Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Holiday Flashback {I should be planning…}

Hi, Friends! How are ya?  It’s a c-c-c-c-cold, rainy day in our neck of the woods, so I THOUGHT I’d sit down to get a jump on planning for the first week back at school. Notice…I said, I THOUGHT……I’ve been staring at a blank screen for over an hour. If I look at it long enough, I’m sure plans will just jump onto the page, right? Mmmmm…wrong, so maybe a little happy flashbacking will get me in the mood to move forward. Wanna join me?


As we moved into the holiday season, all I could think of was having the time to enjoy working with my kiddos in a little more of a relaxed fashion. Music, fun, crafts and lots of memory making. This little project was one of our Thanksgiving favorites…

Anytime a craft is planned, I try to think of what I can do to help my kiddos be successful. In order to get these placemats made, I used a ruler to pre-draw the lines for them to cut through so they’d just have to concentrate on cutting and weaving the mats. Snip, snip, snip…..stop (at the line). Snip, snip, snip…..stop (at the line). Weaving the mats took quite a bit of concentration! The best part of making these mats and memories was having our AP’s come in to make one with us too. At our school, we have 2 and they’re both pretty awesome!


After reading to learn about the very first Thanksgiving, students wrote to share facts…..listened and followed directions to draw Squanto. Didn’t they do a great job?


Just as quickly as Thanksgiving, came….it went. And THEN?! Then, it was time for the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. This year, we spread lots of gingerbread love throughout the entire 3 weeks leading up to the break. These activities were included in my little Gingerbread Literacy packet.


Homophones were a hit! I don’t know what it is about learning about them….my son talked about homophones for years after he completed 1st grade! Long after this lesson was done, my kiddos were still identifying homophones in stories and activities!


Parent gifts left our whole hallway smelling yummy! We used equal parts of cinnamon and apple sauce to create quick, simple dough ornaments for our parents. It was a LOT of fun to watch kiddos create these as a culmination of our gingerbread story week. It didn’t require any big measurements, just two plastic cups filled to the same point….mix, kneed, and cut. That’s it! Oh, and let them dry for a few days…. =)


Love is in the details…..so, we added a little touch of  love by sending them home packaged in a bag decorated to look like Rudolph. When we ran out of bags, unexpectedly, we folded a sheet of brown construction paper into a cone, flattened it and stapled it together to package the remaining ornaments….love my creative kiddos! Necessity is the mother of invention, right? =)


Week 2 brought about a little positive behavior incentive…..On Monday of that week, students completed an Elf Application. Our friendly, classroom Elf on the Shelf took them to the North Pole that night. As he returned each day, he posted 3 or 4 of them on our classroom door that Santa had picked to be elves. Students were selected to be an “elf” for the day to spread Christmas cheer by helping in the classroom and delivering Christmas RAKS to friends around our school. They absolutely LOVED it and couldn’t wait to see who would be selected as the Elves of the Day each morning as they entered the classroom. It was a GREAT behavior incentive that helped to control the chaos of those last two weeks!


Gingerbread Day was just too sweet! What’s to say….they had a great time making their houses!


Thanks for taking this quick trip down Memory Lane with me…I think I’m ready to get to planning now. I’ve really enjoyed the break! I wonder what my kiddos are doing?

Interested in seeing more of what we did leading up to the break? How about our elf shenanigans? You can find more fun in pictures on Instagram. While you're there...follow! I share more pictures there that may not always make it onto the blog.

Alright, alright....I'm gone...back to planning {maybe}. =)

Friday, December 26, 2014


Hi, Friends! How are ya? Did you enjoy your Christmas? It was a loud, crazy, fun-filled day here. Of our family Christmas traditions…I think relaxing in our pjs all of Christmas day is probably my favorite! My daughter, Deja, is a total movie buff…..she loves all things Marvel, action and Avengers….BUT when it was my sister’s and my turn to pick the movie we’d watch….{two women both in their 30’s}…we picked……FROZEN!

