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. 


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.


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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Sunday, August 10, 2014

B2S Tips & Tools FREEBIE Blog Hop!

I'm so happy to be joining up with some fellow PA bloggers for this little back to school blog (and freebie) hop!

This year, I told myself that I was going to stay out of my classroom for all of June and July. I made it to around June 29, and I couldn't stand it anymore! I am by NO means ready, but I've gotten a lot of work done. Headed back tomorrow to finish putting things away so I can start to PLAN!


I know. Great tip, right? In all seriousness, last year I made the decision to STOP SENDING HOME NEWSLETTERS! *gasp*

Now, hear me out. I am ALL for the newsletters, but I found myself typing the exact same thing, week after week... "Our spelling test will be on Friday just like it's been every week" or "In math we're studying ten-frames which you would know if you read your child's papers." I was determined to find a better way to stay in contact with parents in a meaningful way.


I set up an Instagram account for my classroom where I posted a few pictures each day of what my students were doing... Right there, right then. I sent home a letter explaining how it works and told parents how to download the app and how to follow me. It started off slow, but it got to the point where parents were liking and commenting on our pictures almost immediately. We had GREAT fun looking through our daily pictures and comments at the end of our school day. It was a great way to review what we did that day, and the students LOVED seeing their parents commenting on their picture!

Setting up an account is free and easy. Download Instagram from the app store and sign up when you are prompted. I just used my first and last name as my username to make it easy for parents to find. I made my account private, so only families in my classroom could view it. Go to "Edit Your Profile" and choose "Posts are Private" to make your account viewable only to your followers.

Ten Frame "I Have Who Has"

My tool for you is a game that you can use at the beginning of the school year to practice early number sense. One of our first math topics refers to 10-frames, so I'll be using this little game as a quick review! Enjoy!!

Thank you for stopping by my blog today! I hope you enjoy my little freebie.  I'd LOVE for you to follow me on Bloglovin' or Instagram to stay up to date on my new products and posts!

 Don't stop reading here!  We have more tips and tools for you.  

Follow the link to visit the wonderfully talented Autumn from First Grade Teacher Lady!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Word Work & DIY Magnets

Hello, all! I was having a discussion with a fellow blogger a week or so ago, and finally came to the realization of why I don't post much over the summer. I have nothing to blog about! Now that I'm gearing up for the next school year, I've got LOADS to share! Also, I gave my blog a LITTLE facelift... Added some navigation buttons at the top and spruced up the side a bit. Hope you like!

First of all, I just posted a new product! my Word Work Bundle is jam-packed with 87 pages to get your littles practicing their spelling words! There's some pages designed to be used with any list, and there's some pages that focus on Dolche's 1st and 2nd grade list. Check it out!

*Click picture to view on TPT*
Add it to your cart and snag it during the big TPT back to school sale! I'm adding an additional 20% off in my store during the sale...
300 × 300

I also posted a picture of the magnetic letters I made for my kids to use at the word work center, and I wanted to give you a quick demo of how I made them... SUPER EASY!!

First off, you'll need a few things:
-Magnets: I found ones that are .75 in. wide.
-Circular hole puncher: it should be the same size (.75 in.)
-Strong, clear glue
-Clear glass marbles (should be roughly the same size as your magnets)
-Scrapbook paper

To start off, I zipped my scrapbook paper through my printer to print out the numbers and letters I wanted to make. I tried using a sharpie to write the letters, but the glue made the ink bleed. Printer ink = no problem. If you get the same size magnets I got, I used KG Primary Penmanship size 42... All her fonts are FREE for personal use, so check them out!!

Anywho, Once you've got your numbers/letters punched out, add a small amount of glue to the magnet and press that sucker on top. You'll definitely want to do this part on some newspaper or a craft table. I used the sports section, since it's rather useless in this household. You might have some glue squeeze out the side... Just wipe it away. Add another small amount of glue and press the glass marble right on top. That's it. It's seriously that easy.

I made an alphabet set and some fun ones to use on the board, and I'm in the process of making numbered magnets to use for lunch count... Stay tuned for how I'm going to use them!!

Good luck and have fun! The possibilities are endless :-)
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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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