Monday, December 30, 2013

Time for Resolutions

I'm linking up with A Peach for the Teach for a Resolution Link Up.

In 2014, I'll be taking some "somewhat progressive" steps to take care of myself.  
My efforts will focus on cancer prevention, 
because of the cancer history in my family.
Transitioning to 40 this year, was a shock in many ways. 
Being 40 wasn't something that I worried about up to this year. 
But when it happened, I realized how much harder it is 
to take care of my body at this age.
I just need to work harder this year to take care of myself.
That's the plan and I'm stickin' to it.

The comment thing is a whole post in itself.  Coming soon...

Looking forward to a happy and healthy 2014 and wishing you all the same!

Please visit A Peach for the Teach to read some other resolutions!

A Peach for the Teach: Behavior Supports & Multi-Age

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Classroom Gifts for Students and Parents (freebie)

In the spirit of prioritizing my life, I put making a few of the posts that I wanted to make before the holidays on the bottom of my holiday to do list. Just now made it to that part of my list...

Every year, I scramble to find a gift for my students for the holidays.  For my first several years of teaching, I gave each student a book.  This year, I found a gift for my students that was meaningful to me and I hope they liked it too.  I say "hoped" because I give my students their gifts on the last day of school before break, but I ask them not to open it until they get home with their families (or they can save it for Christmas morning).

Growing up, my family had a tradition.  My parents gave my brother and I a tool, a kitchen item and a book each Christmas (along with whatever else we got from Santa). They continued that tradition until we were out of college (although I did get a tool and a kitchen item from them this year as well).  The idea was to prepare us to be successful adults with our own tools for repairs and cooking and all the knowledge we would need to be successful.  We started the same tradition with our own children this year.  My son, who is 7, got a level (for his toolkit), a spatula and a chapter book.  My daughter, who is 10,  got two screwdrivers, a mixing bowl and a chapter book.

My gift for my students...

I gave each student a little bag with a cookie cutter and a coin pouch.  The cookie cutter was an effort to share my family tradition and the coin pouch is the exact same kind my grandfather carries (still to this day).  When we were little, he would take the coin pouch out of his pocket and give us a coin to get a piece of Chiclets gum.  I included a note in each child's bag to tell them about our tradition and my special memories of grandpa's coin pouch.

For the parents...

Each of my students made a handmade ornament for their parents and a 2014 memory jar for their family.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the ornaments.  I was busy managing the jar station (since glass was involved).  The kids were so proud of both gifts!

The memory jar is also a tradition in my family.  We put little items in a jar that remind us of our special memories throughout the year.  Some of the things in my family jar this year include: a Petoskey stone, a shell from Grand Turk, a birthday invite from my husband's 40th bday party, a ticket from my daughter's dance recital, a program from the circus production my son was in, a ticket to a baseball game and a Taylor Swift concert ticket.  I shared the contents of our 2013 jar with my class, so they would understand the tradition.

I ordered pint and half size canning jars, bought a variety of ribbon and made the tags.  My husband made the stickers that say (2014 and Dexter) for each jar.  Dexter is the name of the village.

In this view, you can see the 2014 sticker on the side and the Dexter sticker on the lid.

Here are the stickers (thank you, husband).  Each student put their own stickers on the jar, chose a ribbon, punched a hole in the tag and tied the ribbon.  Not a ton of creativity on their part, but a thoughtful gift to go with their homemade ornament.

You can download a copy of the tag I used if you would like to use it next year.  I removed the year, so it wouldn't say 2014.  

I'm off to walk my dogs while the sun is shining and before the cold weather moves into our area.  Need to take advantage of the mid 30 degree temps while I can.  How funny is that?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

No Elf on My Shelf

Hello. My name is Kimberly and I do not have an elf on my shelf. 
 It's true. 
Over the past two years, I started to think I might be the only mom in 
America without an elf on my shelf. 
Just this year, I realized that I might now be the only teacher 
without an elf on my shelf. 
To be honest, I'm trying to get rid of some of the cr*p on my shelves. 
Please know that I do love the idea...just not the time required 
to manage the whole thing.
I know, kids love it.
I still have no plans to put an elf on my shelf.
Call me a party pooper...but, really I'm learning (slowly) to prioritize.
The truth is that I just can not do everything.
I know, right?  Ughh...why did it take me 40 years to figure that out?

