Sunday, January 29, 2012

Inferencing in First Grade

The past couple weeks we have been learning about making inferences.  I introduced the concept and we talked all about what it meant.  Then we practiced by playing an inferencing game.  I gave some clues and the kids had to try and figure out what it could possibly mean... like "you are sitting at your desk doing work and suddenly you hear a loud ear-piercing noise.  We all get up and leave."  The kiddos guessed all kinda of things like the bell to go home to a fire drill.  The next one was kind of funny, "your dad stomps in the living room, frowns at you and turns off the TV".  The kids came up with all kinds of answers for that one.  The book this came from was The Cafe.

After going through the main lesson, I went to the famous books about David to help us inference.  We used No David by David Shannon.  This was a neat lesson and the kids did very well.  I began by reading the book itself and discussing page by page what the kids thought.  Then we went and charted it all on chart paper.  I think they now know what it means to inference and hopefully they can do it independently when they are reading books.

Please excuse my horrendous drawing.  I tried my best... as I ask of the students all the time. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

100th Day of School

This past Tuesday was our 100th Day of School.  I actually had to miss it all because my youngest was home sick.  I always feel torn when it comes to my babies at home and my kids at school.  I have a responsibility to both but I know my responsibility to my babies at home is far more greater.  I do the best I can when I plan for what to teach and I know my teacher assistant partner is the best there is so the kids are always in good hands.

So for the 100th Day, I had planned the day out and it all went on without me.  When the kiddos first came in they were going to make some crazy 100th day headbands... they turned out to look pretty cool.  Our IT person at school was teasing me that the FBI was going to show up because I was printing out counterfeit hundred dollar bills.  :)  They pasted a hundred on their headband, then added ten crazy strips and added ten things to each strip whether it be stickers or drawings.

The next activity they worked on in class was a bucket list of what they want to do before 100 years old.  Now these are the cutest things I have seen in a LONG time if I do say so myself.  This idea came from Pinterest.  It was a bit hard for some of them to come up with ten things though.  We'll have to think of how to revamp this for next year.   But here they are... and I think I look pretty dang good for 100 year old.  ;)

There were a couple at home projects for them to work on also since there is not a whole lot of time IN school (at least for first grade) to hold centers revolving around the 100th Day like I used to do in preschool or Kindergarten.  So at home I had them make a collection of 100 items to bring in to share.  We also decided to make our 100th Day part of a service project.  Each student from my class brought in cans of food (other classrooms on my grade level did this as well so we could reach 100 cans) and we are going to donate to our local food pantry. 

This child used CHOCOLATE covered raisins for his collection.  I sure hope he asked his momma for permission!  That's chocolate abuse in  my book.  :)

My class brought in approximately 45 cans... they are so thoughtful.

I also have a song I do each year that is sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells" but I did not get to share it this year.  But I wanted to show you all out there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter Theme Part 2

Winter is one of my favorite seasons to teach in.  There are so many things to do in winter and you can easily mix it in with reading, writing, and math.  There is not a lot of time to do crafty/fun stuff all the time in first grade so I try to make activities the kids can do each week plus I have what is called Fun Friday.  If they get all of their tasks complete for the week then on Friday I cut my literacy block down to half the time and the rest we spend making crafty things.  This past week we made these snowy pictures.  The kiddos made a math story problem about snowflakes falling and once they solved it they had to make that many fingerprint snowflakes falling on their snowman.  LOVE these... and yet again it was an idea from Pinterest!  It was kind of funny though, we made the snowmen on Friday and hung them up right away.  Then I was hanging with the family on Saturday, on the way to the mall, and I was thinking about these snowmen.  Guess what?  I realized we forgot to put ARMS on the poor snowmen.  What snowman does not have stick arms?!  Not ours... so this morning  when I got to school, I ran into the hallway and drew on all the arms. 

Another thing we worked on the past couple weeks has been descriptive words.  I have a poem about mittens I share with the class each year and we then make winter descriptive words with them.  I asked them what words would describe winter and the kids really do come up with good words... like cozy, chilly, crunchy, and frigid (WOW!). 

I took advantage of our mitten and descriptive word theme we had going on and rolled it into a writing and math activity.  The kids had to pretend they lost their mittens and describe them using math words (color words, patterns, position words).  These also turned out super cute!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lesson Plans

I have been at this for close to eleven years and each year I spend crazy amounts of time trying to discover different formats and way to do lesson plans.  I have tried to do strictly computerized formats and I just do not have the time to sit at the computer to do all of it.  I like to have the control of changing things when I need it.  As we all know, sometimes teachable moments show up and you have to go with it even if it is not on the lesson plan.  I have to say that last year I found a format and I am STICKING TO IT!  I really like it.  It's partly typed and partly hand written.  We constantly have schedule changes in year round school, so this format is great to use for handing in to the office as well as using for a substitute.  It lays out all of the parts of the day with details and then I can hand write specific lessons for the day and change it if I need to.  I love it!

