Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A shining example

I "found" a website today, that I think everyone should know about!  The Cornerstone is a collection of activities and ideas shared by Angela Watson.  The only way I can describe her is INSPIRED!  One can easily spend an hour lost on her site, and leave feeling renewed and excited about teaching (and the joy of life in general).  I. Love. It.     You will, too.  Check her out!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Classroom decor Linky Party

 First Grade Blue Skies is hosting a Linky party that is all about classroom decor.  I love Linky Parties!  This one was actually kind of hard for me, though, because I am taking a *huge* pay cut this year, and I have told myself over and over how happy I am with what I already have!  Truly, though, I am super happy with my classroom colors/decor.  This will be my third year with the same stuff, and I'm not tired of it yet!  You've probably seen from my classroom pictures that I have a blue, green, black and white theme, with polka dots.  I love it!  It's very me. :)  

Still, I guess it never hurts to dream!

Teacher Created Resources Black Polka Dots Calendar Chart, Black (7605)

A new calendar set would be nice... with cute polka dots, of course!

Teacher Created Resources Polka Dot Months Headliners, Multi Color (4481)

matching monthly headers

Teacher Created Resources September Polka Dots Calendar Days/Story Starters, Lime Border (5083)
monthly calendar tiles for each month of the year... with story prompts on the back of each!

Teacher Created Resources Black Polka Dots Chart, Black (7677)
Notepad "paper" poster... to laminate and write down our circle rules together.

And I may as well dream big if I am dreaming.... I have always wanted these little chairs for my library!  And they're at such a great price right now.  Bummer.  Oh, well.  The kids love my library as it is!

I want to create a new rug area this year.  This rug would be SO cute!

Natural Counter Height Director's Chair
This year I'm going to be using a Hollywood theme.  Wouldn't this be the cutest Author's Chair?  This I really do wish for!

15' Red Carpet Runner
And of course, a red carpet for my little superstars!

That's all.  Really.  Well, that and about a bazillion other things for the kids and I to actually USE, but that is for another party, I suppose.  :)

Did that really just happen??? and a free game

Last night was one of my strangest yet.  I spent several hours in the emergency room and had to be put under to have surgery.  You would think something terrible happened to me, but no, not really.  I ate fish for dinner, and got a bone stuck in my throat.  After two hours of trying everything on the internet, that little guy was stuck in there even better than before.  I couldn't talk very loud because the vibrations caused the fish bone to poke further into my throat.

So, I decided to head over the hospital.   I had been swimming that day, and cooking fish.  My hair was in a frizzy pony-tail.  But, did I think to change my clothes, put on some makeup, or wash up? Oh, no, I was solely focused on the fish bone stuck in my esophagus.  So, it would only stand to reason that my Dr. would be the father of my students  (he has the cutest little twin boys!) from last year.   I was lucky enough to have a lovely yellow stain all down my shirt from a nectarine I ate while trying to push down the fish bone.  How embarrassing!

When going out in public, it is best for a teacher to always be prepared.  Even in the ER, you just never know who you are going to see!

In honor of my lovely surgery, I have made these cute fish sight word cards for my son.  He is currently practicing Kindergarten sight words, so they would be a great beginning of the year activity for your kiddos.  They can be cut out, laminated, and attach a magnet to the back to use for a fishing game.  Or, just cut into cards and laminate for flash cards, war, you name it.    My little guy has been terribly worried about me (I got to drag both kids to the hospital with me, and they saw me as I went under and woke up).  I thought this might help us to laugh a little, and commemorate the experience.  I also wrote him a little emergent reader about a mom who gets fish stuck in her throat.  Haha!  This, I won't share.  I'm sure no one wants a bunch of calls from parents whose children are afraid to eat fish!

Have a lovely day!  Mine will definitely be fish-free! :)

K fish HF words

Friday, July 15, 2011

Touchpoint Math Giveaway

Teaching Happily Ever After is having a Touchpoint Math Giveaway.  While I have never used this with my students, I think it would be great for RTI!  Head on over to her blog to sign up!


