Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Treat for the LAST day of school

Hi Friends! How are ya? These first few days of summer have flown by! It’s been full of fun surprises. In the midst of enjoying the summer sun, my teacher brain is still spinning away! I thought I’d drop in today to share how we ended the year on a sweet note!

I was recently introduced to Treat’s {a division of Shutterfly} awesome site! If you know me personally or have hung around the blog for any length of time, you know I LOVE pictures, photographs, snapshots! Whatever you call them; if there’s a camera present….I’m snappin’ it! I love capturing memories!

Capturing memories is so much fun. Actually getting the images out of your phone or camera onto print or a special gift is even better!


I love ending the year by giving my kiddos a little something to remember our year together. This year, I chose a personalized greeting card that fit our class’ personality perfectly!


My class of mostly boys was all about a little friendly competition, games, fun, ninjas, and MORE games!


When it came time to select a card that would fit our class….and I saw one that resembled a video game, I knew it was the one! I tried to keep them a secret until later in the day, but judging by my friend’s artwork, I believe a few of them might’ve gotten a sneak peek!


We used the cards as “complimats” to shower friends with compliments! As part of our wrap-up to a fantastic year, students brainstormed a list of quick sayings to jot down on friends’ cards, if they needed a little help. We talked about things friends could say that made us feel warm and fuzzy…..then we were off to spread a little love through compliments, smiles, taking turns and lots of chit chat.


The message on both the outside and inside of the cards was able to be customized. My kiddos were all smiles seeing favorite phrases that we use in our classroom on a daily basis and proud to take this sweet reminder of their classmates home at the end of the day!

The best thing about this wonderful site, is it’s something that we can not only use at school, but in our daily lives too! As you frolic on the beach or simply enjoy your family at home, keep snapping those memories. When you’re ready to bounce them out of your camera, don’t forget to make a special TREAT for someone you love with them. You’ll be glad you did!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bright Idea Linky~Student Numbers

Hey, Friends! How are ya? It’s time to get hoppin’ through another great list of bright ideas! I don’t know about you, but even when I’m enjoying summer vacation….I’m still always on the lookout for great ideas for the classroom! No need to fret though because there’s over 100 of them included in this month’s linky! No great teacher works alone…get by with a little help from your friends!


How do you manage students’ materials? Taking turns? The helper chart? Mailbox tags? Locker tags? The clip chart? Do you label ALL of these things with their names? And then what happens when a student moves and a new student moves in? Do you race around the room from label to label to update them? No more…..


In our classroom, we use student numbers to organize our bodies in line and wellll, just about everything related to student “stuff”. I begin the year by laminating a blank list numbered from 1-22. We don’t usually have more than 22 students in a class. After getting my hands on the golden class list, I simply write my students’ names in ABC order down the list of paper. The list gets taped to the top of our mailbox bookshelf for easy reference. After a while, we memorize numbers, but sometimes visitors to our classroom may need a little help knowing who’s number is who’s. This is the ONE and ONLY time the list is perfectly in ABC order. Once a student has been assigned a number, they keep the same number for the entire year. If a student moves, their name is erased. When a new student arrives, they’re assigned the number of the student that moved last.


One of the primary ways we use them is to pick friends for questions or to take turns in whole group activities.


Instead of names, for a little privacy, we also use them on our behavior clip chart. Everyone likes their name up in flashing lights when they’re clipping up the chart. Having numbers on the chart, rather than names, when the infamous clip may be heading in the opposite direction allows for a little more dignity left in tact.


Here, as we were cleaning out for the end of the year, students grabbed buckets of goodies for them to take home. When all the numbers were gone, I knew each student had received a little somethin’ somethin’ from our classroom.

That’s it…..we LOVE our names and celebrate them in all their glory by making sure they’re on our papers and personal supplies. Things that could easily be used for all students are organized by number. We also line up in number order, so there’s no arguing about…….THAT’S MY SPOT….in line. Everyone lines up in the same spot, every time, every day…all……year…..long! Unless they’re the line leader, door holder or caboose. =) Quick easy….a little prep time that will save you a LOT of trouble with organization later…..