Ha! Yep….you read that right, FROZEN! It’s fun to be a kid at heart and we hadn’t watched it in a while. In fact, my kids have kinda all out refused to watch it anymore at all. Sooooo, having belted out Let it Go at the top of our lungs and laughing alongside our favorite little summer-lovin’ snowman, I thought I’d share a little writer’s workshop inspiration with you that we used before the break.


I’m a visual learner…SUPER-DUPER visual & kinesthetic. Gotta wiggle. So when we began a Lucy Calkins lesson on unfreezing our characters, my wheels got to turning! Often times, students will write and illustrate their work in the same old, stiff, forward facing way….welll, insert pictures pulled up from google image search to illustrate how characters have expressions and move and communicate and talk…and, and….to help drive home the point to kids that when we write our characters shouldn’t be frozen.

On Day 1, we completed a quick image search for expressive pictures. We had previously discussed using speech or thought bubbles to help bring our characters to life through thought and conversation. By looking at the images online, it helped us to see that when we’re illustrating our work, characters should move and talk to express themselves too….they should be UNFROZEN. =)

On Day 2 & beyond, we added typed labels to spell characters names correctly and added a word bank of student requested words. The characters were used as inspiration for writing a story, but were not required to be used in the story.


We absolutely couldn’t get started without a little mood music. Illustrating. Writing. Singing. Focused. Focused. Focused. Most students began with illustrations and even my moncho little men were engaged….(though they may not want to openly admit it).


Notice how Elsa is leaning back to unleash her powers? Olaf is “dancing” as he comes to life…


This friend chose to write across 3 pages to create a story about gingerbread ornaments that came to life! Not only is the gingerbread man riding into the story on a skateboard, but by the time the writer got to the third page, he added himself into the story too!

We’re growing as writers and are developing a real love of writing. My kiddos know what days we’re going to hold writer’s workshop and if I go over by a minute without getting started, I get a swift talking to! By incorporating characters they know and love, music that’s dramatic….{who doesn’t need a little dramatic inspiration}, calm lighting, and visual representations of what I want them to be able to do…writer’s workshop has easily become one of the most enjoyable parts of our day.


Our ‘unfrozen’ characters even inspired our holiday door d├ęcor! Frosty met a new friend and the two quickly introduced themselves. Can you imagine how funny it would be if Frosty actually did meet Olaf? I bet he’d be able to explain to him what REALLY happens to snowmen in summer! Ha!

Every year, our campus holds a door decorating contest as part of our Christmas festivities. Guess who’s class won for Most Festive?!!! Yay!!! My girlies decided that it was their awesome snowflakes that tipped the scales in our favor, lol!


Feeling like you’ve hit a slump in writer’s workshop? Just want a fun way to jazz it up a bit in the new year? Bring those characters to life by providing visual examples for your students and using their favorite characters as inspiration. They’ll love it!

What do you like to do to keep the ideas flowing during writing time?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sweet Fold & Learn Fun

Hey, Friends! How are ya? I’m stopping in to share a little peek at our weeks that led up to Christmas. While we ended up having a great time spreading Christmas cheer, it didn’t come without a struggle. One friend shared a cough and achoooo and our whole class was through! Even me! It’s no fun being sick at Christmas time!

When we’re all well, we like using fold and learn activities to make the rigor of math a little more fun! With Christmas just around the corner, we baked up a little gingerbread fun to explore number foundations. Can I share a secret with you? We’re friends, right? Wellllll, I tried my hand at interactive notebooking at the beginning of the year and guess what?! I didn’t like it! {Gasp!} I know……shhhhhhhhh….don’t tell anybody! Those notebooks have collected nothing but dust since Septemberish…

I love all of the awesome products I’ve seen for interactive notebooking…..and I tried! We tried! We REALLY tried! BUT….glueing, cutting and pasting with firsties…in a notebook...nearly drove me bananas! It just didn’t work for me. Now….what did work for my little class of mathematicians is foldables…crafts, 3D graphic organizers….so, we’re getting our interactive learning on this way!


Check out our latest interactive adventure!


