Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Take Home Teddy

    The school year is about to begin and while we anticipate the new crew of kiddos I wanted to share a little something that I do at the beginning of the year.    Kindergarten to First Grade is a huge transition for parents and kids.  The beginning of the year is difficult even for me!  A First Grader in August is VERY different than a First Grader in June!
    For many of our students the transition is overwhelming as expectations begin to increase.  The last thing we want to do is scare the students away from their love of learning.  A teddy bear can make most 6 year-olds comfy at home, so we use one at school too!
     Each year I buy a class Teddy bear.  AC Moore usually has them pretty cheap.  I tie a cute ribbon around his neck to dress him up a bit.  This year I added this cute flower...maybe our teddy is a she this year!  Each night a different child takes home Teddy and spends the evening playing with him.  The student writes 1-3 sentences about what he/she does with Teddy and then draws and colors a picture in the journal.  The next day the student bring Teddy and his journal back to share with the class.  The kids love taking Teddy home and we love hearing about Teddy's adventures!
     At the end of the year I pull a name of a student to take home Teddy to keep forever!  This years winner looked like he won the lottery!  We also share the stories that they wrote in the beginning of the year.  This is a highlight of the year for me.  The students can't believe that the page he/she wrote actually belonged to them!   This is a nice way to see how far they have grown by the spring!
   I hope your new "BIG" first graders get a chance to cuddle up with your new class Teddy!
                               Click on Teddy's picture to download the letter I use inside his journal.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I LOVE Kohls Cares for Kids

    First Grade Blue Skies is hosting a Linky Party for the things that you LOVE!  Somethings in my classroom that I love are the animals and books from Kohls Cares for Kids Program.  Kohl's department store sells children's books and matching stuffed animals for $5.00 each.  The money is raised for children and community members. 
    I wish I had pictures from last year that showed them better, but I have a slight addiction to these animals and books.  I usually have them lining my bookshelves and above my cubbies.  I rotate them throughout the year as our themes and the seasons change. 
    In the past I have let students who are free reading, read to the stuffed animals.  The kids love doing this!  Another way I have used them is by making take home packets.  The student takes home a book, matching stuffed animal, and a journal.  The studens write about his/her favorite part of the story or answer another writing prompt, regarding the book.  Then he/she brings it back the next day and share with the class. 
    Some of the ones I have are Curious George and friends, Dinosaurs from How Dinosaurs Say GoodNight, etc. Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, Guess How Much I Love You, and TONS of Dr. Suess characters and books. 

Right now they have Clifford and friends.  Check them out!!

Kohl's Cares Clifford PlushKohl's Cares T-Bone Plush
Kohl's Cares Mac PlushKohl's Cares Cleo Plush
The books they have are Clifford the Big Red Dog, Clifford's First Day of School, Clifford's First Birthday, and Clifford the Firehouse Dog.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Time to Sing

     Miss Kindergarten is having a linky party for those that sing in their classrooms!  Anyone that knows me, knows that I sing and chant all day long!  Unfortunately, I  have one of the WORST singing voices ever.  I was blessed with talents in other areas, but singing is NOT one of them.  However, I love singing at school.  The kids could careless whether I am ready or not for American Idol.  So we sing songs all the time, but mostly when learning concepts that are new or tricky.  I use songs for telling time, money, counting, etc.  We all know that songs are one of the best ways for children to retain information!
          I usually use songs that I find, rather than creating my own.  A really great group for kids is called the Banana Slug String Band.  They are these crazy guys who sings songs about science.  I have one of their cd's, Singing in our Garden.  It is wonderful!  My two favorite songs are Dirt Made My Lunch and Six Plant Parts.  The kids absolutely LOVE these songs too.
      Another really great singer is called Harry Kindergarten.  He has his own site on You Tube. This year we used the 3-D shapes video, skip counting, adding, science, and character education songs.  The kids think he is hilarious!   We switched classes for math this year, based on academic abilities.  I would play the 3-D shapes song at the beginning of the class as students came in the room and got unpacked and received their new homework.  He now has a 2-D shape song.
Watch the video and then click on his name above to go to his You Tube sight!  Check him out!


