Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Community Time

I make room for "Community Time" each week and we love it!
What is it?
A time for kids to share a quick personal story.  First graders often share about weekend experiences, pets, or upcoming plans, but it can be about anything.  We listen to our friends, sit quietly, learn more about each other, and make connections to some of the things in our lives outside of school.  During this time, we do not have the audience ask questions or make comments after...instead, on each Friday, we have a Sharing Day where students can bring an item, tell about it, and take questions or comments from classmates.
Ten minutes, right before clean up, on Monday afternoon.  I've done it where the whole class gets a chance to speak, but also where boys and girls alternate Mondays (if you have larger class numbers).
We sit in a big circle together at our meeting area.  I introduce Community Time on the first day of school by sharing a quick story of my own and then going around the circle to let any other kids share if they are ready.  Many first graders are a bit shy the first day, but usually open up by the second week!  After a student shares their story (or passes), they say the name of the next person....it's great for name practice at the beginning of the year!
I started this with my Kindergarten class my very first year of teaching and I've done it all the way up to Third Grade.
  • Practices listening skills by having students learn to sit quietly and listen to others.
  • We build community and learn about our friends.
  • Helps us learn each other's names at the beginning of the year.
  • Students find things that they have in common, such as same neighborhoods, extracurricular activities, pets, and more!
  • I often use their ideas to help prompt them during Writer's Workshop/Journals if they aren't sure what to write about.
  • Low pressure, low anxiety, but kids can still "pass" if they don't feel like sharing on a particular day.
  • Can be used for a Speaking and Listening grade if you desire.
 Let me know if you do something like this in your classroom!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

First Grade Funnies

First graders are brutally honest and hilarious!!!  I have so many funny stories 😂...more than I can remember, of course.  I decided to go through my social media accounts and collect as many of my old stories as I can find.  I figure my blog is as good a place as any to keep my stories in a centralized location.
I will continue to add to this post as I find more or as 1st graders inevitably say more hilarious things!!  Names changed to protect the innocent...or guilty!

I Don't Deserve Vacations
Boy:  Where are the chapter books you said you were going to add to our library?
Me:  They're still at home.  I need to finish labeling them and then I'll bring them.
Boy:  Well, you should have done that over Spring Break  *and walks away*

Contraction Confusion 
We've been learning about contractions.   I tell my students that we put the apostrophe there to show that we left out some letters when we were putting the two words together.
Later on, during Science....
A boy is trying to squeeze the words "horseshoe magnet" into a small space in his Science Notebook, but couldn't get it to fit.  So here is what he ended up writing:  "horseshoe't"

Tired Santa
Girl:  We took pictures with Santa.  Then, when we were leaving, we saw Santa walking to his car.  He took his hat off and plopped down into his seat.
I was dying laughing, thinking of some old hairy guy leaving the nasty mall and getting into his beater car after a long day!!! 

Big Dreams
My 1st graders wrote out their dreams, goals, and wishes for our school's Life Cube project.  I gave them privacy and didn't read them, but a few shared aloud and they were beautiful:
I wish they would find a cure for diabetes.
I want my grandpa to get out of jail.
I want more family time because my parents work too much.
I want more friends.
I want to get better at reading.
I wish my grandma would come back to life.
And then there's this one....I want to be Optimus Prime.

We started an opinion/persuasive piece, where students "apply" for a job as an elf and give reasons why they want the job or would be good at it.  They can choose jobs such as "Reindeer Caretaker", "Candy Maker", "Toy Designer", etc. (Thanks Courtney Marsh for the great idea!)  We discussed a good opening/topic sentence and I posted some starter ideas for them.  I walk over to one little boy and he has started with "I don't".  I said, "Uh oh, let's try using one of the starter ideas we talked about."  He replies, with tears brimming, "I don't want a job!  I don't want to leave my mom and dad!"

Mom's Crush
Making spinning tops at Science:
Me:  I like how your blue and black design looks when you spin your top.
Boy: I made it that way because I like the Carolina Panthers.
Me:  I thought so.  Do you like Cam Newton?
Boy:  Yes AND (cue hysterical laughter) MY MOM WANTS TO MARRY HIM!

Wardrobe Malfunction
One of my girls discovered her shirt was on backward, so I helped her get her arms out of the sleeves and turn it around.  It was kind of a tight shirt and it took some muscle and a bit of time.  When we were done, she said, "Do me a favor.  Let's never speak of this again!"

March Madness
Boy:  Who do the Ducks play today?
Me: Michigan.
Boy:  Oh, I like Michigan.
Other boy, physically jumping into the middle of our conversation:   MICHIGAN IS TRAAAAAAAAAAAASH!!!!!