I always prep the basics, the bones. Doing this, allows for us to focus on the content of what we’re learning and on following directions to prep the inserts. Here, students reflected on counting forward and backwards by increments of 1. I thought this would be a snap because the numbers are the same, but as students completed this little task…you could almost see steam coming from their ears as they really followed directions to start from the right and move backwards. Counting backwards isn’t as easy as you think…especially, when you’re 6! They absolutely LOVED the novelty of the accordian fold. Did it make ‘em a little wonky? Just a few….my crew of Dwyer Jr’s (the little teachers to-be) stepped right up to help friends that needed a little assistance.


Do you have dice in dice? If not, go get some! They’re a lot of fun and students don’t need two dice to play games…just one. To make numbers, students rolled their dice and used the number of pips on the outside for the digit in the tens place and the number of pips on top of the inside dice for the ones place. Students worked in pairs to roll a number, record it, then used comparative language to describe it as greater than, less than or equal to.


Color coding ALWAYS comes in handy when you’re working with firsties! The first thing we did as we prepared to do a little mental math, was to color code the place for each digit. The tens place was outlined in red and the ones place was outlined in yellow. By doing this, when students were given a specific number, we could check to see if it was put in the correct place according to its value. After recording our numbers, we then practiced naming numbers that were 1 less and 1 more. Easy peasy, right?

We cut the graphic organizer down the middle and placed glue under the ten less strip to glue it down. Then, we placed glue under the ten more strip and glued it down. With one quick snip, we cut each of the horizontal “tens” or red lines….followed by one quick snip to cut the horizontal “ones” or yellow lines. Under the tens digit, students recorded the number that was ten less. Under the ones digit students recorded the number that was ten more than the number named on the outside.


We did the first two numbers together and then they were off and running to practice independently to complete the rest.


We try to focus on solving story problems every Thursday. Here, each student had a single story problem to read and draw a picture to solve. If you look verrrry closely, you’ll notice that because we used a mailing envelope, under the area for the story problem is also a storage pocket. This comes in handy for friends that work at a slower pace that may need to store extra pieces or materials if we have to stop working or have to move on to something else before they’re completely ready.


On the back, we prepared for working with greater numbers. We’ll be working on these same skills when we return in the new year….to 120. Here, students cut and glued to compare numbers to 100 using the math symbols for < and >. This is a picture of the cover…front and back!

Last summer, 2 of my creative co-workers led a training on using mailing envelopes to create graphic organizers. I left so inspired and excited to try them, but knew I’d have to wait until my firsties were ready to handle them. Well, folks…..they handled creating this little gem like champs! Second semester is gonna be so much MORE fun as we bring lots of concepts to life using these interactive, fold and learn activities!

Sadly, the flu bug took a huge chunk out of my sanity during the hustle and bustle leading up to the break. Bad for me….GOOD for you! I’ve listed this little activity in my TPT store for F-R-E-E, BUT just until Friday! Sooooooo, grab it while you can to add to your files for next year. On Friday, it will be priced for sale. Check it out….there will definitely be more to come!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a sweet Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The PERFECT Christmas Gift!

Hey y’all! How are ya? Have you started your Christmas shopping yet…..or are you like me and work best at the last minute, ahem, I mean…..under pressure? Have a teacher friend to shop for or searching for a personal pick me up to prep for returning in the new year? I’ve got the PERFECT solution for you! …….a TPT gift certificate!


I’m teaming up with a group of blogging buds to host a giveaway of nothing but $10 TeachersPayTeachers gift certificates! Not only is it the perfect gift, but you’ll have the opportunity to win more than ONE! Each blogger’s giveaway may vary a little, so be sure to read the rules as you hop from blog to blog. The giveaway will run until December 23rd. You can enter using the rafflecopter below.

Let’s stay connected! Join me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for more firstie fun and teaching ideas to come. I’m looking forward to catching up and sharing all that we’ve been up to now that I’ll have some time to relax! If you’ve never used any of my resources, stop by my TPT store to check them out! While you’re there, download a freebie to check out the quality of my work.  I enjoy creating rigorous work station activities that are simple enough to be kid-friendly, yet challenging enough to meet the rigor of our required standards.


