Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November Currently

I feel like it's been a million years since I've linked up for Farley's Currently, so here goes nothin.


LISTENING. I'm hooked on the Mumford & Sons Pandora station... it's the perfect fall station, and it's great for getting work done on the computer. Toe-tappin' & easy listenin' for sure.

LOVING. First marking period report cards are done and it feels so good. 

THINKING. Dude. Daylight savings sucks. I'm over it. It was dark at freaking 5:15. Lame.

WANTING. My teammates and I are talking about starting something a la Daily 3 in math. I'm starting to compile materials for math tubs that can be used throughout the year, as I have NO desire to be changing the games with every topic. Will keep you posted as I begin this journey! I'm hoping to dive in after parent-teacher conferences next week.

NEEDING. Another one that I want to start to dabble in is CAFE... I'm not looking to dive in head first yet, and I don't plan on having individual student goals right off the bat, but I'm hoping to use a CAFE board to organize the strategies we've been learning in reading groups. Stay tuned for that, too!

READING. I went to my wife's classroom last week while she got some things ready for the week, and totally underestimated how long we'd be there. Picked up a Gregory Maguire book off the shelf, and I'm enjoying it so far... Not in any grad classes this semester, so hopefully I'll actually be able to finish it! I'm terrible at reading books when I'm taking classes. And all the time. I'm really just bad at reading. The end.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

EnVision Math Journals

We use EnVision Math at my district, and I've been searching for ways to make it a little more interactive and differentiated, so I've been working on these math journals! I started with Topic 4, because that's what we're on right now, but I plan to make all of the topics as well.

*Click the picture to see it on TPT*
*Click the picture to see it on TPT*

I'm going to be using these journals during the last 10-15 minutes of class as a way to summarize the lesson and do individual checks for understanding. I'll collect the journals daily and quickly browse through to see whether or not the student comprehends that skill.

You could also use these during guided math groups as independent time! My math block isn't very long this year, so I'm not running math group rotations, but that'd be my ideal situation for sure!
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Low Prep Math Games

Heyo! Hopefully you're not fighting the allergy/cold/death thing that's going around my school! I think everyone is sick right now. I feel like I swallowed a razor blade, and I've used at least a pound of tissues in the last week or so. I think I'm on the up swing, but this rainy weather we've had the last few days isn't helping. Blah.

I digress.

I've been getting into the habit of having my students play a simple math game that focuses on the skill for the day, or one that reviews a skill we previously learned that I don't want them to forget! I use this time to meet with my lower math students to reinforce the skill and it's been working out great! I wanted to share a couple of easy LOW PREP math games that you can use and adapt to meet your needs!

Today we learned about doubles facts, so once we were done with independent work, I put them into groups of 4 with a tub of dominoes. The students put all the dominoes face down, then took turns flipping over 2 at a time. They then used those numbers to make one addition sentence. If their addition sentence was correct, they got 1 point. If they could write a DOUBLE, they got 2 points. The students wrote their problems on whiteboards, and the rest of the group was responsible for checking their work. I wish I could take credit for this activity, but the idea came from one of my teammates. The kids LOVED playing this game, and were so sad when I rang the bell to clean up!!


Another game that we're hooked on and could easily be adapted to meet ANY skill (even in other subjects!) is called "4 in a Row," which is a variation on Connect 4. This day, we were learning to solve addition problems with 0, 1, and 2. I made this worksheet in Microsoft Word in literally 2 minutes. It's that easy. I made a 5x6 table and filled it with addition facts that add 0, 1, and 2. Students play this game with a partner, using counters or some other game piece that you've got lots of in 2 different colors (cubes, bingo markers, bears, etc.) If they can solve the problem, they can cover it. The goal is to get 4 in a row, so their partner is constantly trying to block them at the same time. It was SUCH a fun way to review these math facts while having a little bit of quality competition among friends! Just wait till you see how excited your kiddos get playing this game! 


Both games can easily be adapted to meet multiple skills. I'm in the process of making a "Long A 4 in a Row" since my aide is going to be out tomorrow, and a sight word version since we'll be testing our first marking period words next week. Super fun! Super easy!
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Meaningful Anchor Charts

I mentioned the other day that I'm working to make my instruction better aligned to some of the tricky areas of our teacher evaluation rubric. Our rubric is based on Charlotte Danielson's model, focusing on planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. One area that I've been struggling with is component 2e of the classroom environment, which refers to the physical space of the classroom. I love my room. I don't want to change a thing. The kids know where stuff is, they get things as they need. It's safe and comfortable. 