Lemonade and More
We talked about ways to earn money to buy something expensive.
Boy:  A lemonade stand!
Girl:  I had a lemonade stand, but I sold lemonade, Capri Sun, and beer.

Rough Recess 
Me (picking kids up at recess):  Where is Kelly?
Girl (very matter-of-factly):  She had to go to the nurse because she had a heart attack.

To be continued!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Data in the Primary Grades!!!

Data, data, data....that's a popular word nowadays!  I love using data to track student growth and progress, make goals, and plan instruction, but this post is about how my FIRST GRADERS are using data to track their individual progress and reach their goals! I've been using Data Notebooks with my 1st graders for about four years now.  I've been adding things each year, so that they will be useful to both me and my students. 
Each student in my class has a Data Notebook.  We use it daily for behavior tracking, weekly or monthly for reading progress monitoring and goal tracking, and it is shared with parents during conferences.
I have four main parts of my notebooks that I'm sharing here:
*Behavior/Participation Tracker
*AIMSWeb graphs
*World Series of Reading points
*Wildly Important Goal tracking
I use a behavior/participation chart in my classroom.  At the end of each day, students bring out their notebook and color the calendar to match where they are on the chart for the day.  I encourage them to set personal behavior goals based on these calendars, look for trends, and reflect at the end of each month.
January page from student notebook
Our classroom chart
We also use the Data Notebooks frequently to graph our reading benchmark and monitoring from AIMSWeb.  Kids have their goal highlighted and graph their results each week or month (depending on how often they are monitored).  It is a great visual for them to see growth, lack of growth, and how far to go until they reach their grade level goal.  Some of my kiddos come in above the average expectations, so they set higher goals to work toward. The third photo shows a boy who began far above grade level expectations, so his graph actually goes to "200" instead of "100", like average first grade graphs.
Student who began in average range

An above average reader set a higher fluency goal
He started well above grade level and has adjusted his fluency goal twice.
Last year, we began our World Series of Reading to get our kids excited about reading as they find books or a series that they love.  In a nutshell, it works like this:  Students find a series at their level that they are interested in.  They read one of the books from their series.  After reading, they review with a friend to check for comprehension.  Then, students take an Accelerated Reader quiz.  If they pass with 80 or higher, they move to the next book in their series.  Students receive a charm for each series they pass.  If they reach their monthly point goal, which is based on their reading level, they receive a World Series rubber duck, which are wildly popular and sought-after!  Because our main homework is an expected 20-30 minutes of reading, students are expected to meet certain points goals each month.  Students have a set amount of points that they are supposed to meet each month, but most students like to set higher goals to work toward, so I've included our World Series W.I.G.s chart.  We usually do not start this until March, when most students are able to meet the set amount easily and can begin to strive for more ambitious point goals.  This first month, a lot of them overestimated how many points they could earn, so we discussed possibly setting a more realistic goal...we also have Spring Break in April, so they have one week less of World Series time this month.
An emergent reader who is making great growth!
Proud owner of five World Series ducks so far!
Students setting ambitious World Series points goals
Throughout the week, students write W.I.G.s (Wildly Important Goals...we are working to be a Leader in Me school).  My students write their goal on a sticky note, along with the goal beginning and goal ending date, and stick it on our big chart.  Some goal examples:  attendance, words per minute, passing a particular series, behavior, and World Series points.  Each Friday, we read over the chart.  If a student achieved his/her goal, we say "GOAL ACHIEVED!", I draw a big smiley face on it, and move it to the W.I.G.s Achieved chart.  After some display time, I hand the sticky notes back to the kids and they stick them on the W.I.G.s Achieved page in their Data Notebook.  W.I.G.s Achieved are also announced at our Morning Ceremony and students sign a special "W.I.G. Book" that is kept in the office.
Our WIGs Chart...goals now written independently throughout the week
Data Notebook W.I.G. page

They can add as many W.I.G. pages as needed

In addition to these data pages, we have several school-wide pages that we complete at the end of the school year and pass on with student binders to the next teacher (you can find them in my TpT store if you are interested), but these pages I've included in this post are sent home with the student at the end of the year so they can reflect on growth and achievement after a year of hard work!
I'm always interested in hearing how other people use data with their young learners, so I'd love to hear from you in the comments!!


Monday, October 3, 2016

Be Passionate...about many things!

I'm working on a Word Work activity post, but still need to get some good pictures of my kiddos in action.  So, since I had a fantastic time at the Route 91 Harvest Festival this weekend, it got me to thinking about some of the things I'm passionate about in my life, besides teaching 1st grade.

I say it all the time....if your ONLY passion/obsession is teaching and you don't have any fun/exciting/relaxing things to do outside of teaching, chances are you will be grouchy, burnt out, and not much fun to be around!  That's not good for you, your students, or anyone else! 

