Friday, October 7, 2016

Apples Galore

This week we learned a lot about apples.  We kicked off our week of apple fun with a trip to the apple orchard.  Students and their families were invited to meet our teacher team at the apple orchard last Sunday afternoon.  We found that Sunday works better than Saturday due to a large soccer league in our city.  The orchard staff does short presentation, then families are invited to pick apples at their leisure.  Families are responsible for transportation, supervision of their children and the cost of the apples they pick.  We are a high poverty district (we qualify for no cost lunch for all), yet still have a pretty good turn out!

Monday morning we put the apples I picked to good use by making applesauce.  I peeling and cored all the apples Sunday afternoon, then students were in charge of cutting the apples into pieces and putting them into the crockpot.  After cooking down the apples, we added some brown sugar and cinnamon.  At the end of the day, we tasted delicious applesauce.

We worked on a little apple book throughout the week.  I purchased a lapbook pack on TpT.  I modified to what I thought we could handle.  We worked on it a little bit at a time throughout the week.

The flap on the right has the season of the tree, but this student was absent today and I sent everyone else's home before taking photos.  The kids were so proud of this little activity.

We created these little cuties from First Grade Blue Skies at the art center. I didn't give them any patterns other than the stems which were just cut strips of brown paper.  I taught them how to round the corners of a piece of construction paper and created an example in front of the class before setting them loose for the week at the art center. There was also green paper available, but it wasn't a popular apple color. I didn't do glyphs or anything, just an art project for them to do independently.  The "noses" you see are magnets I made to hang their artwork on our chalkboard.

Today we had caramel apples for a snack.  I precut the apples into slices.  When it was time to snack, we dried the apple slices with a paper towel, and I cut a small slit into the apple then inserted a popsicle stick into the slice.  My kiddos dipped their slice into a tub of caramel sauce then sprinkles or mini chocolate chips.  Who knew: every kid ate the skin on their apple today!

It was a great week of learning about apples!  What kind of fun did you have this week?  Next week we'll be learning about our 5 senses, taking a trip to the local Nature Center and its picture day.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dot Day

This week we focused on The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.  We used the Guiding Readers pack as the basis for our study of the book.  Today I tried to incorporate dots and the idea of giving something a try/practicing.  Warning: Picture overload!

All of my students were invited to wear dots to school today.  For those that did not wear dots, I gave them 12 garage sale dots.  Some of their ideas were great!

This little guy's bowtie had polka dots.  He was so proud of it!

This guy and his mom create a special shirt for the day.  The kids thought it was so cool that he got to color on a shirt.
I loved her sun glasses with polka dots!  She was really good about not playing with them.

We had a special dot snack: M & M cookies.

During reading center time, we used Bingo daubers to dot our answers with beginning sounds or CVC words.

At the art center this week, my kiddos created dot art using various sized dots from the Ellison.  A few of them wanted to exercise their creativity and use scissors to modify their dot(s).

The last thing we did was write a goal, sign it and put it in a swirly gold frame.  These are going with the idea of growth mindset, and are displayed on our closet with the word "yet" above them.  The kids thought it was so cool to sign their names.

It was great to see them having fun with activities related to the story and making the connections on their own.  I'm looking forward to finding ways to incorporate things such as these with other stories we focus on this year.  If you have ideas to go with other stories, I'd love to hear!  

Have you entered my Kwik Stix giveaway? The giveaway ends Sunday night.   Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Kwik Stix Review and Giveaway

My class and I had the opportunity to review Kwik Stix by The Pencil Grip company.  I received a sample when I attended I Teach 1st this summer, and I knew my kiddos would love these!

I began by e-mailing the company to ask for a sample, and I was very impressed with their quick service and getting questions answered.  I knew these Kwik Stix would be great for the whole year, but at the beginning of the school year, when messes seem to be abundant, I knew these would give us the opportunity to paint with less of a mess.

Kwik Stix were used on the flower petals and the center of the flower.  The center of the flower is construction paper and the petals are card stock. 

We read the story Chrysanthemum during our second week of school.  We had a project to do with our names, and I knew Kwik Stix would be perfect for the kids to use independently at the art center.  After coloring, students used permanent marker to write the letters of their names.  It was very easy for them to write with permanent marker over top of the Kwik Stix coloring.  We used this pack (minus the white) for our project.

My kiddos described Kwik Stix as "lipstick" and "glue sticks that color".  They were fascinated by how quickly the dried.  I loved how easy it was for them to color, and how bright the projects turned out.  As they were working, my kiddos couldn't stop commenting on how much they liked Kwik Stix.  Many students asked where Kwik Stix could be purchased.