The beginning of the year I do a lot of hand writing review, phonics, and spelling while I build stamina for Daily 5.  So I use this lesson plan format for the first quarter only...

First Quarter Lesson Plan

Then after we build stamina and we have covered beginning of the year "business", we jump right into writing workshop and full rounds of Daily 5.  So this next lesson plan is for the remainder of the school year.

Second through Fourth Quarter Lesson Plan

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Compound Words

This week we have started compound words.  I made a quick wrap around game and wanted to attach it here.  You are more than welcome to grab it if you need a quick activity to do with compound words.  The kids loved it and asked to keep playing it.

Compound Wrap Around Game

Monday, January 16, 2012

My FAVORITE Project... Flat Stanley

Each year I read the original version of the chapter book, "Flat Stanley".  It ties so well into our Social Studies units and 21st Century Learning.  The kids can send away their flat person to learn about the place it goes off to.  I have them compare and contrast the community their flat person goes to with the community we live in here.  This project also takes on a digital form.  I have had recipients take videos and e-mail them back to the students.  It really is a lot of fun.  You can find the letter I start it all with, here.

We made a display in the hallway this year to share where out flat people have been.

We had kiddos go to Arizona, Israel, New Jersey, California, and Ohio to just name a few. 

This flat person had an outfit made for every occasion, season, etc.  You name it, she had an outfit for it.  SO CUTE!!! 

NASA trip


Sunday, January 15, 2012

MLK Day and 100th Day... update WITH pictures

Now that the littles are in bed, my mind is back on school.  Lots of planning coming up for these holidays/milestones in first grade.  There are lots of them and right now I'm planned up to Valentine's Day, which by the way, we are tracked out for.  So my class will be celebrating early. 

We started reading and discussing Dr. Martin Luther King this past week in school.  When we return on Tuesday we are going to complete an activity I saw on another teacher blog... forgive me because I have not figured out where it came from and I cannot find it again.  We are going to brainstorm some ideas of what we can have a dream for.  I will be guiding them towards need vs wants and hoping they come up with more needs than wants.  :)  Then the writing piece comes in and they have to finish the sentence 'I have a dream...'.  Here are what a couple of them looked like.  They really turned out great!

Our 100th Day of school is going to be on January 24th.  Normally, I do lots of activities based around the 100th Day.  This year I am taking a step back and sticking to just a few things.  In the morning the kiddos will make headbands (because they are SO cute) and then focus on a project they are bringing from home.  The project at home is two parts... the first is a collection of 100 things and the next is part of a first grade service project.  We are going to collect 100 cans of food for our local food bank.  Each student was asked to bring in one, two, or as many cans as they 'CAN'.  :)

Writing in First Grade--- updated with correct documents

Our first grade team has talked ad nauseum about how to hold our writers accountable an how to grade their writing.  We have a scale on our report cards of a 1, 2, 3, or 4.  1 being the student is not performing at grade level and 4 being they have mastered a objective and could even teach it themselves.  So with writing, each teacher grades differently.  We looked at writing objectives for each quarter and decided to make a rubric that was "kid friendly".  I have this outline from a coworker at another school (Thank you Andrea!!).  She made this for her graduate program and it was Kindergarten objectives so my team just adapted it for first.  I keep a copy for each student in my pensieve notebook, so when I conference with each child, we can talk about this rubric together.  Before we determine a final grade we usually like to see a student master an objective three different times.  The rubric has a spot under each description for check marks.  I usually put a date in each little box and maybe an example of what I saw just in case my memory fails me.

First Quarter

Second Quarter

Third Quarter

Fourth Quarter

Saturday, January 14, 2012


This is just a test... I am still trying to figure out how to publish a google doc in my blog postings.  So I thought I would start with incorporating technology into my classroom.  A few months ago we made a power point presentation to sound like a book we had read in class.  This took place of our newsletter that week and we e-mailed it to all of the parents. 

"Our Week" by Mrs. Smith's Smarties

We have Smart Boards in our school as well.  There are two per grade level for right now, so we all have to share.  When I do not have the Smartboard in my classroom I still try to hook up a laptop to the projector.  This way the class can still do whole group activities with technology.  It's great!!  The other day we played a math game and each student came up to take a turn on the laptop to interact rather than touching and manipulating a Smart Board. 

