Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I Teach Wednesdays: A "Beautiful" Story (And Catching Up on the Week)

Well I'm behind on my posts because I've had three LONG days in a row of professional development (yippee!).  So this is going to be a quick post to catch me up with Monday through today and then hopefully I'll be back on schedule.  

Musical Monday

I saw this on Pinterest and absolutely LOVE it!  It's not academic but it'd be a cute song to sing together for a brain break and/or to encourage a positive classroom environment.

Click here for the link to the YouTube video!

Teacher Tricks Tuesday

I love this vocabulary boosting activity.  Every day when I introduce a new vocabulary word from our read aloud, I put the word on a reward chart like this: 

Then every time a student says, hears, reads, or writes that word in the classroom we put a sticker next to the word.  Once the chart has a decided number of stickers (I usually put a star at 10 so it doesn't take too long), we do something to celebrate that word.  For example, one year we had the word "enormous." Once we filled up ten stickers next to the word, I had them come the next day ready to find all the enormous things I used throughout the day.  I wore enormous sunglasses to pick them up from recess in, I used an enormous dollar store pen to check attendance, I used an enormous eraser, etc.  They had a blast spotting all of the enormous things throughout the day, and it was a fun connection to the word so they hopefully won't forget it!  There's all kinds of things you can do with the different vocabulary words.  It's a great chance to be creative! If all else fails and you can't think of an activity to do, you can give them label stickers to wear that say "Ask me what _______ means today!"  I've really enjoyed this engaging method of teaching vocabulary, and I'd love to hear other fun ideas that you may have!

Why I Teach Wednesday
So I was working in my classroom last week, dusting the layers upon layers of filth that had built up, when I walked over to an area that used to be home to one of "those" students.  A student who required ALL of my energy and patience some days.  But those same students are usually the ones that hold the most special places of our hearts, aren't they!?  Ok, not all the time, but this was certainly true for this little fellow.  He drove me crazy, but he also had the sweetest heart and just needed love.  And I loved that boy as hard as it was sometimes.  Anyway, I was over in his "spot," which of course was in his own "special" area for behavior purposes.  Then I noticed some cut up sticky notes stuck to the wall in front of where his desk sat.  Three little pieces.  With three words.  "Mrs."  And that, folks, is why I teach.  No, not so children will call me beautiful (although I could certainly get used to that! ;).  But I choose to teach so that I can be there for a child, so broken and hard on the outside, yet God's child, craving love and acceptance on the inside.  I'll never forget the ups and downs I had with that particular student.  And in my 6 years of teaching there are so many that have touched my heart the same way.  Sometimes I wonder, as I'm sure you all do, if I ever make a difference in their lives.  Do they know I care?  Was I too hard on them?  Why did I get myself into this (and where's the Excedrin!?)  But then we get those little reminders that all those headaches and even tears are worth it.  Why do I choose to teach?  Because all children deserve a chance to know they're loved.  And I believe God has called me to show them that.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Favorite Finds Friday: App Quest

It's Friday!  TGIF for those of you who work during the summer and "WKWDII" ("Who knows what day it is) to my fellow teachers! :) 

Two nights ago I FINALLY sat down to download some new apps for my classroom iPad.  I have been meaning to do this for a while now.  Yesterday I had the sweet girl that I tutor try them out, and here are the ones I recommend!

-"Play Sight Words, Gr. 1 &2"- different games to practice sight words
Play Sight Words example

-"Kids Learn Sight Words" by Teacher Created Materials- not super exciting, but it will show a sight word and the kiddo has to trace his/her finger on the lines to practice "writing" the word.  Also says the word if you click on the star
Kids Learn Sight Words example

-"Math vs. Zombies"- I'm pretty sure the boys will especially love this one!  In order to turn the zombies back into humans, you have to click on the right answer to the math equation.  Has addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Math vs. Zombies example (they have different levels of difficulty)
-"Story Chimes"- If you do a search for this in the app store, it will bring you to TONS of different stories.  You can choose to read it by yourself or have the story read to you.  A bunch (we're talkin' lots) are FREE!!!  And many are good classic stories and fairy tales that we all know and love.