Be sure to visit the link-up below. Enjoy your holiday break and if someone asks what you’d like for Christmas…..remember to tell them....a TPT gift certificate makes the PERFECT GIFT! Merry Christmas and don’t forget to check your email on Christmas Eve to see if you've won! =)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Count Your Blessings {Giveaway}

Hey, friends! How are ya? It’s such an awesome feeling to be enjoying a relaxing morning at home connecting with YOU! Settling in to relax for a week’s break couldn’t have come at a better time! There are so many things that I’m thankful for….as I count my blessings each day, you are definitely among them. We’ll go into that a little more later in the week….BUT today….today, I wanted to stop in to share a fun opportunity with you!


My bloggy bud, Keri, is celebrating her 30th birthday with an awesome giveaway!


Check out what you can enter to WIN!!!


Getting excited yet?!!!

Two giveaways in ONE, be sure to note which one you’re most interested in on rafflecopter. So many great prizes from so many talented teacher-authors! Enjoy and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bright Ideas {Round-UP}

bright ideas round up-02
 Hey, Friends! Welcome to the November edition of the Bright Ideas Link-Up! This one is going to be a little different….and a special one! Loved finding so many bright ideas? Perhaps you missed a few? Well, no worries! Over the past 10 months, we’ve shared 1,000’s of awesome ideas through this fun monthly linky. This month, we’re re-capping all of those awesome ideas in ONE spot for you to catch any that you might’ve missed!

You can check out my previous posts for the year below:   In March, I shared about one of my daily favorites….guided writing! It’s the perfect blend of reading and writing. The journals also serve as a natural way to collect meaningful documentation of student growth throughout the year!

My next Bright Idea was about setting the classroom atmosphere. It is SO important!


June was all about organizing using student numbers. We use them for just about everything!


August…..more organization! Oh, how I’ve loved using THIS bright idea! No more tangled spirals…..


September was all about instructional necessity….implementing [math] Problem of the Day. My kiddos wouldn’t let me skip this part of our routine if I tried! They love it!


In October, I shared a fun find. Initially, it was found during an online search for a shared reading resource. Later, I discovered the FREE was for a limited time only. Sad face……=(


Which…..catches us all up to the here and now!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this quick wrap up, the bright ideas and that you’ve found an idea that you can easily use in your own classroom. Be sure to check out the link up below for tons more bright ideas from my friends!

Enjoy your day!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Five for Friday {Let’s Catch up!}

Hey, ya’ll! I’m FINALLY  coming out of football mom, tired teacher starting the year mode and finding a thing closer to balance! It’s been far too long and I’m dropping in to shoo away all those crickets that have been chirping around the blog! How’ve you been?!

My sonshine played football for the first time this year and let me tell you….IF you’ve never experienced the joy of having a son in a Texas youth football league….it’s taken pretty darn seriously! It was like having a part time job! So, with that being said…I had to take a little break to be present for my favorite player. Noooow, that the season is done, let’s get back to a little blogging fun!

Here’s a little flashback over the last couple of weeks…..


This has easily become my favorite quick foldable! We’ve adopted it from the Frayer model. The Frayer model is used for vocabulary development. The middle section houses a word, with the four surrounding sections dedicated to defining the word, listing facts/characteristics, providing examples and listing non-examples. Wellllll, as you can see, we did not use it for vocabulary, but rather used it as a way of visually organizing information on our papers. Could we use it at a different time for vocabulary? Absolutely! I think this quick organizer will be awesome to use for any number of things!

My students and I work and learn best when we’re creating, when we’re involved in the process of learning without the priority being the end product….so we complete a LOT of graphic organizers and foldables. This one provides us with the space to share the focus concept in the center, while dividing our paper into sections to show our learning. We also usually use them front and back. The example above shows how we illustrated 10’s and 1’s, then used the 120 chart to generate numbers.

I prefold the paper for students by folding the paper into 4 squares, then taking the central corner of the paper and folding it down diagonally to create a triangle. When it’s  unfolded, it reveals a rhombus in the middle with the 4 surrounding sections. Students are then instructed to trace the lines of the rhombus….followed by the 4 lines that are north, south, east, and west of it to create the writing spaces.