I not only liked how great their projects turned out, but I appreciated that students were able to grip the Kwik Stix as they would a pencil.  They easily filled in their flower petals and were excited to see the finished product. The area stayed remarkable clean with no spilled paint cups to worry about.  The Kwik Stix that did end up on the table were easily removed with a wet paper towel. 

My students and I cannot wait to use Kwik Stix again!  We'd love for you to try them out too!  You can save 15% at The Pencil Grip website using the code YOUWIN15.  You can also enter below to win a 12 pack of assorted Kwik Stix.

I hope you will consider trying Kwik Stix.  I look forward to hearing your great ideas for trying Kwik Stix!

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Monday, September 5, 2016

First Week...Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

We survived our first week of kindergarten together!  This is always an accomplishment in K!  We had some bumps in the road, but overall, it was a great week.

A few of our favorite things include:
  • HeidiSongs: We focused on color words this week. They loved singing and dancing.
  • Guiding Readers: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was our story this week.
  • Playing on the playground
  • Snacktime
  • Art (no art teacher at our school though sadly)
  • Friends
  • Sharing our day with our families via SeeSaw (try it out by clicking the link)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom headband

Chicka Chicka snack...sadly, I didn't get a snack of them making them or of one just on it's own.  It was too busy passing out snack parts!  It is a nutty bar (trunk), apple slices (branches), grapes (coconuts), Alphabits cereal.

Fun at the block center
This week we will learn more color words and will read Chrysanthemum.  We will also focus on our names and the names of our friends.  Check back at the end of the week for a review of Kwik Sticks that will be used for an art project this week!

Friday, August 12, 2016

What Are Our Goals? 2016

Today I attended a leadership meeting in my district where we discussed our focus and goals for the year.  We talked about how to make a difference for our students.  How can we encourage them to set high standards for themselves and believe they can achieve?  Are we holding ALL kids to high expectations?  How can we help kids love reading and learning?  Does everyone in our building/district buy into this idea?

As I was sitting there, I was thinking, "Isn't this why we do what we do?"  I do what I do because I think it is what is best for the kids that I have in my class at that time.  Many of these goals/thoughts have been things I've really been thinking about over the past couple years.

Adventures in Literacy Land just did a book study in July on the book Reading Wellness.  Then, Em from Curious Firsties, wrote a post about a love of reading.  For the last 2 years, I would say the majority of my kids are excited about reading.  I've been asked a few times how they got there, and I really believe they got there by reading.  I love to read, and I offer a lot of opportunities for my kids to have the chance to read. Just look at these girls below, they LOVE reading!  What can we do to make this a reality for all kids?
Reading on the bus on the way to a field trip.
Independent reading in a comfortable area
I believe in experiences for kids.  We know, as a high poverty area, that many of our students do not come with a lot of experiences.  What can I provide them to make their learning meaningful and help them make connections?  Many of these experience have to happen in our classroom or immediate surroundings, but what can I do to make this happen?  These experiences are some of their (and my) favorite memories because they help them fall in love with learning.

How can we support all students to meet high expectations?  I think one way is to teach them how to support one another.  Some of their best learning can come from each other! I am big on collaboration and learning how to work with others in my room.  This is a life skill, and I think it isn't too early to start.  I am not real big on competition in my room, unless you are competing against your self to get better- then by all means, go for it!

I need your help!  I'd love to hear your ideas for helping kids learn to love reading.  What do you do in your classroom to foster this love?  Are there resources you can share?  What do you do to help all kids feel like they can achieve?

What can you teach us?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Back to School Sale and Giveaway

The TPT Back to School sale is coming Monday and Tuesday August 1 and 2!  I always struggle to decide what I "need" right now and what can wait.  I tend to spend more on my classroom at back to school time rather than later in the year, so I try to spread my TPT spending accordingly.  I also usually end up kicking myself in a couple weeks when I want to use something that has been on my wish list and I didn't buy it when it was on sale.

To help you if you have this same problem, I'm going to share a few of my kids' favorite things and give you a chance to win a $10 TPT gift certificate so you can spend a little that isn't your own money!

My students love my fill-in-the-blank books.  This is how I share some of the theme information that we work on.  Have students fill in some of the key words related to the topic helps them retain more of the information.  Topics include: insects, human body/senses, seasons, space, motion, feelings and animal characteristics.