Story Chimes examples- So many to choose from!
-"Classroom Timer"-  A free timer for your classroom that shows the time decreasing.  Very visual.  Also has a "Great Job" affirmation if you click the "DONE" button because you finished before the timer went off.
Classroom Timer example
-"Top It"- This math game "deals" cards to two players (or you can play alone).  Each player or side gets two cards.  First, you have to add the two cards together to find the sum.  Then you determine which number is greater.  This app did cost me $1.99 I think. 
Top It example
-"Number Rack"-  This is the digital version of those ever so popular Rekenreks that you can use in math to build number sense.  You can keep a single rack of beads or add multiple racks of beads.
Number Rack example
-"Jumbled Sentences 3"- This app is really cute.  It gives you words to a sentence in a mixed up order.  You have to use your knowledge of sentence structure and language sense to put the words in the correct order.  The first letter of one word is capitalized which is a helpful clue to put it first.  
Jumbled Sentences example
-"The Electric Company Game"- This is a fun cross-curricular game for between 1-4 players.  They move to different spots on the game board and have to complete a challenge before the next turn.  So far I've seen CVCe words, decoding, greater than/less than, etc.  A fun one!
The Electric Company example
-"Word Wonderland-Primary"- This was the absolute favorite game she played yesterday (and it's free!).  Even my 4 year old loved it.  It starts out as low as CVC word level and goes up to silent e, and later more sophisticated vowel patterns.  It's a game board of lily pads, but some are missing.  You have to match the word to the correct label ("short i") to create a lily pad to hop on.  The object of the game is to make it to the end board piece.  There's also stars that you want to collect along the way.  Occasionally a little dragonfly will come and try to steal your star, so you have to shake the iPad to make him shoo away.  She loved that!  And it added an extra challenge.  I definitely recommend this one!!
Word Wonderland example

Well, I hope I was able to introduce you to some good finds you might not have already had on your iPad!  I can't wait to use these this year!  Do you have any new apps to add to this list??  If so, comment here.  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: I Need a Life

Because it's summer and I have no life, I have TOO many things to share in one "Thrifty Thursday" post!  I've been a regular at the local Dollar Stores.  Yesterday I even got the, "You're back again!?" from the Dollar Tree cashier.  Embarrassing?  To most people.  Not me.  I think I should get an award.  But that's neither here nor there.  Today I'm going to post my most recent purchases from dollar stores and how I intend to use them.  But please read to the end today because I need your help coming up with creative ideas on some precious finds that I just don't know what to do with. So, here we go...

These plates and bowls not only go with my Seuss theme, but they're currently at the Target Dollar Spot!  Woo hoo!  I decided to make a little phonics center activity.  This is one I am calling "Horton Here's an 'oo'"  Get it!?  I'm pretty proud of that one ;)  It's really simple.  Basically, I printed a bunch of pictures.  They go in the bowl.  The ones that have "oo" in them go on the plate.  The ones that don't, get discarded.  Then they can record the oo words on the recording sheet I made.  (Really simple, I made a table in Microsoft Word and added a Horton clipart from Google Images).  Done.  I also got a Yertle the Turtle set, One Fish Two Fish set, and Cat in the Hat set.  I think I'll make the exact same game only using bossy r (Yertle the Turtle), sh/th/ch/wh (One Fish, Two Fish), and CVC words (Cat in the Hat).  So simple.  But these cute little pieces make the center activity seem that much more fun!

I'm in LOVE with this one.  I also found these cardboard coasters in the Dollar Spot at Target, leftover from the summer BBQ themed stuff.  I created a math game for the sums 7, 8, 9, and 10.  I put each of those numbers on a piece of bread/bun.  Then I put a bunch of equations on the toppings.  They have to make a complete sandwich by finding all of the toppings that add up to the correct sum.  I tested it on a girl I'm tutoring this summer and she loved it.  She asked to play it twice!  That's a good sign.  I'm HOPING that some of you can find these little cuties in your Target Dollar Spot!  The possibilities are endless!  And now I want a hamburger.
As if it could even get any cuter, I remembered that LAST year, the Target Dollar Spot had these Dr. Seuss sandwich containers.  I bought them and didn't really use them for anything.  But how PERFECT is it for my sandwich math game!?  I think I was entirely TOO excited when I remembered I had it AND when everything fit just right.  It may or may not have been the best thing that happened to me that day. 

But wait, there's more!!  These cardboard squares were placed in between each sandwich topping in the package they came in.  So...I decided to turn them into little hundreds chart puzzles.  I like these puzzles because not every piece is there.  They have to use their number sense and problem solving to place the numbers in the correct position.  I was able to make two of these puzzles.  And boom a perfect "Early Bird Work" idea!  AND I found some cute teeny tiny red containers at Dollar Tree for them to be stored in! 