You’ll definitely see more of this foldable!


Place value is a tough concept for little learners, so we use lots of hands on fun and games to practice this skill. On this day, we rolled dice to build and compare numbers. Another simple foldable was used to record our learning. One fold straight down the vertical center of the page….the partners rolled, built, wrote numbers and recorded the comparison symbol on the fold line.


Tired of foldables yet? Here’s just one more……I pre-folded the paper. Students traced the fold lines, then we practiced modeling numbers in different forms. Looks simple, right? Not! Remember, these are 1st graders. Awesome 1st graders….that need to wiggle move and take their time to organize their work. We went over each section of the first number together and then students worked to display the different number forms for the last 2 numbers while I rotated around the room helping.

Creating foldables also provides the opportunity for students to listen for my voice and become accustomed to following directions. While our end products are organized well, it’s still the process of creating that gets us the most bang for our learning buck! And you should see the pride shining on their little faces when they see what they’re truly capable of doing! It’s amazing!


Every once in a while, they let me hold the pen too…! Macrons (line placed over long vowels) and breves (indicates short vowel sound)…yep, we talk about those too!


Writer’s workshop is moving right along! We’re enjoying Lucy Calkins lessons and are ALMOST done with our anchor chart. We’ve begun to publish, BUT have got to find the time to add the final step to our chart! That darn clock just keeps on ticking!

Wellllll, that’s what we’ve been up! What have you and your firsties been learning about? See ya again….real soon! =)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Speak a WHO?

Hey, Friends! How are ya?  It’s that time! Time for another bright idea!

This one….has quickly become a class favorite! While searching online for an animated version of our story of the week, I came across an adorable website that couldn’t be a bit easier to use! It’s called Speakaboos. Have you ever heard of it? Speak a WHO? Speakaboos!


If you choose, you can enter an email address to receive a FREE story each month. Free! Yep! I’ll take it! There’s also an app for THAT! Don’t want to enter your email? No worries, just close the window and move forward to the website. It’s super simple, organized wonderfully and reads “everything” as the mouse moves over the screen.

Sooooooo, you know what my kiddos asked to use as their listening station for next week, right?


Yep! You guessed it! Speakaboos! Action stories, fairy tales, sports stories, ABCS & 123s…..students can also click the wheel at the bottom to choose animated stories by character.


The stories can be viewed within a frame or enlarged to fit the entire screen. SUPER kid friendly, beautifully designed…..and now another little resource for you to add to your toolbox!

I hope your class will enjoy it as much as we have. Now a class favorite….the question is no longer Speak a Who? Now, it’s when CAN WE Speakaboo?! Click HERE to visit the site and check it out!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, consider joining me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for more ideas to come!

For more bright ideas from a variety of other bloggers, please browse the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for stopping by! Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Guided Reading Routines

Hi, Friends! How are ya? Ready for the weekend? Me? Oh, yeaauuuuh! It’s been a doozy of a week! The highlight? I finally got to do my favorite thing on the planet! ….work with my kids on reading! TO TEACH! The beginning of the year comes with so many “must do’s” it’s almost as if the actual teaching gets put on the back burner. Welllll, being the type of gal that prefers teaching over assessing any day…..actually getting seated at the guided reading table with a group of kids was an absolute blast!

After introducing our last area for Daily 5, it was time to dig in to the meat of why we spent the 1st 20 days building stamina to work independently.


Last week, I promised to share a little more about our guided reading routines.  As we’re starting to build them….here’s a little peek into our 1st week!


Our guided reading block is a solid 2 hours. Every precious minute of it is jammed packed with mini-lessons and small group activities. The wonderful thing about our schedule is having extended instructional blocks. Our daily literacy block basically flows like this……Guided Reading, then Mini-Lesson, Guided Reading, then Mini-Lesson and Guided Reading, then mini-lesson followed by independent work (if time allows). In the past I had begun with a mini-lesson…..

