Saturday, September 28, 2013

Journeys' “Blue Button”

Hi-ya, peeps! How are ya?

We’ve had a great week in our neck of the woods. It’s been a busy one and I’m getting ready to comb through data to prepare for our first week of small group/guided reading. {Pray for me!} Ha! I love looking over it all because it’ll provide me with my starting line for instruction. And admittedly, I get a little worked up before I calm down and begin planning. Standing at the starting line can be a tad overwhelming looking at how far you have to go. Will we get to the finish line? Yes sir’ee, we sure will! We’ll have fun, work our little hineys off and press forward toward the goal of leaving first grade as independent thinkers, readers, and writers.

As we begin our journey, one of the tools that we use is an online component of our reading program. Our routines for Daily 5 are all in place. We’ve built our stamina up to a good place to begin pulling small groups. Now you’d think this post would be about small group, but it ISN’T. Stick with me….my mind wanders {but usually to good places}.

IF you use Journey’s reading series, you’re one lucky duck! It’s one of the fantastic resources we use that is full of great pieces for the {balanced literacy} classroom. One of the components of the series is an amazing website that provides supplemental materials that include the online version of the student books.

See that little button? I don’t know what its official name is so I call it the “blue button”. Well, if you click on it, it’ll take you to a few hidden treasures! Did YOU know they were there? Well, our team didn’t, but we sure were happy to have found it. Now we have another tool to throw in the toolbox for our mini-lessons…(before getting down to the nitty gritty in small group).

When you click it, it brings up a choice of grammar, phonics or comprehension skills practice in a attention grabbing, colorful, game-like format.


This is an example of the grammar game. The focus is adjectives. As each word pops up on the screen, the little character changes to reflect the description provided by each adjective. Fun. Interactive. And visual…



This hungry frog eats the fly that says the correct vowel sound. I definitely wouldn’t want to be THAT fly! Yuck, lol!

When you click on the comprehension tab, it brings up a story that is connected to the theme of the main story to listen to reading and make connections. You get the picture. Great resource, huh?

If you might’ve been wondering about that little button, I hope this post helped you to discover another tool to toss into your toolbox to guide your “littles” toward being thinkers, readers, and writers too.

I’ve been asked several times about pacing and how we move through the course of the day, so I’m working on a post to answer that question. I should be able to wrap it up this weekend…should be! I’ll see ya soon…the kids and I are off to see Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.

Enjoy your weekend!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Five for Friday~Work on Writing

Hi-ya, peeps! How are ya?

Another Friday has rolled around! I’m linking up with Kacey from Doodlebugs Teaching to reflect over our week. I know I mentioned trying to get back to add my lesson plans….hopefully this week will be the one! Wish me luck on managing my time. I’m working on it! =)

We’ve had a great week! It was our 4th week of school and with it came the introduction of work on writing. Before I left work last Friday, I made sure all of our supplies were set and ready to go. Perfect laid plans….and you know what happened on Monday? The kids came….and then it all changed! Ha! They came in, moved to the station to work on their stamina and boom! Just like that…..we made changes right away because they viewed using the materials differently than I did. But, guess what?!

Their way worked better for them, so we made the changes….adapted and they worked wonderfully throughout the week. I’m a little nervous about having all 4 of them at the same table, so we’ll see how that goes for now.


Included in their choice of materials is the reader’s notebook they keep in their book boxes. They can complete writings from morning work in it or start a new story. The little storage drawers contain writing paper. Choices 1 and 2 are activities students can use to practice specific skills if they have a little trouble coming up with a topic. The poster on the table is from a book of mini-posters to provide a little help with challenging vocabulary. Those will be changed out on a regular basis. The writing station is also located right under the word wall for students to use it as a reference.


The blue bin on the end was one of the first things to go…it holds our poetry journals. The kids didn’t have enough room to write comfortably, so its been relocated to the shelf where we house word work supplies.

Click the pic below to download the goodies we used if they’ll work for you too!

writingstation wk4

Students are being guided as we begin working on writing, but will soon have the independence to write about a topic of their choice during Daily 5. We’ve brainstormed ideas and created an anchor chart that I forgot to take a picture of! For now….and with all of our station activities, inside the “choice” drawers is an ‘I Can…’ statement that lists an expectation and paper to complete the activity. These little statements serve the purpose of providing students with purpose, guidance, and a little reading practice!

AND…in our classroom, its a standing rule that we don’t use the two words…I CAN’T. That’s a big no no. When my kiddos come to school each day, I want them to know from the time they come in and begin working that they CAN and WILL be successful at anything they put their minds to.


This week, we also began prepping what we’ll need for our word work station. Do you  know of a place that sells extra long pocket charts? I’m sure there probably is one, but today…we used industrial strength velcro to hang two layered together to create one! Easy…quick and FREE! You only notice if you look closely, but now we have a pocket chart that’s about my height {I’m not very tall.} that students can use to complete word sort activities each week. It’s also double sided…so we use the other side during math stations in the afternoons.


Nouns and verbs have been introduced! This was a quick sketch at the carpet today as we reviewed nouns.