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider joining me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for more great ideas! Links are listed at the top of the page!

For more bright ideas from over 100 bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Five for Friday~We did it!!!

Hey Friends! How are ya? Today was a great Friday! Two of my teaching besties and I presented training for the very first time! I know…yikes, right? Speaking in front of others doesn’t really bother me, but preparing to deliver training for adults is a LOT different from teaching 6 year olds! Luckily….our topic of choice was guided reading. THAT, I can talk about all day!


Ever find something you love and want to shout it from the rooftops for everyone to hear? Having the opportunity to present training allowed us an opportunity to do just that. We shared how implementing procedures from Jan Richardson’s The Next Step in Guided Reading enhanced our small group instruction and how we use The Daily 5 to manage our literacy block. Both have had a tremendous impact on the quality of our teaching and consequently, student success. I’ll be the first to admit that when I moved to 1st grade, my biggest fear was screwing up teaching kiddos how to read. After all, that’s what 1st grade is ALL ABOUT…..READING! I wanted someone to tell me….sit down at the table and DO THIS! Step by Step…..I signed up for training after training thinking, this will be the one! This will be the one that will guide me through this very important process and time after time…..NOPE! NADA….didn’t happen. I got exposure to great information about reading, about why it’s important and what skills I needed to address, BUT nothing that provided a step-by-step guide.

THEN…..last summer, my teaching buds and I stumbled across a book study online that was EXACTLY what we had been looking for…ordered it, read it, and improved our teaching with it! We took the next step….


Our kids from previous years, left having become successful…but this next step helped us to understand the research behind necessary procedures and to reach personal goals for growth. The biggest part of being successful is continuous improvement and growth. Don’t ya think?

To prep for training, we set up a table to provide an example of what the guided reading table might look like when preparing for small group. LOL….the little “whiteboards” are upside down. We fixed that later…..=)


Sharing resources was a biggie on our “to do” list. Our primary source for the information came from Jan Richardson’s website. If you’ve never visited it, you’ve gotta take an afternoon, get comfortable, sit back and browse it. She has tons of great supplemental materials to help guide the sequence of activities in your small group…differentiated lesson plans, lots of printables and video demonstrations too! Check out one of the clips we shared below…

We started the day with a fun icebreaker….I Have, Who Has….using Primer sight words! This game usually drives me a little bonkers, but is a great way to review sight words, parts of speech…you name it, and you can use it to sneak in a quick review. You also find out pretty darn quickly who’s paying attention when you play this game because each card is linked to the next, lol!


Lots of fun and laughter...


These ladies are the best! Having this time to engage in collaborative talk to enrich our literacy blocks was such a true gift! It was much more than training….we engaged in meaningful conversation. See those smiles? Nothing is as fun as learning in K/1!


Here’s a closer look at the resources we shared. You can find additional information about The Daily 5 HERE. Take a few minutes and sign up for email updates from The 2 Sisters. You can find additional information and resources from The Next Step in Guided Reading HERE.

Now….summer can REALLY begin! If you’ve used these resources or another that has truly changed the way you teach guided reading, please feel free to share in the comments! 

Happy reading, friends!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday~Setting up for Success!

Hey, ya’ll! How are ya? Another Wednesday has rolled around and I’m hijacking another of my own Wisdom Wednesday posts! The nerve….lol! Today has been a pretty inspiring one. Beginning next Wednesday, I’ll begin posting the Wisdom Wednesday quotes to social media instead of here, on the blog…and actually from the handy dandy iphone! Be sure to follow along, so that you don’t miss any little tidbits! For now….here’s the last one for the blog…

Of course, you can’t think of absolutely everything, but you can be purposeful in planning to prevent a few things. I posted this picture to Instagram and FB earlier today and got a question that I thought I’d drop in to answer. It goes right along with setting students up for success.