Rules and Procedures can be Fun!

Every good teacher knows that the best laid plans will fall apart without a good set of classroom rules and procedures in place.  It is important to think out these procedures ahead of time, teach them explicitly, and give your students plenty of practice!  

I like to play this little "game" with my students whenever we have a free moment throughout the year.  It helps them to review my expectations, and to be successful.  They also love it, because they get a chance to be in the "spotlight" for a few minutes as they demonstrate their rule.  I cut all of the little words into strips and put them in a jar (with label).  I keep a checkoff list, and allow random students to show off their knowledge of our procedures.   

Showing Jar Game

If nothing else, this list might help some of you newer teachers to think about what YOUR classroom procedures should be, and have a plan! :)


Win a Button!

I learned about buttons two days ago.  I still don't have one.  I don't know when I will have the time to make one.  Then I ran across this awesome giveaway, and I had to join!  Not one... but TWO custom buttons?  Sign me up!  You can try to win, too, but just know that my fingers are crossed over here. ;-)

Go to Sister Teachers' blog to sign up.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blog Mixer Linky

I am so excited to be able to take part in my first "Linky Party"!  The Yearn to Learn blog is hosting a mixer linky.  I was even more psyched to see that my blog was spotlighted by Kim, at The Teacher's Lane.  She's another "new kid" blogger, and if you haven't checked out her blog, it is worth the read. 

Here's my list:

1. A blogger who is a "New Kid on the Blog"
My "New Kid" is Miss Hockensmith at First Grade Friends.   Her cute blog shares some great downloadable things.  I love when people share their hard work so more kids can benefit!

2. Post a blogger in your same grade level
Another fabulous blogger in first grade is Sarah Cooley, at First Grader... at Last!  You all probably "know" her already, but I just love everything she does.  She was the first teaching blog I found, and it opened up the whole blogging world for me.  So, thanks to Mrs. Cooley! :)

3. Post a blogger in a different grade level
Leslie, at Jack of All Trades is another extremely creative new blogger, who seems to have more energy than I can dream of!  

4. It's all about the button. Find a cute blog button and post it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A little something for new teachers... and the organizationally challenged

My husband would describe me as "organizationally challenged."  I, however, prefer to think that I am so anal-retentive about my organization that I would rather have a mess than put something away haphazardly.  It also takes a lot of time to keep up my organization system.... why not keep the piles until I have time to organize?  Right?  Can I get an Amen?  At school, though, I tend to be crazy organized.

I am also a crazy list-maker.  At any given time you can probably find 4-5 different to-do lists in my possession, as well as lists of every idea that happens to cross my mind.  Right now those to-do lists are focused on school.  Each year I write my to-do list in an easy check-off form that keeps me organized as I prepare for the year, so I don't lose my 5 lists.  There may be other things to add, but I keep the most important things together. 

I'm posting my list and some others that help keep me organized here today.  Hopefully it can help a new teacher - or give someone else some organization ideas.  If you download it as a .docx file, you can change it to include your own to-do list.  Enjoy!
Yearly Beginning of Year to-Do

New Student to-DO

end of year TO-DO

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Letter Sounds in 3 Months or Less....*updated*

*** update: I noticed that the creator of this song has an updated version, which I posted here instead. I also updated my book, but since both are so time-consuming (and some may have the other CD) they are both up on scribd. The version that matches the video is v2.***

That probably sounds like a huge claim, but I totally stand by it.  This song, combined with other Montessori-inspired lessons can teach most normal children their letter sounds very quickly.  I am so excited to find a YouTube Video!  I usually use it with a giant book I made myself.

Each year, I teach kindergarten intervention during my lunch hour.  Our main focus is letter sounds for standardized tests.  I sing this song with students every single day.  I also used it to help my own children learn their letter sounds.  I made a little reader to go along with it.  Students practice reading it with me and at a home every single day.  Since the song is copyrighted material, you can download the book for free.  It took a TON of time to put together.  Enjoy!