However.

The "distinguished" ranking reads: "The classroom is safe, and learning is accessible to all students including those with special needs. Teacher makes effective use of physical resources, including computer technology. The teacher ensures that the physical arrangement is appropriate to the learning activities. Students contribute to the use or adaptation of the physical environment to advance learning."

WTF. Students contribute to the use or adaptation of the physical environment to advance learning?! I was confused. I talked to the principal after my formal observation the other day (which went very well, and I'm super happy.) He suggested that rather than thinking of the kids helping to organize my layout, that I think more along the lines of the bulletin boards and student spaces in my room. I love love love all my bulletin boards. Shouldn't the kids love them, too? No. I came to a sad sad sad realization that my students were not utilizing all the anchor charts and "I Can" statements I was posting, because I wasn't referring to them or stressing their importance. 

INSTEAD, I'm now trying to have the students physically build the anchor charts with me. We made this NOUN anchor chart the other day. Instead of me posting the pretty poster I have that lists fun nouns, I had the students color in nouns and we sorted them as a group. This anchor chart is now a million times more meaningful for my students because they had a part in creating it.

I just printed out some clipart that I already had downloaded (most of it is Ashley Hughes or Creative Clips.) Super easy. I'm also asking them whether or not certain things would benefit them if I were to put them on the bulletin board. For example, we listed ways to make 10 using a rainbow inspired by this pin (with FREE printables), and the kids determined that it was something they would use. So I posted it. And they're using it. It's like magic. 
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Common Core Blues

So. I'm struggling.

No.

Let me rephrase. I'm teaching better than I ever have. But it's not easy.

Let me explain. Our district uses Reading Street, which I used to love, but now it is in no way aligned to the Common Core. Last week, for example, we were supposed to read Animal Park. The focus skill was cause and effect, which is no longer in the first grade standards. I thought, oh, maybe I'll just keep the text and pick a different standard to focus on... It's technically informational, but the text is essentially "Bump bump bump. The truck goes bump. Ooh, look! A Lion!"

I decided NOT to use Reading Street. It was scary. It was liberating. It felt great.

Instead, I decided to focus on main idea and details with informational text. Our school has a license for Reading A-Z, which is fantastic. It has leveled books galore, both informational and literature. They even come with comprehension quizzes and lesson plans. I ended up finding a different book for each reading group. We read and discussed the books one day, used graphic organizers to list the main idea and supporting details from A Year of Many Firsts (these are fabulous and you need them,) then took the comprehension quiz the following day. The only thing I kept from Reading Street was the spelling/phonics, phonemic awareness, and grammar. Not that I'm even using the materials any more, but I'm trying to stick to the pacing for those things.

We use EnVision for math, which is aligned to the Core Standards, so that's been much easier...


Does your district have a series that's no longer aligned to the Common Core? How are you adapting?

Stay tuned for some upcoming posts on how I'm adapting my instruction to meet the Common Core standards and how I'm trying involving my students in planning/instruction to meet some of those "distinguished" boxes on our teacher evaluation rubric!
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Monday, August 25, 2014

I survived!

Well, the first day of school is in the books! I adore my firsties already, and I know that I'll just grow to love them more and more as the year goes on. I started off by reading "The Night Before First Grade," which gave us a chance to talk about some of our worries. Took them on a quick building tour since they've never been in the lunch room, etc. Read "Wemberly Worried" and did a super cute craft and writing prompt. They're free and by my blogging friend Wendy. Love them. Had a fire drill. Started my math morning work pages. Got through the first page of math readiness in our math series.


Overall, it was a really good day. Really, it was.

I just can't stop thinking about something another teacher said about the key to happiness. She wasn't trying to be philosophical or anything, but she was talking about a study she had recently read. Literally, scientists found that the key to happiness is lowering your expectations. That's it.

Hold the phone. I was both intrigued and upset by the comment. Not upset that she'd said it, but that somebody proved it. In order to be truly happy, I've gotta go in expecting the worst? You've got to be kidding. But then I started thinking about it. 

I was super stressed today. I'm always super stressed on the first day of school. "Why are you getting out of your seat? You want to go to the bathroom NOW? How did you lose the nose from your craft?! I've told you 12 times to put your chair on the floor."

You get the point. We've all been there. At least, I hope we've all been there. Please tell me I'm not alone in this department.

