Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Heyo! I'm here, having survived 4 in-service days in a row!  They were actually beneficial, which made the whole week (which had the potential to be rather painful) go by much faster!  We went through intruder training, which was just as scary as it sounds, but I left feeling empowered and prepared.  I also had the opportunity to present TWICE during those 4 days... Once on Daily 5, and once on Spelling City during a technology in-service, which was pretty neat!  I actually just blogged about some of the features of spelling city over on Collaboration Connection.  Go check it out!

Collaboration Connection

Anywho, there's been lots going on in life and I wanted to share some pictures!

First of all, and most importantly, I said "I do" to my best friend 3 years ago today... Isn't she gorgeous? She's a keeper.

I had the chance to play Anthony in Sweeney Todd, a part that I've been singing in the car for years... Totally a once in a lifetime experience.
 That's me as a sailor!

 Had to hold a real gun. I think I peed a little.

My romantic counterpart is another teacher in my district... Ha!

I had my students make these picture frames as end of the year gifts for their parents... I absolutely love the way they turned out.  Picture frames from Michael's for $1 (plus teacher discount) and props from the Dollar Tree.  I put bulletin board paper over my whiteboard and wrote the words "When I grow up, I want to be..." then had the students tell me what to write on the chalkboard. 

I've got lots of posts in the works, AND a giant giveaway, too (I just hit 1,000 followers on instagram!) Stay tuned!
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Techno Thursday!

Greetings! I've been using my iPad more and more every day in my classroom! I wanted to share a few new fun (and some free!) things we've been enjoying in first grade! Before I start mentioning apps, I must also tell you about THE most amazing thing I've heard of in quite some time. If you already knew this was possible, please ignore my enthusiasm. If you have a digital projector in your room, you can hook an Apple TV into the back to wirelessly stream WHATEVER is on your iPad directly through your projector. Our amazing PTO purchased one for me, and it's been a lifesaver. It's great for introducing new apps, projecting student work, the possibilities are endless... Look into it!

Our MOST favorite app is currently Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App! by Mo Willems... If your students are as obsessed with Mo Willems as mine our... Well, let's face it, I'm obsessed, too... They'll LOVE this app! It allows you to create your own Pigeon stories with endless possibilities, and even lets you record YOUR voice to be read within the story... Has provided endless entertainment during inside recess with all this rain! Highly recommend. There's even a Pigeon drawing tutorial. PLUS, the whole thing is narrated by Mo Willems. My kids were over the moon.

*Click to view in the app store*

*Click to view in the app store*

We just started our fractions unit, and I found this SUPER simple and *FREE* pizza fractions app. My kids love it. 

 *Click to view in the app store*

*Click to view in the app store*

Another math favorite is SLIDE! There are multiple versions of this game... some free, some paid, but all the same general concept. It's designed for 1-4 players, and students simply "slide" the right answer to the center. I love how one student sits on each side of the iPad. They rock at sharing this game.

*Click to view in the app store*

Any favorite apps that keep your kids busy and engaged?
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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Attend the Tale...

Sweeney Todd opened last night, and I couldn't be happier! We auditioned before Christmas, so this has been well over 4 months in the making!

That's me on the far right dressed as a sailor, and that's my wife right beside me dressed as a tart... HA! 9 more performances left. If you live near Harrisburg, we're playing the Whitaker Center for 3 weekends.

And in other news, a blogging buddy of mine is having a giveaway to celebrate her 1 year TPT-versary! Head on over to What Happens in 27 and check it out. I'm giving away a copy of my Math Morning Work Bundle... There's also a full class set of chair pockets, response cards, number puzzles and much much more! She's picking one winner for each item.

Now that the show is open and I won't have rehearsal anymore, I'm making a promise to myself to take more pictures of what's going on in my classroom to share with you!!
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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Learning Lessons with Molly Lou!

Hi all! Loooooong time, no update. I've got Sweeney Todd rehearsals pretty much every day of the week at this point. Free time is few and far between. As we get closer to the show opening, I'll share some pictures... It's gonna be pretty epic.

ANYWHO, I wanted to share some things we've been doing lately!

I'm sure many of you know my good friend Molly Lou Melon. She's a peach. Love her.

Anyways, my principal told me he was going to do a formal observation during reading. I do reading group, ten minute mini-lesson, reading group, ten minute mini-lesson, etc. So he said he'd come for one mini-lesson and one reading group. I read them Molly Lou Melon the day before then when he came, we focused on Common Core standard RL.1.2 (Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson). So, we went back through the story to try and figure out what Molly Lou learned about herself. I was getting "so-so" responses such as "she learned to stand tall and sing loud" and then out of the blue, one of my BOYS goes "she learned to believe in herself." *BOOM!* I could not have said it better myself. I love those moments when they REALLY bring it when you're being observed. After figuring out the lesson she learned, I really wanted to focus on details from the text that helped us realize what she learned...

