Saturday, May 9, 2015

Filling Buckets with Class Books {Love Notes}

Hi, Friends! Long time, no blog! We’re down to the final stretch of the school year and things are starting to clear away a little….we have exactly 18 days left! 18! That’s it!

While it’s hard to believe that we ARE actually in the days of the final countdown, we have worked hard as a little school family and are ready for some rest and relaxation! I’m linking up with my bud, Kacey for a Five for Friday bucket filling idea!


As we’re winding down the final six weeks, our focus in writer’s workshop is creating class books. By doing so, we can review a number of topics in a fun way that the kids can’t wait to get their hands on. Alliteration. Rhyming. Phonics patterns. Conventions. Punctuation…..BUT, most of all….filling buckets and continuing to build our classroom community right up until the very last minute!

Like normal, I gave my littles a voice in the planning of this endeavor. We brainstormed a list of topics they’d like to write about. After compiling the list, students voted to choose their ‘Top 3’ ideas. To my surprise, their #1 choice was little ole ME! I have the best class of littles on the planet, but it can be a little scary to give them free reign to write a book about YOU! =)

After a little prayer…..and prepping a cover… [Yep, they told me EXACTLY what they wanted on that too!]…the kids set to work with a starter sentence to give the book a little rhythm. The starter sentence was……Ms. Dwyer is my teacher. Beyond that, they added anything they liked to describe me as a teacher and tell what or how I taught them in 1st grade. We were reviewing adjectives that week and let me tell you, those little stinkers made me cry! Like….for REAL TEARS!!! I cried! I tried to wipe them away and play it off, but ya’ll, the things they said were so heartwarming…..and I’m a big ole softie when it comes to my kids…..melted my heart as I read every page! That little book is one I’ll treasure for a long, long time!

….and just like THAT, one idea birthed ANOTHER!


It started with bringing adjectives to LIFE! We used one courageous friend as a living anchor chart! This brave little stood at the carpet, glowing from ear to ear as friends used adjectives to describe HER. As they provided adjectives, I jotted them down quickly and we labeled away!


We couldn’t exactly leave her there standing all day, so we created a “Flat Stanley” version and placed the sticky notes on the chart. After the adjectives were added, she got to add a noun under each adjective to name what it was describing. The next day, we used the chart as a class again to review each item students described and how we use adjectives in sentences before beginning a surprise project! It was super top secret and we had a limited amount of time to get it down while our friend was out of the classroom!

Did you notice the other little book covers on the 1st picture? Well, if my bucket was filled as an adult getting such a sweet gift from my class of littles, I got to thinking about how each of them would feel getting the same thing! So, as one of my littles was out of the room, we each sat down and wrote a note to tell her exactly how terrific she is! As she returned, I projected the book on the document camera and turned the pages. Each student read the page aloud and you could just see the pride and warmth bursting from each of their pores! It was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen as a teacher. To hear each student, one by one, tell a classmate what makes them special…..especially, during the wonky times of these last few days was uh-mazing!!!!

I wish I had taken pictures of the actual book, BUT I think its now under guarded lock and key because the student receiving it LOVED it just that much! Each day from then until the end of the year, we’ve decided to fill a bucket for a friend or two! Love, love, love my littles and the care they show for each other.


Our guided reading groups have all blended to form strategy groups. During the first 20 days of school, we worked to build routines to foster a collaborative learning environment. During the final 20 days, students are collaborating and sharing what they’ve learned throughout the year as they review comprehension skills in mixed ability groups. In short, they’re teaching each other! Again…..teacher heart melted!


We’ve had a great year filled with lots of learning with great friends! While I get a little teary eyed this time of year, it’s only because I’m so proud of my kiddos. They don’t need me anymore. I’m just in the room to make sure there’s adult supervision. They know the routines because they’ve helped to create them and practiced them all year. They’re working together. They’re teaching each other…..and they’re ready, ready for all 2nd grade has to offer! And me, I’m the lucky one….because I got to be a part of their journey! I got the privilege to make learning fun!

…..and that little book that we created as a surprise? The student receiving it, proudly declared THAT day as the BEST day of her life! She felt special and was stronger than me because she was able to hold back her tears of joy! It’s the little things that make teaching so fulfilling, that remind me daily of why the extra effort to love on each kiddo in my class is the most important part of what I do. It’s what makes the learning possible.


Think your class might like to end the year filling each other’s buckets too? Click the pic above to grab a cover and a writing page insert to use! There are options to print the cover in color or in black in white to be colored. There are also 3 different simple double-sided writing pages to choose from. Enjoy these last few days…summer will be here before you know it!


Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Smart Art: A Very Grouchy {Reading & Math} Craftivity

Hi, Friends! Has spring fever sprung in your classroom already? I think my class had bowls and bowls of Loopy Fruits before school on Friday…but I think, I think we managed to survive it!

It also turned out to be a very grouchy day in our classroom….BUT, in a good way!


Our smart art for the week was a fun connection between reading and math. Initially, my kiddos were wondering why we were doing math during our Daily 5 block, but after we got started with a fun interactive reading of Eric Carle’s The Grouchy Ladybug they quickly understood! Reading this book together was fun and everyone was able to participate because of the repetitive “call and respond” pattern found in the text.