The truth is that I want to have an instagram account (or is it an app? Ha!).
And...I wish I knew how to DVR
(but I can't figure out if you need a machine for that).
And...I've never heard of most of the reality TV shows 
that are mentioned on some of my favorite blogs.
And... for almost a year I truly thought Downton Abbey was a show about nuns.

This year, I've learned that being me (the mom without an elf on her shelf, who doesn't know how to DVR and who was slightly disappointed that there were no nuns on Downton Abbey) is really ok. 
I do other stuff and some of it I do really well.  Some of it, I'm workin' on improving.
I'm just plain me...the mom/teacher without an elf on her shelf.

In the world of teaching, being a working mom, blogging and Pinterest-perfect ideas 
it is easy to feel like you are missing out in some way if you don't jump at every idea/event/opportunity.
It's important for me to remind myself that being me is good enough, 
because I know that I am doing everything I can 
to balance and prioritize this crazy life that I am blessed to live.
Life is good - even if you don't have an elf on your shelf. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Principal for the Day

For 3 days, 3 teachers took turns substituting for our principal 
while he was at a conference last week.
This is a true story, although I can really only share parts.
Thursday was my day.

I love teaching.
However, being the principal is a totally different experience
than my "normal" day.
Especially, when you are filling in the for the Principal of the Year!
Seriously, he is really the Principal of the Year
(the kind you get nominated for, voted in and awarded lots of awards for).
He's also superman (I mean - Zero the Hero).
He'll do just about anything for the kids.

So, last Thursday was my day to give it a try.
One of the kindergarten teachers tried it on Wednesday and she did a fine job.
Then came Thursday...

I started off the day by reading his substitute plans 7 times (good luck).
Then I bought flowers for the secretaries.
Let's face it, the whole place could start to crumble
and these two ladies could have it all back in order before anyone noticed
(and they would still be wearing those beautiful smiles).
We'll call them Wonder Women (WW).

Before school started, I considered whipping up some curtains to bring some color to his fancy office.

Suddenly, that seemed like a bad idea, since I had to gather all the gear for morning bus duty.

The WW didn't really think I needed the mega phone,
but since I'm so short and don't know every single kids name
(like Mr. Principal of the Year does - for real),
I decided to take the megaphone in case I needed to yell out something official.
The WW insisted that the pink vest was not an option,
 although I felt like a pig in a pink blanket in that dress/vest.

I can't tell you how I really spent my morning,
since the office work involves top secret confidential student kind of stuff (TSCSKS).
But, let me just tell you...I did not feel like a secret agent.

I did feel well prepared for lunch room duty though.
whistle to get their attention (check)
rubber gloves so I could avoid slimey trash (check)
windex because I take it everywhere (check)
giant trashcan to help me look official (check)
headphones to block out the thunder - which I think might be little people voices (check)

Would you believe that I didn't actually have time to help in the lunchroom much on my big day?
Turns out I was busy with TSCSKS.
But, boy was I prepared - just in case.

And after spending my day doing TSCSKS I spent several minutes jumping before I went home.
Not jumping for joy that I was heading back to my normal life on Friday.
Jumping up and down to try to hang up the pink vest
after bus duty at dismissal.
Zero the Hero is much taller than I am
and so are the hooks in his office.

I'm happy to report that Mr. Principal of the Year is back in action this week.
Three cheers for principals everywhere
and an extra big one for Mr. Principal of the Year
and our Wonder Women!
Thanks for leading us!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Technology Tuesday (4th edition)

I am happy to report that there are 
only two more Tuesdays before winter break!  
Oh, how I need that break.  Don't you?