Again, it was going well, then one of my little ladies said "the letter that Molly wrote to her Grandma at the end said 'you were right.'" *DING DING!*

This week in Reading Street we read Peter's Chair, which I LOVE. I wanted to take this skill and have the students review the story, looking for the lesson that Peter learned, as well as what details in the text lead them to realizing that. I had them work in pairs using a graphic organizer from this Common Core graphic organizer pack. If you don't already have it, get it. It's been a lifesaver. Lyndsey from A Year of Many Firsts, if you're reading, this pack is amazing.

I hope you're enjoying the sunshine wherever you are... It's a little chilly in PA right now, but sipping coffee with the heat on while seeing the sunshine is making me THINK it's almost summer. I'll take it.
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Lesson Planning Made Easy!

Hey, all! I just posted on The Collaboration Connection about how I do my lesson plans. I've tried MANY different ways of planning, but I think I finally found what works best for me! Check it out :-)

Collaboration Connection

Happy Monday! I hope the weather where you are is as nice as the weather in Central PA! It's gorgeous today!!
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Guest Post from MRS. First Grade: Recording Your Own Audiobooks!

Mrs. First Grade recording Green Eggs and Ham
Hello, all! This is Mrs. First Grade (that's right, I'm the lucky gal who gets to hang out with Mr. First Grade every day), dropping by to show you how to create your own audiobooks for free! As a songwriter who frequently records demo tracks at home, I've had the opportunity to play with multiple programs that can record audio, but I want to show you a method that's easy, intuitive, and works with the built-in microphone on your computer.

The first time I tried this method was when I took a graduate class on new media and literacies. I had to create a sample book talk on The Lovely Bones that included two voices and music, and it worked like a charm! Here's how to make your own.

How to Record Your Own Audiobooks

First, go to the Audacity website and download the program-- it's free and doesn't take up much space on your hard drive.

Then, follow the instructions to download the LAME MP3 encoder, which allows you to export your Audiobooks as MP3 files-- which you can easily open on any computer, tablet, or phone!

Once you've finished those two easy steps, you're ready to start recording! Watch my screencast below to get a glimpse into how it works. I take you through the whole process, from beginning to exporting.

It really is as simple as it seems! I hope you decide to give it a try-- your students will go nuts for these recordings (especially if your spouse helps you record some books-- I felt like a celebrity when Andrew's students listened to mine!). It's easy to keep your listening centers up to date with the books you really want them to listen to, not just the ones that are on sale for 99 cents!

Drop a line in the comments section if you have questions, and we'll do our best to help you troubleshoot any issues you might run into. Happy recording!

~Mrs. First Grade

Cori is an eleventh grade English teacher who works with economically and socially disadvantaged students. She is pursuing her masters in English education and enjoys spending her rare moments of free time with the two men in her life-- her husband, Andrew, and their adorable dog, Charlie.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mentor Sentences!

Hello friends! We had a faculty meeting about teaching grammar the other day... Our director of elementary education shared with us the idea of using a mentor text or sentence to teach grammar. I was like a kid in a candy shop. She said something along the lines of "these ideas are great for grades 2-5..." Womp womp. My heart sank. But then I started thinking. Obviously, at the beginning of the year, it would be very difficult to do this, as we are JUST introducing parts of speech. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my little firsties were ready for something like this.

Last week, I read Bear Snores On as a read aloud and the kids loved it. Since we use Reading Street, we've been talking about changes and how animals do different things in the winter.

*Click the picture to find this book on Scholastic*

This week, Reading Street was focusing on adjectives, and while I never use the grammar worksheets every once in a while, I decided that I wanted to beef up my grammar instruction a bit. I chose the first sentence of the book as my mentor sentence:

"In a cave in the woods,
in his deep, dark lair,
through the long, cold winter
sleeps a great brown bear."

I chose to do this in guided reading groups this week, as I was TOTALLY unsure how my students would respond, and I sort of wanted to be able to compare their reactions based on their reading levels. After I read the sentence to them, I asked the students WHY they thought I had chosen this sentence... I was blown away.

One of these was from my below-level reading group... I won't tell which one! They blew me away. By the end, they were practically BEGGING me to tell them WHY I'd chosen this as a mentor sentence. After we talked about how adjectives make a sentence more descriptive, I had the students complete this little worksheet.

I had the students first circle the nouns in the sentences. After that, we talked about different adjectives that could be used to describe those nouns. They rocked it. Made my day.

Do you use mentor sentences to teach language arts?
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