sent the note home with an index card attached... because I'm freakishly annoyed when the pictures are different sizes and don't fit on my chart. The chart on First Last is what inspired me to make this anchor chart. The students added their pictures in the appropriate column.
Noun Home Note

We also did a noun search. Each student used a book at their just right level and they searched for nouns. If it had not been a super crazy, jammed packed, assessment week... I probably would have had them use magnifying glasses for fun. Ooops... guess I'll save that idea for next year.
Noun Search

And for a little extra fun (since I didn't think of using the magnifying glasses in time), we worked on a class book about nouns. Each student drew a picture of the favorite person, place and thing. I'm posting the page. I enlarged it on the copy machine so they would have a larger space for their pictures. I still have a few students finishing up their pages. I'll try to remember to post a few pictures of the finished product.
Favorite Nouns Class Book Page

I'm working on a unit that includes nouns, verbs and adjectives that will probably be available on TpT... just not sure when. It is so much fun to read about the fabulous things going on in so many classrooms! Thanks for sharing your ideas and hard work!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reading Level Changes

Reading growth is one of my favorite things about first grade! With so many things to cover in the first grade curriculum, moving up to a new reading level is an accomplishment to be celebrated. Throughout the year, I want the students (and their parents) to know their "just right" reading level. I've found that it really helps them choose appropriate books at home... cause they are all practicing for 20 minutes each night, right? HA!

Here is the note I send home each time I reassess a student and move them up a level. We call it a "Hip, Hip, Hooray!" note. I always copy it on red paper, so it's easy for parents to spot.

Hip, Hip, Hooray note - download here 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pets Linky Party

Ladybugs Teacher Files is having a linky party about pets. Check it out! It's so much fun to see pictures of all these pets.

We have two dogs. They are both goldendoodles (poodle/golden retriever mix). They are perfect dogs for our family. Last summer, my husband decided that we should get a puppy. He used the "Daisy needs a friend" speech, but I love Daisy so much that it wasn't hard to talk me into getting a 2nd goldendoodle. Goldendoodles are good dogs for families with allergies (that's us) and it's true that most of them do not shed.

Daisy is cream colored and 2 years old. She is friendly, cautious and loves lounging in her favorite purple chair. She loves long walks and camping with our family.

Kalli is black and 5 months old. Kalli is friendly, a little bossy and loves to snuggle. She loves chasing Daisy and exploring in the backyard.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vowel Rule Hop

Sometimes I feel like a broken record at this time of the year during reading group time... Touch the words. What strategy could you use? Which vowel rule do you notice in that word? We played this game this week to practice two of my favorite long vowel rules. My kids love this game! I used a rug that I have with large circles. However, I have put the words in hula hoops or on colored paper plates in the past.

Vowel Rule Hop

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Button Bookmarks

It's more fun to read when you have cute bookmark, right? We made these button bookmarks to kick of March is Reading Month in our room. I found the ribbon at Target (LOVE Target) in the dollar section. I cut the ribbon in 10 inch strips and the kids picked their own buttons from my giant button bin. On each end, I used a hot glue gun to sandwich the end of the ribbon in between whatever 2 buttons the kids picked out. Then the kids used a wooden block to hold it down for about 20 seconds. They were so excited to try out their new bookmarks!

Post It Notes

We've been working on using post-it notes in my room. In the past, I've introduced them much earlier in the year. This year, I waited until after the winter break and I'm so glad I did. I feel like the kids are really using them with a purpose now. It's also given us time to work on our peer discussion skills. I love the conversations I'm hearing between students around the room.

"Excuse me, I need help with this word (on a post-it note). I've already tried to find familiar chunks."

"I put this word on a post-it note because I don't know what it means. Will you do a vocabulary wheel with me?"

Here is the anchor chart we made to introduce how to use post-it notes.