I chose to start with small group instead of a mini-lesson because our literacy block falls just after intervention. By doing this, I make sure not to do any new teaching of concepts before my littles who may have been pulled out return to the classroom.


Each round begins with students “checking in”. This year, I added “teacher table” clipart to the check-in for the group that is rotating to the table to check in first.


The first thing we do is review sight words.


Students practice writing on a laminated sheet of paper. A whiteboard could be easily used instead. I chose to go this route because taking whiteboards in and out was a little too big and bulky for me. Last year, I used contact paper to adhere them to the table. This year, students and I are sharing the space at the table, so I’ve left them free standing. You can click HERE to grab them, if you think you’d like to use them.

After reviewing 3 sight words, students are introduced to their book for the week or begin rereading their book with prompting. The goal of this time is active processing. I want to see my students encounter challenges and observe them as they problem solve to decode words. It’s during this time that I take individual running records and make notes of student reading behaviors. It generally takes about 8 minutes or so.

After reading, we go over a quick discussion prompt that explores a comprehension strategy.

Then, one new sight word is taught. We go through the 4 activities below in order to learn this sight word. Each student has a little bin in front of them that houses magnetic letters to build the new sight word, pencils, a highlighter, expo marker and an eraser.


Finally, we complete one of two activities. Early in the week, guided reading lessons conclude with word study. At our school, we use Wilson Fundations. It’s at this time, that we work to learn phonics patterns. During visits to the guided reading table later in the week, we complete guided writing or reading responses to deepen comprehension.


My file cabinet sits just behind the table. On word study days, we use these cards for word building. On guided writing days, I provide an example of the graphic organizer students will complete on a small whiteboard. Because it is not used daily, I’ve attached it to file cabinet with velcro. Sticks when we need it….pulls free when we don’t! =)


Guided writing notebooks are kept on a shelf close to the guided reading table. The label on the front of each bin indicates the name of the group…blue, purple, green or red. The symbols also correlate to the leveled readers from our series that we use for guided reading. We’ll use these journals throughout the year to complete guided writing, reading responses, and graphic organizers. They do not leave the classroom.


Here’s an example of the graphic organizer we completed this week over sequence of events. The picture shows 3 out of my 4 reading groups. Same concept…differentiated. The first group responded by recording complete sentences from the story in the order of how they happened in the story. The second group, copied the time order words and illustrated what happened first, next and last. The final group, framed the verbs from their story’s pages and labeled each sticky note with an action from the story. That’s it! The End…ish.=)

Each rotation to the table lasts about 18 minutes…..jam packed from start to finish!


This is the little bin I keep close at hand during guided reading. For now, it houses little pointers, magnifying glasses, pencils, bloom’s questions, LOTS of sticky notes, stickers, coding dots, pictures for vowel sorts and letter formation cards. Other things may be added as the year progresses.

What are my OTHER kids doing while I’m at the table with a small group?


They’re checked into Daily 5. They’re moving through routines for read to self, read to someone, listen to reading, work on writing, or word work to grow as readers and writers.


Of the 5 areas that students work on, I only have to prep materials for two of them. The first one of them is work on writing. There is one sterilite drawer at the writing table. In each of the 3 drawers is an activity to write on a given topic, focus on words, or build sentences. Each activity is complete with an I CAN statement to foster reading independence and a quick confidence boost!


The 2nd of these areas is word work.


Like writing, each bin houses an I CAN statement. All of the materials that students need to complete an activity are inside the bin. These activities will follow a pattern throughout the year to build students’ independence and familiarity.


How do I motivate students to complete quality work? The simplest, easiest thing that I’ve found to motivate my students is hanging their work up for ALLLLLL to see!


A clip up comes with having your work framed as an example for your friends to follow too!


And how do my students feel about this time of day? Oh, just like I DO! They love it……


Thanks for being patient as it took me a little longer than expected to get this post up! Getting ready for the week ahead? Click the pic below to grab the activities that my firsties will be working on! You can click HERE to check out my lesson plan format.

Happy guided reading, friends!

fun at school


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