My Favorite Children's Author/Authors

     For me, choosing just one favorite author is similar to choosing my favorite place to eat or a favorite shirt!  It is just too difficult!  I have to say that as I first began teaching my favorite author was definitely Eric Carle.   I loved his artwork and the stories.  I still use his stories as often as I can.  Each year our first grade team uses Brown Bear, Brown Bear as an introductory unit before we begin Reading Street.  We use his book to reinforce rhyming and review Kindergarten skills before moving on.  
    Don't get me wrong, I still love Eric Carle's work, but I have really learned to love another author, Kevin Henkes.  I have really developed a love for his book over the past couple of years.  Our school often studies specific authors for our Author Study units in Writer's Workshop, however, I started looking into Kevin Henkes' books.  He writes about topics that are relatable to the students, while demonstrating a variety of writing techniques and styles. He is a wonderful model author for young students.  
A few of my favorites by him are:
I LOVE this book for the beginning of the year.  I typically read it the first week and then have students  compare themselves to Wemberly.  It is great coming back to this book later during our author study.  
Chrysanthemum is PERFECT for the beginning of the year when the students are getting to know each other.  We do a Names Unit prior to beginning our Reading Street and this book is a vital part of that unit!

Remember to check out The Clutter-Free Classroom for their linky party about favorite authors!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crafting Inspired by Target $1 bins!

    Growing up I was a Crafty Queen!  As I've become an adult I've lost some of my desire as well as the time to "create".  Looking at so many amazing blogs and classrooms has inspired me to get on the band wagon again!  While at Target in the $1.00 section, I found a package of four write and wipe off strips.  Each cardboard piece is double-sided with two handwriting lines.  I then took them home and created my NEW sign for Writer's Workshop. 
     I have gone back and forth about how I have students share their stories in writing.  So many people have a place for students to sign-up to read aloud to the class.  I decided that I would try it this year.  Students who are ready to share their work with the class can put their name on the list, pin their story to the bottom of the bulletin board and await their chance to share their story with the class, during Writer's Workshop!
Take a look around those $1.00 bins, get motivated, and start crafting away!

Ignore the window ledge and blinds at my house!  I simply took a bulletin board, covered it with fabric.  Then took the four writing lines and covered the edges with fabric.  Added a little ribbon to the edges and there it
is !  (In the picture the lines look a tad bit crooked...but in person they look great! I guess I need to keep working on my photography!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Summer Vacation

 So The Clutter Free Classroom is having a Linky Party and today is all about our summer vacations!  As a teacher I have to say that as sad as it is to see my little ones go in June, I LOVE summer as a way to rejuvenate and prepare for the coming year.  For me this has been one of the most low-key summers in a long time.  Here are a few things I have been up to!

  • I am a nanny for a family of three.  I have watched their kids for five summers!  
  • I tutor two children once a week.  I really enjoy working with these kiddos!
  • Anyone who knows me that on my days off or any moments I have free I am at the POOL.  This has been a really hot summer and I can say that I have spent many hours laying poolside with a book in my hand.  I absolutely love reading and over the five weeks I have been out of school, I have probably read 10 books.  Me, the pool, and a good book! That's all I really need!
  • I have been to the National White Water Center a lot.  This place has tons of hiking trails that I like to hike and run on.  They have rafting, kayaking, mountain biking and more.  I really enjoy spending time there!
  • Most of all I love to travel.  This summer I haven't really taken any trips, but I hope to make it to the beach before summer ends.  With the beach only 3 hours away I know I will make it there even for just one day! 
  • I am a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, but down here in NC we don't have any major league baseball teams.  We do however, have the Charlotte Knights and we like to go to a lot of their games.  They are fun, maybe not as good as the majors but still a good time. 
Charlotte Knights Stadium on July 4th!  
  • Last summer my boyfriend and I started canning our own foods.  This year we have already canned salsa, bread and butter pickles, frozen peaches and blueberries and I am sure there will be more to come!
  • I have also done a ton of blog-stalking!  As a fairly new blogger I am in love with the blogs out there that have so much to share and I hope to someday work up to them!
I hope everyone has enjoyed their summer!  I can't believe that I only have four weeks more of vacation.  The time is going by so fast.  Hopefully the next few weeks will involve a trip to the beach, more time at the White Water Center, and a little more time at the pool!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dr. Seuss Totes Are Back at TARGET!!