The die cut circles are going to be used as our “success spots” for the upcoming school year. What’s a success spot, you ask? Wellllll…it’s a good choice for seating, in a place that will help a student to be successful in the classroom. Ever tell your kids to spread out or find a good thinking spot? Ever think of actually marking them on the floor? If you have, success spots may just be the thing for YOU!


If you look very closely at this picture from my classroom last year, you’ll notice little lengths of tape on the floor. We used those to help guide students’ choice of seating for ‘Read to Self’ or ‘Read to Someone’. We ended up working on the floor A LOT and for reasons other than just reading, so next year, they’ll have a new name! Having choices for successful seating helps students to choose quickly and get right to work! By placing them on the floor, I help to guide the distance between students without ever having to voice it….so control and choice are both ultimately up to the student.

Those little silver circles are cut from sheets of decorative duct tape! They last for quite a while. Fingers are busy tracking print, cross checking print and pictures and holding materials, so they don’t bother them. Occasionally, one may come up from normal wear and mopping. I’ll be sure to die cut a few extras to serve as replacements.


…and because comfort is important to learning, our classroom design will take on a much different look next year! I’m so excited! This is a little sneak peek of some of the changes coming to our classroom and a hint of my color scheme. There’ll be a few “bright ideas” added before it’s all wrapped with a bow and finished. Stay tuned!

Comment below and share one of the ways you set your students up for success! See ya soon! =)

P.S. No students were harmed in the making of this blog post. That kid stretched out on the floor is my son, lol! Teachers kids have it hard! Give one a hug of encouragement from time to time! =)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Daily Five~Chapters 3 & 4

There are 2 things that have had a BIG impact on the way I teach over the last two years…..reading blogs and The Daily Five. I’ll never dare to teach without either of them again! After seeing so much about The Daily Five online, I absolutely had to get my hands on the book and once I did, I read it furiously with highlighter and pen in hand. It simplified my literacy block. It helped me to work smarter, not harder and NOW…….guess what?! “The Sisters” are at it again! There’s a Second Edition!!! Whoop whoop!

The Daily Five has helped me to concentrate on research based practices that have my students purposefully concentrating on actual reading rather than on the “busy work” of things that are about reading. I love it and can’t imagine going back to anything else! This week’s focus for the book study is on Chapters 3 and 4.

Jennifer at First Grade Blue Skies has an awesome freebie that outlines The 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence described in Chapter 3.

Step 1:  Identify What is to Be Taught
Simple, right? Know exactly what is to be taught. This is where Independence charts come in. These are anchor charts that will outline desired behaviors and should be created together as a class. The name of the Daily 5 choice goes at the top with a side labeled for student behaviors and one labeled for teacher responsibilities. This pattern is followed for the creation of each chart.


Step 2:  Set a Purpose and Create a Sense of Urgency
I have a very deep need to know why I  have to do something. If I don’t understand why it’s important it becomes very low on the priority list. Students are no different, they want to know why what we’re asking of them is important. By setting a purpose for what you are doing through sharing objectives in kid-friendly language, students will see the relevance of it to their daily lives.

Step3:  Record Desired Behaviors on an I-Chart
Be sure to discuss the desired behaviors with your class as you are creating the chart. Guide this discussion in such a way that students take ownership over the creation of it and feel their input is valid.  For young children with little stamina, only add a few at a time.

Step 4:  Model Most-Desirable Behaviors
Modeling brings everything off the written page into 3D-real life application. Be sure to emphasize what will happen if we all follow these desired behaviors. We’ll each grow to become better readers!

Step 5:  Model Least-Desirable Behaviors, Then Most-Desirable Behaviors Again
The trick to this demonstration is to call on a student who often exhibits off-task behavior. By doing this, the student is getting the desired attention he or she wants and you have an opportunity in front of a watching audience to begin shaping his or her behaviors toward meeting expectations. Genius, right?! After the student has modeled unacceptable, off task behaviors, use this same student to model desired behaviors again. This begins to build the student’s muscle memory for doing the correct thing and grows confidence that they can indeed make the right choice.

