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! =)


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