So...After reading Gulp over at The Inspired Apple I was overwhelmed that Target and other stores have School Supplies already!  At the same time I was slightly tempted to go take a peek! :)  When I got to Target I decided to only let myself go to the dollar bins and I was SO glad I did!  For the past two years I have bought similar Dr. Seuss totes in the dollar bins and I love them!  Two years ago I used them to send take home packets that included a matching Dr. Seuss book and stuffed animal (from Kohl's) and a reading response page for the students to respond about the book they read.  Last year I used them as a classroom incentive.  Each month my table groups earn bees by working as a team and making good choices.  At the end of the month, we count the bees and the table with the most bees wins a prize.  Last year the Dr. Seuss totes were the March prize and they were a hit! 

I LOVE TARGET $1.00 bins! 

Also, they have the three part bins that I use to hold supplies that we share and extra supplies.  These are $2.50 but WAY cheaper than the education stores and catalogues.
Have fun shopping!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Scream…You Scream…We ALL 

Scream for…

Problem Solving!
       Every single day each of us encounters problems.  No, they
may not be math problems, but we encounter problems that need solving.  Somewhere along the line someone taught us how to approach problems. Thus said, problem solving is not only a life skill but one necessary for academic success and this year our school's goal taught problem solving strategies and procedures to our students, beginning in Kindergarten.  Our school's goal was  for each student in our school to understand four basic problem solving steps so that even when presented with an unfamiliar problem, the students  would know where to begin and how to approach solving the problem.  
The four basic steps that were taught were:
1.  Understand the Problem!  To do this the students read, re-read, underline the question, and then circle important information in the problem.  

2.  Plan How to Solve the Problem!  Next the students decide exactly how they want to go about solving the problem.  

3.  Carry Out Your Plan!  Third, the students carry out their plan.  This is the actual solving of the problem. 

4.  Check Your Work!  This was the one of the MOST stressed steps.  SO often students rush on to the next problem and never bother to check their own work.  (I was TERRIBLE at doing this! When I was done, I was done!)  However, we know as teachers that no one is perfect.  Sometimes I have to re-read a question to truly know what it is asking.  Therefore, here is where the students go back and re-read the question to make sure their answer matches what the question is looking for.  

     Throughout the year our first graders got really good at remembering to carry out each step.  However, at our Common Core Math Training a few weeks ago, another teacher shared a suggestion for how they remind students of the steps to problem solving by making an ice cream cone as you go!  If you click on the ice cream scoop above, you can download directions and scoops that I am going to put on each student's desk this year as a reminder! I love this creative way for students to remember how to problem solve!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can You Dance?

Well I wouldn't be the first one out on the dance floor, but I can handle the Phonics Dance!  If you have never heard of the Phonics Dance, you should check it out.  Created by Ginny Dowd, the Phonics Dance is a developmentally appropriate method to teaching young children exactly how our crazy language works!  Taught as "Hunk and Chunks" in the Phonics Dance, these diagraphs, blends, dipthongs, and modified vowels are typically taught in early elementary curriculum, but are students really remembering them?
    The Phonics Dance is more of a chant than a real song or dance.  It has motions that correlate with a chant.  I teach it slightly differently than the original program, because I align it with our reading series and the way that the sounds are taught in Scott Foresman's Reading Street.  The students do the Phonics Dance each day at school and probably at home, in the car, and in their sleep.  We begin with the alphabet, while doing our Kindergarten review at the beginning of the year, and then move on to cover over 25 sounds by the end of the year!
   Practicing these daily allows the students to remember and apply the sounds in both reading and writing.  I first learned about the Phonics Dance while student teaching in Ohio and I have used it in my own classroom for 6 years.  I attribute a great deal of student success to the use of the Phonics Dance!
   When I first came to my school 4 years ago, I was one of two crazy teachers at my school using this to reinforce phonics. We both were huge advocates of this program.  Now it has spread like a wild fire!  If you go down the Kindergarten, First Grade hall or by some 2nd grade classrooms, you will hear the loud, energetic chants.  The kids love it!  What better way to teach phonics (and get the wiggles out) than through the Phonics Dance!  Take a look.  
The Phonics Dance
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