My thought is this... I always go in to the first day of school remembering where I got my littles to at the END of the previous year. So it's always a bit of a rude awakening when I see just how needy they are. And I kept thinking about that statistic about lowering your expectations. I refuse to admit that it's true, but I do need to remember this... Those kids are still kindergartners when I get them. We haven't had time to teach the policies and procedures yet, so of course they're going to ask to do things they aren't normally allowed to do. These things will come. They always do.

Patience. I need patience. As I teach, they'll get it. I know they will. But on the first day, I forget that. Not that I'll lower my expectations. I refuse to do that. I hold those kids to SUCH a high standard and they learn to meet it. But I do need to learn to be more patient with them as they learn my routines. It will come, and I'll be fine.

It will come, and I'll be fine. Maybe if I say it over and over, I'll get there!

Please tell my I'm not the only teacher who struggles with this? I feel like, especially at the primary level, it's such a surprise at the beginning of each year, but you think I'd be getting used to it??

Daily 5 boot camp starts tomorrow. Day 1 read to self. I literally live for this. The independence that's coming our way is my motivation. I'm pumped.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Classroom Reveal!

It feels SO good to be done with my classroom! My little firsties will be coming Thursday night for back to school night, and I'm pumped! Before I reveal my room, did you hear that TPT is having ANOTHER back to school sale? I'll be discounting my entire store to join in the fun!

Without further ado, I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' to show off my room! Link up to show off yours, too!

Here's the view from the moment you walk in my door. Not sure who decided that those cabinets should be placed in the MIDDLE of the classroom, but we make the best of it. Good news is that the kids' stuff is ALWAYS out of sight. I have a set of mailboxes, so I use their cubbies for their Daily 5 book box. I will pre-load them with a handful of books after back to school night, because I'm starting Daily 5 Boot Camp on day 2! The posters above my sink are all book jackets, and the chalkboard posters are by A Year of Many Firsts... LOVE them.


Here's a closer look at my classroom library... I finally bit the bullet and bought that IKEA leaf I've been eyeing up for YEARS. Luckily, there's a metal contraption in the corner that holds all sorts of wires and such, so I used some UBER strong magnets and hung it. The rug is also from IKEA. Since I only have 19 students this year and about a billion cubbies, I put pillows in the few right by the library so they can sit in there. I also put out some stuffed animals if they want to read with a buddy.


Listening center for Daily 5. Got the chairs from Wal-Mart a few years ago, and the carpet from IKEA. On my closet door, I post what stories are in the listening center, and what track number they are (I make my own CD's for the listening center... read all about it HERE!) Also, our entire district is implementing a new anti-bullying curriculum, so the primary grades are all using Have You Filled a Bucket Today as a starting point. I'll keep you posted on how I use it in my classroom. Do you use bucket fillers? Please share your ideas!!

Thar she blows. A bunch of teachers in my building have fun frog themes or fun pirate themes... My theme is "borderline sensory overload" and I love it. So there.

This is supposed to be the teacher desk... In the middle of the room. I'm not using it this year, and I've started a trend in our hallway!! We're getting 2 more laptops for each room, hence the 4 stools, which are from... wait for it... IKEA! Legit $4.99 a pop. Bare cabinets will soon be sporting writing goals and anchor charts.

Also bit the bullet and got rid of my rocking chair... I'm still a little sad about it. For back to school night, I always have the kids write their name on the chart paper. It's an eye-opening experience and helps me remember that my kiddos are kindergarteners when I get them, which is still scary for me.

Starting left to right, the drawers are my writing center. Each drawer is a different option. Write a letter, post card, list, etc. Daily 5 i-charts and schedule, reading... I divided my board up into general comprehension strategies, nonfiction, and fiction. Underneath is just another spot to read and Jelly Bean, the world's fattest guinea pig in the world.

Since I got rid of my desk, this my command center. I have everything I need right behind me, and since I spend the majority of my day at my reading table, I decided to make it my home away from home.

Back to school night... I don't use newsletters, as you may have read, so I printed out directions on how to follow our class on Instagram, and the digital picture frame has Instagram pictures from the past year. I'm hoping the majority of parents just sign up that night.

I also set up a little giving tree and asked parents to take a leaf or two... Hoping the donations come flowing on the first day! The Giving Tree! Love. I can't take credit for it... Teacher friend, who has started referring to me as "Mr. Pinterest" came up with that all on her own and I stole it!

Is your room done? Link up! I want to see!!
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