This little activity helped us to wrap up our time unit, practice retelling, review shapes and use fractions in a fun way!

Each student was given a time taken from the story to represent in 3 different ways…how they would “read” the clock in words, how it would appear on a digital clock and how it would appear on an analog clock. That bold little ladybug had quite the busy day, so there were lots of times to represent!


The clock hands were colored to match our classroom set of Judy clocks. Each student had to show their time and get a thumbs up before gluing it to the clock face. After gluing the hands to the clock or ladybug’s body…students wrote to fill in their ladybug labels, then cut and glued them to the wings. In our classroom, students have creative control…so they did not all have to create their ladybug in the exact same way….BUT they had to make sure their analog time was visible after having glued the wings on.

See the whiteboard in the background? That was my little example projected onto the board to serve as a guide for their completed project.


We have new math standards in TX this year…the ending of the story worked very well for explaining “about time” or how we use quarter hours on the clock too. As the little ladybug flies through the story picking fights she moves from hour to hour. At the end of the story, she harasses a whale every quarter hour, which made for a great “teachable moment”.

After leaving for lunch and recess to let our little ladybugs dry, we returned to the classroom to retell the story. Each student grabbed their little ladybug and we sat in the hall in front of our lockers. Our intent was to sequence the times in the order of the events of the story {and hang them on the lockers] and we DID….BUT, HOLY MOLY did it look busy once we were done! I couldn’t even look straight at our lockers without getting dizzy! LOL!

Sitting in the hallway added a little novelty to the lesson too! With spring fever in full swing, finding new spots to learn in will be definitely be on the agenda!


See?! BIIIIII-ZZZY! Look away….scroll down, before your eyes begin to cross!


Whew! Much better!

If you look very closely, there are two little empty spots. Smart art is serious FUN, but also serious business. Students ONLY get to participate in smart art IF they have completed the two “must do” activities from work stations during the week. If it is not completed, then they must use their smart art time to become, well……smarter…and complete the work that was required of them. NO “must-do”, no smart art.This practice prevents students from being rewarded without having earned it. In our classroom, we have a lot of fun. Students are rewarded well, but it is because we make things look easy by doing the hard work, first. =)


Feeling grouchy? Click the pic above to grab this little activity for your class of ladybugs!

Happy reading! =)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: Strategy 7

Hi, Friends! This strategy is all about using manipulatives, experiments, labs, and models. We’re teaching at a time when assessment has been placed at the forefront of well, just about….everything. Often times, we rush too quickly to abstract paper and pencil tasks without allowing students adequate time to enjoy concrete experiences. By using hands-on objects that students can touch, manipulate, change, pull apart, put together to create…we help them to build a deeper understanding of concepts that will be easily remembered in order to apply the learning to real world situations.

How many students do you have that get frustrated or misbehave when a piece of paper is put in front of them or even flat out refuse to complete work? The frustration may not be with the work itself, but in being rushed to show it in a way that is uncomfortable…too soon. In the real world, no one takes away our support. No one insists that we “figure it out” and solve problems based on memory alone. We have calculators , fingers….tools and apps that we use to solve problems….all.the.time. So, why do we as teachers take away support from students because we feel they’ve grown dependent on it or have used it for too long?


Students understanding of mathematical ideas is broadened when they’re allowed to use concrete representations. In our classroom, when students visit work stations, manipulatives are provided as support. If students need them, they have assess to them. If they don’t, they’re not required to use them.


Before beginning independent work, examples of expected outcomes are projected to provide clarity…


…and a quick reference {example}. Using manipulatives can also provide game-like opportunities for learning.


In order to display our understanding of edges and vertices, students constructed models of 3-Dimensional figures using toothpicks and marshmallows. (I’m sure there were a few missing vertices, by the time this lesson was done!)


We could have read lots of books, colored pictures, looked at video clips....and we did, BUT none of those things could replace getting our hands dirty to plant real seeds.  Planting in our classroom is definitely an experiment because growing dendrites might be a talent, but growing plants is NOT! Ha!


When we compared living organisms to non-living objects last year, the kids couldn’t wait to get their hands on worms! Real…icky, slimy…wet, muddy worms! Yuck! Now, while I enjoyed watching them enjoying themselves….the gummy worms were more my speed! Lol! =)


Concrete experiences like this and labs also help ELLs when focusing on new vocabulary and concepts at the same time! There’s no doubt, every student in the room knew the difference between the living worm and the non-living gummy worm…not to mention, which one tasted better!


So, the next time you’re planning….think of  tactile ways to engage students in learning! Kids remember what they experience and DO!


I love my big take away or “aha” from this chapter. Provide students with the support they need for as long as THEY need it. It’s not up to me to decide it’s time to force them away from it. When a student is ready to show what they know independently, they’ll tell me they no longer need the aid or simply stop using it. Let them guide the learning. Let them touch, manipulate, feel, and experience as much learning as possible with their whole bodies. Paper and pencil tasks should be the very last step in learning….learning IS in the doing.

Allow students to use manipulatives, conduct experiments, build models and watch them flourish! Hands-on learning is FUN!

Stop by Mrs. Jump's Class to hop through the other posts about this chapter. Enjoy!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...