This is by NO MEANS my original idea.  I got the idea from Pinterest and just Seussed it up/came up with a cute title.  It's so easy.  Take some envelopes and seal them (bleh!).  Cut off the left side.  Write a bunch of CVC words on index cards with the letters slightly spaced  out.  Now they can pull the index card out slowly and blend the word to figure it out!  Easy cheesy.  I noticed I could see the letters through the thin white envelope so I decided to find some Dr. Seuss clip art.  I found the cute Thing 1 and Thing 2 graphic so I decided to call it "Blend With a Friend" and it fit together perfectly.  Now I just have to (read: want to) laminate the envelopes and re-slice them open so they look nicer and last a little longer. :)

And last...I got these puppies yesterday at Dollar Tree!  These tiny little trash cans have been around for years, but for $1 each, I decided to get one for each of my desk clusters.  When we're working on cut and paste activities, we'll put these trash cans out and they can put their trash directly in here instead of getting up to throw stuff away constantly.  I got the idea originally from Pinterest.  The teacher used "trash buckets."  But if anything is in miniature size I can't resist, so these cute little trash cans didn't have a chance!

 Now, here's where I want your help...Dollar Tree has these precious little cutouts of two things that go together.  I've already purchased ones that look like bread with peanut butter and jelly and bees with honey.  I numbered each with a number 1-12.  I'll use them to partner my kiddos.  The person with the #4 bee is going to be partners with the person with the #4 honey pot, etc.  

Then, the store got a new stash of these sets.  I realized I didn't need to use them all for partnering, but I'm trying to think of a creative use for them! I used some of the milk/cookies to match a main idea with some supporting details.  But I am just stuck with any other good ideas. Help! 

Are there any other good buys out there? Share your thoughts and great finds!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why I Teach Wednesday: Call Me Shallow

Typically I post sweet, touching, or even humorous stories that illustrate how rewarding the life of a teacher can students are the biggest reason I teach, and an inspiration on a day to day basis. 

However, it's summer.  And I don't have any new adorable stories.  So I'm moving to a more shallow reason why I teach...the creative outlet.  So I decided to show some pictures of my latest classroom theme (this will be my 4th year with the same theme)...Dr. Seuss.  I haven't finished my room for this year (HA! I barely started!! Eeek!), but I'll give a few snapshots of my room over the past three years.  While I came up with some of the ideas myself, most are Pinterest inspired or straight up Pinterest copycats.  I'll do my best to give shouts out to the things that I cannot take ownership of.

So, without further adieu, here's my classroom!

I LOOOVED this sign, but sadly it was destroyed.  I bought it from the western section of Oriental Trading.  Then I colored the arrows with ink pads and added a Seussy font.  I think it looked like it came straight from one of his books!  I sure miss this thing!

The inside of my door...cute Cat in the hat white board for memos (gift from a friend) and our "Ready for the Hall" chant!

Ignore the ugly unpeeled tape.  I've since cleaned that up!  But my bathrooms are labeled "Who Girls" and "Who Boys" :)

I bought this alphabet frieze from a book store, laminated them, and turned them into my wall alphabet!

My set up the first year I did Dr. Seuss. 

This sign is by the water fountain.  I made it using Google images and my Dr. Seuss font.

Library Center (This year I have RED tubs so they'll look better with the Seuss stuff!)

"Word Jail" for those words that break the phonetic rules we study.  The kiddos LOVE putting words in jail!  We also LOVE to make the siren noise. 

An idea I got from Pinterest...framed a class list and used it all year for checklists: who brought field trip money, who turned in forms, etc.

I used these rubbery placemats at the beginning of the year to mark where they sat at the carpet.

I adapted this from a pin I saw on Pinterest.  I turned a "Lazy Susan" into a prize wheel. 

Where they get their "mail" every afternoon (graded papers, notes, etc.)

Adorable clock a colleague gave me! :)

I took an old school bus bulletin board piece (already said "Oh the Places We Will Go") and added some Seuss characters to the windows.  Then I'll put pictures on the black line (cork board) to make a timeline of our year.

Another Pinterest idea...clothespin "How We Get Home" chart.  I made the Seuss labels on the computer.

These baskets are where they turn in notes or money in the morning (blue basket) or class work (orange basket).  I got the highlighter idea from Pinterest...students have to put one line through their name with the highlighter to make sure that their name is on it.  Below the baskets, we have their "Early Bird Work."  These are different educational but simple activities they can do when they are finished with work early (butterfly metamorphosis puzzle, counting boxes, flashcards, hundreds chart puzzle, simple word games, etc.)

I label my centers with Dr. Seuss themed labels (as seen in my post about my PowerPoint for literacy centers).

Pinterest steal..using Germ-X as the bathroom passes.  I started this last year and they lasted all year!  Brilliant!

Another Pinterest steal...Any time a student finds a game piece, manipulative, etc. on the ground/desk, they put in the missing pieces bucket and I can put it away correctly later.  This has helped TONS with no interruptions during a lesson/work time.