The most popular fill-in book is My Amazing Body which includes 2 books: one about body systems and the other about the 5 senses.
I created a bundle of all these books if you are interested in multiple topics.

If you are looking for solid shapes, I have a mini packet with solid shapes activities for young kids.

You can enter the giveaway for the $10 gift certificate below.  The giveaway will end at midnight Tuesday morning so you will still have Tuesday to shop during the sale.  Happy shopping!
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Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Teach 1st 2016: Day 4

The last day of I Teach 1st has come and gone.  I had an eventful 36 hours trying to leave Vegas after the conference, so please excuse the time it took to get this post written!

I attended a Guided Reading session with Tara West Thursday morning.  My biggest take-away from this session was the 5 minute whole group lesson she does at the beginning of her guided reading time.  This is something that everyone might need a mini lesson on (and maybe review for a few) so you don't spend time in your small group teaching on it.  I think, for me, this would be most valuable at the beginning of the year to practice things like one-to-one tracking, turning pages, book orientation, etc.

I also liked her "warm up" activities that she uses when her students come to the table. You can see some of these below.  My favorite is "sound around the circle" which you can see an example of below the wording on the slide.

The second session I attended was about incorporating STEM activities.  I don't have experience with STEM, but after attending the session, realized that I have done some activities that with a little tweaking would be STEM.  I liked the STEM characteristics shared in the slide below.
Throughout the session, she shared children's literature and different STEM activities that could be done relating to that book.  I think it is important to connect things for students as much as possible, so I though this was great!  At the end of the session, we got into groups and brainstormed books and activities to go with the book.

The final session of my day was back with Dan St. Romain about getting rid of clip charts.  We use the clip chart throughout our district, so it going away is not likely for me, but I learned some things I can try for behavior.

Dan talked about the importance of teaching life skills to our young students.  The more he spoke, the more I realized how much I could incorporate these more into my day  He talked about how punishment is generally not effective with behavior problems.  Behavior is generally a skill deficit and should be treated as such.  Just like you'd do intervention for an academic skill deficit, the same should be done for a behavior skill deficit. Students aren't being punished, they just need more practice with the skill.

It was a fantastic week of learning!  Thanks so much for following along with me.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I Teach 1st 2016: Day 3

Today was an exciting day as I knew Mary from Sharing Kindergarten would be presenting.  I always learn something new in her sessions, so I was excited to attend 2 this morning.

The first session I attended was about technology.  She is a rockstar with technology, so I knew I'd get some ideas that I can incorporate into my classroom.  She shared the app "Good Reader" where you can open a PDF and the kids can write on it on their iPads.  Mary uses it for her phonics study and adds novelty to activities that might otherwise be monotonous.

A second idea I liked was how she makes Plickers more accessible to her students.  She adds the letters to the backs of the cards so students don't have to look at the front to find the letter then turn it around for her to see the answer.  She noticed that it caused some confusion and incorrect answers when students actually knew the answer but didn't hold up the correct side.  I haven't used Plickers because I thought I would be difficult for my students to manage the card, but this seems make it very accessible to K kiddos!

The next session I attended was about Science and Social Studies instruction. I've seen Mary's Print and Play packs when they post, but have never really looked at them.  I loved some of the great ideas in these!  She didn't promote these as part of the workshops, but instead, offered suggestions of how to do the activities cheap/free.  One example is living and nonliving.  She had a sheet where living things were colored one color and nonliving a different color. It was suggested that you take a magazine picture and circle living/nonliving in different colors.

I love how she incorporated literature into the suggestions for some topics such as Tops and Bottoms for plants.  I already use Tops and Bottoms but I love news ideas that I can add/change/adapt for things I am already doing!

The first session I attended this afternoon was about iPad apps.  One that I liked was Tell About This. In the app, you choose a picture, then you can record yourself talking about a prompt relating to the picture.  I could see this helpful in students using vocabulary and especially at the beginning of the year when writing can be more of a struggle.

My final session of the day was with Katie Mense from Little Warriors about fitting it all in. I loved this quote that she shared!

I would describe my classroom as "organized chaos" when it comes to my materials.  I start off really well, and I generally know where everything is, but sometimes it gets a little out of control.  The "paper trail" in my life can become overwhelming.  I thought the way she labeled this literature organizer/mailbox was great.  I think it would keep me organized and make the kids a little more independent.  I currently empty their folders for them, but this would free up some time in my morning as well!

Tomorrow is my final day here.  I'm looking forward to a few session before heading out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I Teach 1st! 2016: Day 2

Another day of learning here in Las Vegas is complete.  I attended 3 sessions and presented 1 yesterday.