Step 6:  Place Students Around the Room
The one question that guides students choice of seating is…. “Is this a place where I and others around me can be successful”? If the answer is no, the student must choose a different spot. If the answer is yes, students are seated and begin building stamina. Next year, we will call these success spots!

Step 7:  Practice and Build Stamina
Never let a timer or clock manage children’s pace. While it is suggested to begin practicing for only 3 minutes at a time, if you are using a timer or clock…use it for your eyes only. Let your student’s behavior guide the pace of practice. Keep track of it on a chart at the meeting area to show progress. I think this may be our very first bar type graph next year! In our classroom, after we practiced building our muscle memories and began following the actual routines of Daily 5 and guided reading, we then incorporated a timer to increase our sense of urgency for completing activities.

Step 8: Stay Out of the Way
The title says it all! Your goal is to build independent learners who are intrinsically motivated. You do not want their success to be tied to you hovering over them offering thanks and praise. You want their success to be tied to an individual, self-motivated feeling of accomplishment. Stand or sit near your guided reading table or the area where you will be pulling small group as you keep a watchful eye without making eye contact with students. STAY OUT OF THE WAY….it will be hard at first, but you can do it! Winking smile Once stamina is broken…once you can tell that they’ve given you the best they’ve got, return to the meeting area in your classroom.

Step 9:  Use a Quiet Signal to Bring Students Back to the Gathering Place
As soon as students begin to show their stamina is exhausted, have them each put their book boxes away and return to your classroom gathering place. The Quiet Signal is key to beginning this transition smoothly because all students will be moving throughout the room at the same time. In our classroom we use a rain stick. Once it turns, students immediately clean up their activity, put their book box away and are seated at the carpet. I do not call them to the carpet. This too, takes time to practice and learn, but because it is a quiet signal students must be working at a reasonable noise level in order to hear it and begin the transition. This transition period also serves as a quick brain break before the beginning of the next mini-lesson.

Step 10:  Conduct a Group Check-In; Ask, “How Did it Go?”
Once students have gathered in the meeting area, develop a hand signal for students to privately respond to answer this question. Last year, we used a thumbs up or thumbs sideways over our heart to indicate how we felt about building our stamina after practicing. “The Sisters” suggested using a method of holding up a certain number of fingers in response to this question. 1 indicated below standard, 2 indicated approaching standard, 3 indicated meeting standard and 4 indicated exceeding standard.

Never scold a student for how they respond. It is, after all, their judgment of how they just performed. If it isn’t an accurate reflection, ignoring the undesired response will often cause it to stop happening. Acknowledge how well they tried and use your class’ behavior as the deciding factor for what you do next.

          Slide1 Slide3 
What I’ve enjoyed the most about the new edition is the increased flexibility of how you implement Daily 5 in response to the individual needs present in your classroom.

Below is a brief list of things you will need to begin implementing The Daily 5 in your classroom:
  • The Quiet Signal
  • Chart Rack, Easel and/or Interactive Whiteboard
  • Tools to support stamina growth
  • Individual Student Book Boxes
  • A Gathering Place for Focus Lessons
  • Independence Charts
  • Classroom Design {that allows for choices of comfortable, successful seating}
Taking the time to implement the focus lessons at the beginning of the year, in detail, will set your class up for success throughout the year. It takes time, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it to build independent learners who are capable of making choices. Daily 5 is not a curriculum. It is a way of managing how you present your curriculum. It is a way of providing a student driven, student inspired, student led, positive classroom environment. It compliments the workshop model for balanced literacy. It’s a way of building a life-long love of literacy and enjoyment for what has easily become our favorite time of day!

Thanks for stopping by! Don’t forget to get your copy of the book. Be sure to check in with the ladies of Freeblicious to continue the book study! All are welcome to link up! Enjoy and happy reading!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Celebrating~Teacher of the Year!!!

Hi, Friends! How’ve you been? It’s been a while, so I’m gonna crash my own Wisdom Wednesday to catch up with ya!