I switched to white ice tubs for their reading tubs this year.  The bags are from the Target Dollar Spot, and these are what they use to take their guided reading books/reading logs home in every night.  Also, I have extra white tubs (top right) with all the extra folders, journals, etc. so that when a new student comes, all of the stuff they need is right there ready to go! (Pinterest idea)
I hope you enjoyed the glimpse into my Dr. Seuss classrooms from years past.  Soon (hopefully!) I'll be through with this year's and I'll post any updates at a later date.  I hope the beginning of your week has been off to a great start, and I pray the remaining few days are even more blessed!  And I'll end on this...THANK GOODNESS FOR PINTEREST!  Can I get an 'amen!?'

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Teacher Tricks Tuesday: Beuller? Beuller? Beuller?

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  It's a rainy morning here!  My son and I ran to the store to get something really fast and I ended up with 30% chance of rain all over my newly applied clothes. But we were desperate for rain, so I won't complain at all.  And an added's COOL outside!  At the end of July!  God's little blessings! 

Anyway, for "Teacher Tricks Tuesday," I wanted to feature something that a dear friend and I came up with our first year of teaching.  She's more of the genius behind it, I just sort of said, "You know what we need? Something to make taking attendance and lunch count less of a time consumer."  And she, being the brilliant teacher/creative mind she is, took it from there! 

Our theory was this:  Taking attendance and lunch count in the morning, based on what we had seen through student teaching and subbing, turned into a 30 minute routine once everyone was settled.  What a waste of precious teaching time!  Plus, it was a classroom management issue.  Does this sound familiar?

     (Teacher taking attendance): "Joe Smith?"
     (Student, not Joe Smith): "He's sick!"
     (Another student, also not Joe Smith): "No he's not!  I think I saw him in the cafeteria!"
     (Another student): "No you didn't!"

Well, we may have done a lot of stupid things our first year of teaching, but this was not one of them!  The concept is simple...

Here is the version I've adapted over my years of teaching...
1)  Make a clothespin for every child.  Put their names on BOTH sides.
2) Clip them to a long piece of ribbon attached to the wall
3) When the student enters, he'll find his clip and move it to the left side to show that he's here.  If he brought his lunch, he'll move it to the left, but he'll place it below the red line (not pictured here, sorry!) on the ribbon.  
4) Student unpacks his backpack and gets started on his morning work quietly
5) Teacher takes attendance by quickly glancing at the clips and marking it on the attendance sheet.  Students are not disturbed, enticed to blurt out, or make those silly (read: annoying) alternatives to saying "here" such as "president,"  "not here," or the more creative ones like, "salami."

*I used to put their numbers on the clips instead of the names, but I changed that for 2 reasons.  First of all, I moved down to first grade, and I just thought it'd be simpler from the get-go for them at the beginning of the year.  Second, when I had a sub, she didn't have to get a class list and figure out which student was what number.  I figured I could afford the 50 cents it costs to replace the clips each year.  And it's worked beautifully.

What do YOU do to save time and keep classroom management in the mornings?  That's always a busy time, and I'd love to hear any other brilliant ideas out there!  Have a wonderful Tuesday and stay DRY!

Monday, July 22, 2013

So, We Meet Again

Oops, I did it again.  I have been thinking about getting back to blogging for a few weeks now and I just couldn't resist any longer.  So, here we are.  For all two of you (hi, mom!) who are interested, I'm back and I hope to share my side of the teaching world with everyone.  Some (read: most) won't even be my original ideas, but I hope to share things that may be new to you because we teachers like to STEAL, save money, and spend more time with our families than doing unnecessary work!

So, we find ourselves at  "Musical Monday," a day where I share some of my favorite ways to incorporate songs and chants into the classroom! 

I teach first grade, and one of the common core (gasp, sigh, groan, grumble) standards for 1st is to write opinion pieces.  Even before this standard came along, I found that a commonly used word, yet a hard-to-spell word for firsties is the word "because."  Thus, one day I lied and told my students I had a song to help them with it so they'll never forget it again.   And as I spoke , the stars aligned just right, the clouds opened up, and little diddy popped up into my head:

(To the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb")

Because, Because Because!

I know.  You're thinking, "that's it!?"  Yep.  I never promised it'd be super brilliant or exciting.  But it works!  And now they're held accountable for spelling that all important, frequently used word to justify their opinion!  Cool!

I also want to include a song I whipped up for could/should/would, also frequently used and difficult words:

(To the tune of "BINGO")

There is a word that we should know
And this is how you spell it
And "could" is how you say it.

(Repeat with "would" and "should."  Say "S-H" quickly when you sing the "should" verse!)

There you go, folks.  It's good to be back.  As always, I'd love to hear your input and ideas, so comment with love or one of your own original songs.  Do you use songs or chants to help with spelling?