I started off with a session by Renee Cooley about using theme days in the classroom.  She had so many fun ideas for using the  novelty of theme learning to engage kids.  She talked about using theme days to either kick off or wrap up a unit of study.  I'm looking forward to giving a few things a try next year.  One of them that i really want to try is the school-wide post office she does.  I'm not sure that I can do school-wide, but I'm thinking possibly my floor.

My second session was with Brittany Banister about research with kindergarten kids.  She talked about different sources kids can access for research and some project-based things she has done with her students.  We worked in small groups to do a project of creating a habitat for the ducks from the story Make Way for Ducklings.  I loved the idea of connecting literature and a project and will give those a try this year.

The last session I attended today was with Dr. Bill DeMeo about reaching traumatized students.  Students with trauma are becoming more and more prevalent in our classrooms, and this session shared some strategies for building trust with students and reducing their stress.  We talked about deep breathing.  A couple activities I thought would be helpful in my classroom were blowing the biggest bubble (takes slow breathing) and practicing blowing out candles as it encourages deep breathing.

I presented on high-ability during the last session of the day.  I had a great little group of attendees.  Thanks for letting me share with you!

Last night was the blogger meet up.  No pictures, but lots of fun and met some new people!  Off to day 3 I go!

Monday, July 18, 2016

I Teach 1st 2016: Day 1

I had a great first day at I Teach 1st!  I attended the keynote and 3 sessions today.

The keynote session was Dr. Debbie Silver.  I read her book Drumming to the Beat of Different Marchers 2 years ago and really enjoyed it.  It is about modifying what you do to meet the need of your kiddos.  Today, she was engaging, funny and worked to remind us of the joy of teaching.  She had me laughing and relating throughout.

My first session of the morning was with Laureen Reynolds about shared research projects. She shared some insight on the Common Core standards in this area and a few ideas that I am excited to try with my kiddos!  The ideas were ones that she has used successfully with students.  She also talked about short term and long term projects, which I never gave much thought to the duration of my projects.

The first idea that I thought my kiddos could absolutely do is a graphic organizer to share their research.  We used graphic organizers to organize our research but never as the actual "product" of our research.  Why not?!?  If information can be found in different places, why can't the products be varied too!

Another idea she gave was to make an A-Z book about a particular topic.  She mentioned that her favorite topics were her school/community/state.  I think my kiddos would love making an A-Z book about our school, so I'm hoping to give it a try this year.

My second session today was with Eliza Thomas about "Ten-ness".  The session focused on games that can be played to practice making 10.  I'm hoping to incorporate more math games next year, so this session was great.  

While I liked the games she shared, and I will absolutely use them, I think my favorite thing was she talked about how to write easy, visual directions for the kids to be independent.  When we wrote our directions, we practice in this way.  I love the idea of making it as easy for me and as user friendly as possible to make the kids independent.  

My final session today was a half day session with Dan St. Romain.  I attended one of his sessions last year and knew I needed more. He spoke about behavior management.

I ended up buying his first set of 10 lessons about social-emotional development.  I have known that social-emotional development is important, but I realize that I need to spend even more time on this.  Students need to have the opportunity to try to work out their differences without my interference.  They rely, many times, on adults or adults step in and solve it for them rather than letting students try to work it out.  I'm very excited to intentionally incorporate these ideas in my room.

One idea he shared was showing students appropriate behavior through puzzles.  He took pictures of students making positive choices and cut them in half to make a puzzle. These puzzles were then part of a center where students could put them together while reinforcing positive behavior choices.

I also loved the picture book suggestions he gave to teach different social-emotional skills.  I had not heard of many of them, so I'm looking forward to checking those out as well.

I'll be back with more learning soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Back for More

You’ve been hearing crickets if you’ve visited my little blog here in the last couple months.  I took an unexpected break during the last month or so of school and this summer.  Ideas weren’t flowing and others things took priority.  School has not been at the top of my list this summer as it has been many past summers, and it was a welcome and relaxing change!

I just arrived in Vegas for SDE’s “I Teach” National Conferences.  On the way, I made good use of my time and read Reading Wellness, Lessons in Independence and Proficiency by Jan Miller Burkins and Kim Yaris.  Adventures in Literacy Land will be hosting a book study on the book next week, so be head over there and check it out.

This book was just long enough to get me excited about the conference and get my head back into “school mode”.  I got a couple ideas that I can’t wait to try in my classroom and look forward to building on that with my learning this week.

I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you this week!