Another project we worked on was a scavenger hunt.  In this unit for science we were studying Living Organisms.  We used our scavenger hunt checklist as seen below and took a walk around the school grounds to find these items.  Once we did that we went back with several digital cameras so the kids could take pictures of each thing.  After we had the pictures uploaded to a computer we made a slideshow out of their pictures.  Neat huh?  I love using technology in the classroom. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Year Round

I should probably explain that I teach in year round school.  As I make posts and put things up, sometimes my units/themes may not always match what others are doing.  We start school in July and go through the end of June the following year.  In year round we do not have summers off but we do have three weeks off (approximately) every six to nine weeks.  So when they are all added together you get a whole summer.   It took a while to get used to this kind of schedule but I like it.  Just when the kids and I have had it with each other and this thing called learning, we get a break.  Then when we come back we are refreshed and ready for more... well most of us are anyways.  :)  This is my beginning of the year letter to families.  It's a packet I give out at "Meet the Teacher Night".  It has lots of classroom information and I am sure some never venture through it but I have it for those who do like a good read.  Ha!  (OK, so this is the only way I can get this to come up... as a photo.  I need to get documents from my google docs but I have yet to figure that out.  I am slowly but surely learning about this blogging stuff.  I will figure it out.)

Page 1
Page 2
 Page 3
 Page 4

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Daily 5

This is my second year trying the Daily 5 and Cafe.  The Daily 5 is a series of literacy tasks that are much like centers but are run much more independently.  Students complete these daily tasks while the teacher meets with individual or small groups.  Students have 5 tasks: Word Work, Read to Self, Read to Someone, Work on Writing, and Listen to Reading.  The Cafe is teaching strategies that students learn to help them become better readers.  Here are a several pictures of my classroom set up for Daily 5 and Cafe.

Work on Writing: they have many choices for story prompts, sticker stories, squiggle stories, or writing letters.  It's all at this one location in the room for them to choose from.  I also have markers, date stamps, mini word walls, and blank paper for the kids to use. 

The Cafe Menu Wall: Each time I teach a new strategy for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, or Expand Vocabulary, we post it here.  This is also how we organize our strategy groups.  Strategy groups basically take place of guided reading and readers on the same level being in the same group.  These strategy groups are flexible. 

My Daily 5 Wall: Explains in kid terms what each of the 5 tasks are.  

Book Boxes: (Please excuse my book boxes and the way they look... they have been really put to good use the past few years and it's time to get new ones.)  Each student has a book box with books that THEY choose to read on their level.  

The rest of my Daily 5 Wall: It has our stamina building charts, 3 Way to Read a Book, and iPick (a chart on how to choose the right level book).

iPick Poster to teach how to choose a "good fit book".
I am going to eventually post pictures for all of the areas along with my i-charts.  As this year has went on, things have worn out and I need to remake some items.

These are versions of the Daily 5 Tracking Chart I use to keep track of what the students choose each day.  There are three Daily 5 Rounds each day that last for twenty minute increments.  I plug in mini-lessons (or focus lesson as the "Sisters" call them) in between the rounds.

Tracking Sheet 1

Tracking Sheet 2
You can download this one here

Winter Theme Part 1 cont...

Today we finished our bear unit with a venn diagram.  I wanted to post a few pictures.  I found this on Pinterest so I will post pictures of the activity.  When I actually do something I created I will post the actual documents for downloading because I believe in sharing the wealth.  :)  I am going to make another post later on and post some things of mine, but I have to get on another computer first.  I am finding that certain programs mess with all of my fonts.... NOT cool!  Anyways- here is a picture of the venn diagram.  It was really cute and they did a great job not only comparing the two bears but reading the sentences on their own as well. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter Theme Part 1

This week I tried out a new unit, thanks to a VERY cute book I have and some ideas I found on Pinterest.  (Quick side note... I LOVE Pinterest!!)   The book was a fiction book called "Dear Polar Bear" by Barry Ablett.  Polar Bear writes letters to his other bear friends who live all over the globe. 

This sparked interest in my non-fiction loving first graders.  They spouted out fact after fact about all these bears.  I then went to the school library and checked out non-fiction books on each of the bears presented from "Dear Polar Bear".  The bears were brown bear, black bear, spectacled bear, and panda bear.  I found these wonderful pages to use along with this bear unit.

Today, our class did math (since we are grouping tens and ones) with how tall each of these bears were.  We used a yard stick to measure out yarn for four different bears.  The kids then measured the yarn (in small groups of course) with their cubes.  The polar bear can be up to 10 feet tall when standing on it's back legs... which means 140 cubes long in first grade terms.  :)

Then for science I just wanted to do it for FUN!  The unit in science I am really on is balance and motion, but I took a step back and went back to living organisms.  We did the classic blubber experiment.  The kids had so much fun that we even heard squeals.  :)  Our findings: Blubber keeps polar bears warm in icy waters. 

                                                               Glove without "blubber".

                                                                  Glove with "blubber"

E for Effort

Well folks, here it is... my blog about teaching.  I'm not sure how well this will work but I have been wanting to try it out for a while now.  There are a lot of good things that go on with teaching still and I feel like it gets brushed under the rug by all the bad stuff that bad teachers do (and YES there are bad teachers out there believe it or not... shocker I know!).  I miss the fun stuff that I used to do in class (a while before state and county dictated to us what to teach and pacing guides came into focus), so as I plan things to do (while still sticking to state and county objectives) I will share them here.  Please pass this along and share with your teacher friends... the more the merrier.