My students are loving the mini iPads that we have in our classroom.
One of our favorite writing apps is Write About This.  We use it for practicing writing to a prompt and for capturing/writing about images of student learning in our own classroom.

The app costs 3.99 and I think it's well worth the money.  There is a free version of this app.  I would recommend downloading that one first to make sure you like it, but the 3.99 version allows you to take/save your own images and writing about those images. It has allowed us to create a photo journal of the learning that takes place in our classroom over time.

Here is a screen shot of one of the main screens.  

There are tons of photos w/prompts included in the categories section. You can also take your own photos and add your own text about the pictures.  The format is easy for kids to use and I'm finding it's a real motivator for a few of my students who are reluctant writers.

I'm off to see if I can finish the tree decorating.  Seriously, our schedule has been BONKERS!
Hope ya'll are staying warm...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Currently, I'm 3 Days Late

No, not my period. 3 days late for Farley's Currently. How could I be number 288ish if I'm only 3 days late? That girl knows how to throw a party!  Late to the party...but here I am.

During this busy season, I'm trying really hard to look around and enjoy each event, each moment, each opportunity to be with the people who mean the most to me.  I will enjoy the twinkle of holiday lights, smile when I see my students faces light up at the mention of Santa Claus and cherish the time with my own family.

Now, off I go to find out what all 288ish of the others who arrived at the party on time (or not quite as late as me) are currently doing!  You can visit Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade to catch up with everyone or join the fun!

More Technology Tuesday next week...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday and Winter Themed Products (sale + freebies)

The Tpt cyber Monday/Tuesday sale starts tomorrow!

I'm posting about some of my winter and holiday themed products. 

I use this penguin unit to model nonfiction animal research with my students.
My students always love the nonfiction penguin unit!  
After this unit, the students do their own animal research projects 
with my Animal Research Book to guide them through the steps to writing research.

Animal Research Book (best seller)

Jolly Moose Short Vowel Sort - perfect for word work, literacy centers or individualized skill practice!

Merry Monkey Digraph Sort (word work, literacy center activity or individualized practice)

Holiday Making Words Pack (literacy center, word work)

 Winter Math Journal Prompts (I also have a fall and spring set of math journal prompts).

I also have several freebies in my store that are winter or holiday themed.
If you visit my store to download a freebie, please follow my store if you don't already.

Here are some of the freebies...


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bundled up Personal Reader Stories!

Finally, I bundled up my personal reader stories!  
Over the last year, I've had several requests to do just that...
but it's taken me a while.  
But, it's done!  
3 sets of personal reader stories all bundled up to help your readers practice
 sight words and short and long vowel word family patterns. 
Crossin' it off my list!

Tomorrow, I'll be highlighting some of my best sellers 
and my favorite wintertime products.  
I'm gettin' ready for my favorite shopping day of the year 
(cyber Monday and a bonus Tuesday)!

For now, cheerin' for my favorite team 
and wishin' they would stop punchin' each other on the field.
Seriously boys - BeHaVe!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Opportunities for Opinion Writing

Two weeks ago, we started working on opinion writing in my first grade classroom. Last year, I did lots of rethinking about how I wanted to teach opinion writing to my little ones. After spending lots of time reviewing the writing strands of the common core, pouring over possible mentor texts and thinking about the best way to scaffold graphic organizers I decided to create my own opinion writing unit.

I created Writing My Opinion to cover the K, 1st and 2nd standards from the common core writing anchor standard 1.  The unit includes different graphic organizers (one that supports writers working on the K standard, another for the 1st grade standard and one for the 2nd grade standard) for differentiating opinion writing.  It also includes 3 different rubrics, 3 different self reflection forms, pieces to make a reusable anchor chart, a list of mentor texts to use for opinion writing and 10 writing prompts for your students to use as they are being introduced to opinion writing.

I introduce each type of writing that we do throughout the year by reminding the students that authors organize their writing in different ways.  We added opinion writing to our "Ways Authors Organize Text" anchor chart a couple weeks ago.  