Sounds Like Fun Emergent Reader v2

If you download these and like them, please make sure you give me credit for my work.  Follow my blog, or leave a comment!

A Powerful Rule - free classroom sign

I've been talking a bit about classroom management/discipline lately, and I've been thinking about rules for next year.  I am tempted to go to just one rule:  Be thoughtful of people and things in our room.  However, my other rules are also pretty good.  Especially this one:  "Always try your best.... never, ever, ever give up!"

It is common for first graders to say "I can't" or "It's too hard."  It is very frustrating for the teacher to try to motivate those kiddos in the middle of an activity.  However, when you have a class motto, motivation becomes a little easier.  At the beginning of the year, I introduce the motto with this poster:

Try Your Best

We discuss stamina from Daily 5, and how sometimes we can do things we never thought we could!  The man holding up the barbell couldn't do it at first, but it tried his best, he didn't give up, and eventually he could do it!  I ask them questions -- do we have to do it perfectly?  Do we have to do it better than everyone else in the class?  In the world?  We just have to ...  and students usually chime in "Try our best!"  AND.... "NEVER, ever, ever give up!"

Throughout the year when I have the occasional whiney student (every class has one), students will rehearse the motto, and the students usually go ahead and give it their best shot!  I have definitely found it a rule worth keeping!  What are your classroom rules?

Better than Twinkies

We've all seen the great twinkie in the microwave experiment... but have you ever done the same thing with ivory soap???  I ran across this video today. What a great idea for demonstrating physical changes!  The water in the soap turns to vapor, which allows the soap to expand.  When it cools down again, holes are left in the soap where the vapor used to be.  How fun!

Your next Read....

I just found a blog that maybe you already know about (I'm kind of new to this blogging thing), with a post of the same title.  The blog is called "Teach it With Class" and Randi has posted some great stuff.  (See her post at http://teachitwithclass.blogspot.com/2011/07/your-next-read.html)  She found the website, http://www.yournextread.com.

I've seen it about a year ago, but I didn't realize it would create a "web" of books that are related to your last book.  Somehow I missed that!  I love it!  As the mother of one somewhat picky little boy, I love the idea that we can find other books he would like a little more easily.

Can you think of other ways to use this in the classroom?  Leave a comment!

Monday, July 11, 2011

From last year...

Fairy Tale Castle Book Reports!

These are SO much fun!  We did a fun Fairy Tale unit, which I can share more of next year.  We started by doing a group book report.  I read Rapunzel to my students (any fairy tale works), and we filled out this book report form together on the overhead.

Fairy Tale Book Report

Next, each student read his or her own fairy tale, using this book set.  I have the smaller set, and I didn't even know they had the larger one.  Wish I had those, because I had to find some extras from the school library.  I matched students according to difficulty levels, and my highest students read a longer, more difficult book from our classroom library.

Students spent time reading their books, and then filled out the Fairy Tale Book Report form (above) as a rough draft.  

Next, they made their actual reports, using these forms:   Each student usually uses 2-4 of the summary forms, and one  good/bad character form.

Summary Forms:
Summary Pages

Good/Bad Character Forms:

Character Windows

Students write the character name on the top, and WHY the character is good/bad on the lines below.

The castle is folded out of one piece of construction paper. I can't give any more directions for the castle, because I got the directions from a resource book, but if you Email me, I can try to walk you through it as much as ethically possible. Looking at the pictures, though, you should be able to come up with your own version!

My students and I LOVE this project, and I hope you do, too.

When we are all done, we have a fairy tale tea party, and we each tell about the book we have read.  I dress up as Sleeping Beauty, and pretend I have just woke up from my 100 years of sleep.  I need my "royal subjects" (who also dress up, for fun!)  to tell me what happened in the Kingdom while I was asleep.  Their book reports tell me about current events.

We all put on our "fancy voices" and have a great party.  I'll share more about that next year! 