I’ve been working on taking a little of my own advice and getting some much needed rest over these first few days of summer. That’s right folks! That fat lady has sung…the curtain has closed and it’s a wrap! We’ve celebrated the end of another fantastic year in 1st grade! It’s really true that time flies when you’re having fun! It’s so hard to believe that another year has come and gone.


Our A-Z countdown was a big hit! Watermelon Day was a favorite! There were lots of grateful yums and a whole lot of slurping going on in the classroom that day!


We reviewed animal habitats as we ended the year. Care to guess what habitat we illustrated as part of our math lesson? I’ll give you a hint… has several layers and is such a hoppin’ place that there are animals swinging from the trees! Lol…..exploring {the rainforest}…..was exciting! We read non-fiction texts, reviewed their features and used details to illustrate rain forest habitats after decomposing numbers on the tree branches. We did this activity on one of our very last days so it got packed up before I could snap a picture of the final product. After working with a partner to decompose the numbers written in the trees, students were free to conduct independent research using and add details to their illustration to show what they had learned.


We also reviewed a different phonics skill each day of the last week-ish. Do your kids enjoy The Little Old Lady…books? Mine did! Being that one vowel sound slides right into the other when we pronounce words with diphthongs, we usually use a wide mouthed illustration of the little old lady when we brainstorm these types of words. The trouble with that is…..I tend to forget that The Little Old Lady that Swallowed a Diphthong….{ahem}….may not be such a great title to use for this little activity!!!! Geez, lol! She’s eaten a lot of things, but ummmmm, that’s one we’d better skip! If you’ve got a suggestion for another good illustration, help a girl out and leave it in the comments. I guess we could just illustrate the words on the web, huh? 

After creating a word web of each of the spelling patterns together on chart paper, we completed a directed drawing for students to illustrate and create their own word webs. Students then chose words from each of the bubbles to include in a creative writing about our very greedy friend. They turned out looking a little something like this…..


Field Day…Play Day….Watermelon Day…, review….Awards and our very last day as a little school family were all loads of fun. I wish I could share them all, but we were so busy creating memories that the camera got left behind a LOT on those days! I’m so proud of how hard my kiddos worked this year, even up until the very last couple of days. Daily 5 time was absolutely sacred and they didn’t let anything interrupt their procedures! I was in awe of how well they worked together.

To hear my firsties reminding each other about how to choose helping partners, reminding each other to still check for understanding….even with only a day left?! To hear them using the language that we practiced all year, the language that we began using on the very 1st day of school?! Amazed and just plain ole proud! Yep! They were ready. There was nothing more left to do other than enjoy making memories and send them off to 2nd grade with a bang!


As the year came to an end, I also received an awesome surprise! This year, without a doubt was one of the best! I had the best class of inquisitive little loves. We learned so much and grew so much….TOGETHER. After making sure each one of them ended the year feeling loved and celebrated, I was invited to a celebration of my own! Just last night I was recognized as TEACHER OF THE YEAR for my rockin’ campus! I can brag on my kiddos all day, but I get a little shy when it comes to directing attention directly on me.

It was a sweet show of appreciation and I couldn’t have been a bit more grateful to my coworkers that took time out of their summer evening to come support me. It was great to see my very 1st principal’s smiling face in the audience and then there’s the person that nominated me…my current principal. Let me just say, that could be a complete, whole ‘nother blog post! If she moved to the moon, I’d be ready to suit up and follow…..she’s absolutely the BEST! She encourages each of us to strive for excellence in such a way that makes it easy to go the extra mile, to show up and rock each and every day. Our school is a place that is filled with love and laughter and people that genuinely care for each other. The positive atmosphere on our campus is like no other and its all a tribute to her leadership. To be complimented in this way, by her…means a lot to me. My heart was completely filled with gratitude and I appreciate the recognition for doing what I love and LOVING what I do.


I hope you’re enjoying some rest and relaxation too! Stay tuned….I’ll be back soon to share a TREAT from our very last day!


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