My kids totally knocked my socks off when they started rattling off math words to add to our verb anchor chart! It proved that singing ‘I Can Spell my Math Words’ every day has been a real hit! So much so, that we shared the pen for them to help me list words. Some of the verbs on the chart also came from Dr. Jeans’ Verbs song.  Now that we’ve introduced both nouns and verbs, we can move on to using them in complete sentences! With each passing week…we add a little more, build on what we know and add a little more!

We worked really hard this week and smiled through most of it! My kiddos amaze me just a little more every single day. Next week, we’ll introduce the final piece to the puzzle for Daily 5…word work and full on choice!

Well, as we tweak things to get them just right…..a little change must come!

writing miniposter1314

I’m going to add this little cutie as a reference, next week. I loved finding this clipart set from Nikki at Melonheadz Illustrating because I’ve found myself using these very words over and over and over again as we’ve begun to focus on writing. Here’s a second option.

Click either of the pictures to download and print them if you can use them in your writing station.

Have a great weekend! Laters, gators!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Whew!!! We’ve been busy!

How about you? How are ya? It’s been a long couple of weeks since I’ve updated the little bloggity blog so let’s jump right into it!

I can hardly believe that we have already completed a whole 3 weeks of school! Man! Time has certainly flown by! With each passing day, we’ve learned a little more and are working a little harder to build habits for our routines and procedures. We’ve even managed to squeeze in some science!

It’s actually integrated into our time for writer’s workshop. Hey! There’s only so many hours in a day and a firstie has gotta do what a firstie has gotta do! It’s been working for us so far.


Creating anchor charts is always a fun way to document our learning. BUT, who says they have to be on paper?! My neighbor across the hall uses these awesome window markers to preserve her kiddos thoughts. How cool is that?! I bet her kids had a ball with this. It was my first time seeing these so I thought they were a perfect thing to share! Aren’t they just the cutest? She has lots of cool ideas tucked away in her room. I’ll have to introduce ya to her soon…


We’ve begun to jump into the “good stuff”. I’m always excited about that first week, but just practicing routines makes me a little wonky {because I get tired of hearing my own voice} and I look forward to beginning working with our curriculum. There’s so much packed into 1st grade! We don’t have a minute to waste!

We started our adventures in Reading Land by working with words containing short a. The pictures above show two different ways that we chose to brainstorm and read words. The kids had a ball working in groups with their friends to create their own word webs! I’ll admit, my head was hurting just a bit after this activity from running back and forth between the 4 groups, but they were pretty proud of the end result so it was worth it. Can you tell which group included a couple of future teachers?


Now, while I get pretty darn tired of hearing my own voice during the first few weeks of school, I do KNOW how important routines are. We absolutely take our time to learn routines because knowing them {or not} determines the course for the rest of the year. Knowing routines and following them makes all the difference in being able to actually learn or NOT….and in our room, we’re ready to rock! The day we got to 10 minutes of building our stamina for stations, I almost cried. FOR REAL! I was so proud of my new crew. They thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen, but I was just so darn proud of them!

Some might say…what’s so impressive about working for 10 minutes? I’d invite them to have a 6 year old do ANYTHING for 10 minutes straight, ha! LOL!!! We rocked and rolled all the way into week 3 when we began listening to reading!


With listening to reading, students were also given the opportunity to practice choice. I know its not formally introduced until later in the Daily Five, but what else would I have the rest of the class do while 4 friends learn how to use the listening station? We went over the expectations for checking in, practiced and guess what? They did it! You can find the link for the check in board included HERE  in a previous post about how literacy stations will run when all have been introduced. We'll also review check in procedures at that time.

I whole heartedly believe in teaching my students every little, teeny, tiny thing I want them to do, how to do it, and when to do it…..then…..well, I trust them to do it. I get out of their way and I let them meet the expectations that have been set for them. Most of them time, it works well. Of course, these are real-life little human beings, so sometimes we have to go over things again and there’s always that ONE. You know the one, lol!

One thing I find that helps is having students repeat the directions back to me and asking them if they understand what is expected of them? By doing that we both come to a common understanding of the expectation.

Overall, things have gone well and I am excited about this school year!


After our literacy mini-lessons and building of stamina for station routines, we’ve had a little time to practice what we’ve learned. In week 2, we moved on to another vowel sound and ended the week with a little sorting activity. It’s from one of my favorite books, All Sorts of Sorts.

See the little drawings in blue?

Anytime, students have independent work to complete, I provide them with visual directions to help them remember each step to complete the task. It helps to keep us on track. If a student should forget, they can look up at the board and use the visual cues as little reminders.

Thanks for hanging in there with my ramblings about our last couple of weeks! Below is a little freebie that you’re welcomed to click and grab. You can also check out my actual lesson plans by clicking HERE to download them. We’ll begin working in small groups in about two weeks. The form will expand to include them at that time. If I get my plans completed before midnight tomorrow, I’ll come back and add next week’s too. =)


Leave a comment to share a little of what you've been up to! Laters, gators!


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