Thanks for reading my E-Book! ;-)    I am sadly lacking in the follower department.  If you like what I have posted on my blog so far, and would like more, leave me a comment so I know there is somebody out there!

***UPDATE:  I have tried my best to describe how to make the fairy tale castles in the comments below.  If you like this idea, have used it, or plan on using it, I would love a comment!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Amazing Find

Oh my goodness, I think I just stumbled upon the most amazing web resource in the world.  I could seriously waste 4-5 days on this site without even noticing!  (If it weren't for my kids begging for food. Haha!)   It is kind of intimidating how much other people know about and use technology!  


Happy reading!

Discipline Begins With Me

Every summer I try to hold off on thinking about school as long as possible.  Well, at least for the past two summers anyhow.  But every summer the first thing I start to think "heavy" on is discipline!  Could this be because I am spending so much time with my own two discipline issues??  Hmm... quite possibly!

I used to find discipline quite easy.  When it comes to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, it was really a piece of cake.  But these older kids - well, sadly to say, most seven year-olds have probably reached my level of strategic thinking.  They are crafty, I tell you!

Or, yes, there is a slight possibility that my patience has started to dwindle over the past couple of years.  (Okay, I'll be honest.... if that possibility were a slice of chocolate cake, it would be a me-sized portion- HUGE.)  Something happens to me when I am dealing with my, own kids' misbehavior day in and day out, and some really tough behaviors at school, working my butt off, trying to lose weight, and getting very little sleep!  I get just a little bit cranky.  I try to smile and put on my most cheerful voice, but those kids keep disturbing my peace!  I mean, those kids are so obnoxious, and loud, and they always want something, and I'm actually expected to teach them the right things to do and say and how to behave!  If only they would understand that I came to school to have fun with learning activities.  Why can't they just do the right thing without me having to explicitly spell it out for them?!?!

And THIS is why teachers need summer break, my friends.  I feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about all of the work ahead of me when it comes to discipline.  Of course, we all understand that it isn't really the kids' fault at all.  It's the state of mind of the teacher.  In those frazzled moments, our self-control is definitely challenged.  At the beginning of the year, though, we understand why our students do what they do.  We teach them what we DO want, and they want to please us, so they do what we prefer (mostly).  We have a great understanding of the child and the self-control to be a loving guide in all areas, including discipline.

At some point during the year, that inner self-control has been failing me, though.  I hold it together on the outside, but inside I am desperately trying to grasp for those kind words and thoughts to keep me from exploding.  It is exhausting.

This summer, I have begun to read the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Rebecca Anne Bailey, and just a chapter or two in,  I have fallen in love!  She puts the focus of discipline on the one thing we really can control:  ourselves.  It's nothing earth-shattering or that any good teacher or parent hasn't heard before.  But, it is something that I feel begs repeating - over and over and....  The whole premise of the book is that if we are going to teach others to have self-control, we first need to have it ourselves.  That means all the way down to controlling our thoughts.  Focusing on what you WANT to see, and not getting caught up in what is happening that you don't want.

This year, my plan is to spend the next two months gaining a little more control over myself.  I want to control where I put my attention, my use of time, what and when I eat, what activities I partake in, and how I interact with others - among other things.  Before I think about disciplining others, I need to discipline myself.  It is the goal of the teacher to be a model of character for students.  You cannot be raging within and create a peaceful environment.  It is what Maria Montessori would have called "preparation of the spirit."

"It is my belief that the thing which we should cultivate in our teachers is more the spirit than the mechanical skill of the scientist; that is, the direction of the preparation should be toward the spirit rather than toward the mechanism." - Maria Montessori

I know many of us are hard at work on curriculum, and I will be, too, very soon, but now is the time to become at peace within.   My goal for this school year (and thereafter) is to have the kind of discipline that leaves me feeling satisfied with my life as a whole, rather than just the teaching side of it. ;-)


Discipline books I will read/review this summer....