I introduce opinion writing by using the mentor text  Red Is Best by Kathy Stinson.

After reading the book, we used my reusable opinion writing anchor chart to highlight the topic, opinion, supporting reasons, and conclusion as modeled by the author of this book.  That really helped the students focus their own opinions.  The pieces to make the reusable opinion writing chart are included in the Writing My Opinion unit.  After I made the chart, I laminated it and then I use large sticky notes to change the things we add to match each different topic that we work on together.

When the students were ready, I introduced a topic that I wanted them to try to write about. We used the "best ice cream sundae topping" as our first opinion writing topic. I knew there would be a high level of motivation involved.  I modeled first with my own opinion about my favorite topping.  I used the reusable chart again for the modeling.

I am super proud of how their writing turned out.  When they were finished, I typed their writing and we published them and turned the collection into a class book.  With the help of my fabulous parents, we also had an author's celebration with real ice cream sundaes!

You can check out the Writing My Opinion unit and my other products by visiting my Tpt store.  
It's almost time for  the cyber Monday/Tuesday sale!

I'm signing off to start filling up my Tpt shopping cart for the Cyber Monday/Tuesday sale!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Technology Tuesday (3rd edition)

Welcome back for another edition of Technology Tuesday! Since the mini iPads arrived in my classroom a month or so ago, we started using them for two daily routines. We use them for several other things throughout each day as well, but the routines stay the same each day.

 Last week, I mentioned that my class keeps a journal on the iPad each day. We use a free app called Kids Journal.

This is sample page inside one of the Kids Journal journals that you can create with the app.
You can read more about how we do the journaling routine in my classroom here

We also use a website to help us read informational text  on the iPad each day.  With the common core standards in place, I'm doing everything I can to help expose students to more informational text. One of my amazing parents, who is an elementary principal in another district, recommended the site to me.  The site contains daily nonfiction articles appropriate for students in grades K - 12.  My students read the Tween Tribune Junior articles, which are designed for students in grades K - 4.  Since this is a website, not an app, it can be used even if you don't have iPads in your classroom.

I choose three students each day to work together to be the nonfiction news reporters.  I carefully select the students to make sure that I have at least one high reader in each group of reporters.  Since Tween Tribune Junior articles are for K - 4th graders, even with a higher reader in the group they sometimes need my help with a few words. The reporters choose one article from the Tween Tribune Junior edition of the day.  They read the article together, discuss what they learned and decide how they are going to share the "reporting duties".  

Here is screenshot of part of a list of articles for today.  There are many, many pages of articles for students to choose from each day.  As you can see, students have the option to leave comments and take quizzes.  My students will not be leaving comments, but I may let them try the quizzes in the future.

When we start our morning meeting each day, the reporters put the iPad under our document camera and tell us what they learned.  When they are finished reporting, we ask the reporters questions to clarify anything that we want to know about the information in the article.  This is when I point out the strategies we are using to read/understand the nonfiction news (returning to the text, rereading, check the pictures for clues, thinking about/discussing vocabulary).  The articles often have a discussion question at the end.  If the chosen article has a discussion question, the students discuss it with their elbow partners and then we quickly discuss it as a class.  If my reporters are well prepared to "report" the nonfiction news, it only takes about 5 - 7 minutes of my morning meeting time to do this routine.  I am lovin' the opportunities to model/practice strategies for reading informational text and my students are loving reporting the news to the class.  

I'm thinking I should start my informational text unit a little earlier next year.  This year, I'm planning to start it right after the winter break.  That will enhance our discussions and reporting of the nonfiction news.  

I do have fond memories of my parents reading the newspaper every evening while we sat in the living room waiting for the Cosby Show to start.  But, times are changing and my own children will have memories of my husband and I reading the news on our phones in the dance lobby or at the soccer field.  I want my students to be prepared to read, understand and discuss informational text with their peers and I am so grateful for the technology to help them learn how to do it in such a way that will hopefully motivate them to explore more informational texts in the future.