As far as for being at home and relaxing, I'm all about my family and my pets.  But I have other interests that I make time for, too!!
Daddy and Betty at obedience school graduation!
Spencer and Princess Leia letting me know they are out of food!
My biggest passion is my Oregon Duck football team...even though we are currently having some trying times, I love to get together with family and watch them every weekend, travel to games when we can, and go on some big trips to our bowl games.  Going to two National Championship games, multiple Rose Bowls, and other road trips have been some of the most fun times and greatest memories of my life.  I am so glad I didn't let things like, "I can't spend the money" or "I can't miss a day of school" hold me back from these amazing adventures...trips like these make me a better teacher because I'm refreshed, happy, and can share my passion for things with my students
when I get back!
Cheering on our Ducks at the 2015 Rose Bowl  
Sisters at the 2011 BCS National Championship Game

This weekend, I attended my second Route 91 Harvest Festival here in Las Vegas.  Last year, we got to see Keith Urban, Florida Georgia Line, and more...immediately after, I started making my plans for this year and hoping/praying/wishing Luke Bryan would be there...and then, a few months later, he was announced as the Sunday night headliner!!!  So excited!!!  He played all of my favorite songs and I got to jump around and sing my heart out.  No voice today!  This year, in addition to Luke, we saw Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Dustin Lynch, Little Big Town, and more!  If you love country music, I highly recommend coming out for this one.  It's in a huge lot, right on the fabulous Las Vegas Strip.  Three days and nights of great music (of course), lots of carnival/fair type food, drinks, vendors, and 25,000 country music lovers!
2016 Route 91 Harvest Festival
Luke Bryan!!!!!!
 So, here's to teaching, pets, family, football, great country music, and being passionate about life!  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Teacher Emergency Baskets!

We've started a "Welcoming New Teachers" Group at my school for both brand new teachers and teachers who are new to our school.  You can read more about the start of that group here:  Welcoming New Teachers  And, I'm always open for more ideas for our meetings if you have a great mentoring program in place at your school!
For our first meeting a few weeks ago, I made each teacher a "Teacher Emergency Basket" Starter Kit.  This basket included deodorant, hairspray, Advil, thank you cards, lotion, hand sanitizer, toothbrush and toothpaste, q-tips, dental floss, Kleenex, and cough drops.  I thought it would be a great start and they can add to it as needed to fit personal needs.

My own basket is pretty full, and not photo-ready, but it's very useful!  It has a bit of everything in it, but these are the items that I use most often!  Here is a (partial) list of its contents:

What are some more good things to add to my stash?!  Let me know your must-haves!!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My first Blog Hoppin' Teacher Week!

So, I participated in #bhteacherweek16!  Look at me!!!!!  Two blog posts in two days!  It's a record!!! I kept up every day and it was fun to see all of the different posts!
This was the layout for the week. 

Here are my posts from the week:
Meet Me Monday...I shared a picture of me and the new hubby, Jabar!  Love this pic!  Need to go through all of my wedding pictures and get them ordered!  I'm also a 1st grade teacher in Nevada, I LOVE my Oregon Ducks, and I'm a huge animal lover!  I think college football is the greatest thing on the planet.  Ducks coming up tonight...GOOOOO DUCKS!   I have 2 awesome cats, Spencer and Princess Leia, and a crazy dog named Betty.  They're on Insta quite a bit if you follow me!
I've become much more of an introvert in my old age, although I've always kept to myself pretty much.  Not much is more exciting to me than just having a nice, peaceful weekend at home working on whatever I please!

Teaching Tuesday...I haven't taken a ton of pics yet this year.  We just finished our second week of school.  I shared a pic from the past of kids during our Magnet Science Unit, which is one of my faves to teach!  I wrote a grant many years ago and was able to buy a ton of different types of magnets and activities for my classroom.  Kiddos always have such a great time with magnets and science in general!  So much fun and good for my students, too!

Where I Work Wednesday...I work in the great state of Nevada, in Henderson, which is like a suburb of Las Vegas, I guess. I love this place!  I love sun and we have 300+ sunny days every year.  Being a native Oregonian, I was sick of the rain and I'm so glad I made the move here in 2006!  Now, I LOVE rain, because it's rare and beautiful in the desert.  The flash floods are another thing....  We love to get to Oregon a few times a year to see my parents and I do appreciate the green and trees more now than when I was growing up!  I enjoy my school here as well, have a good-sized classroom, and started flexible seating this year, which I am loving!
Threads Thursday...So, I'm not a clothes shopper.  I hate trying things on and going to stores....
However, I had to post this adorable shirt worn by one of my first graders this week.  I'm fluent in cat as well!

Friends Friday...A picture of my First Grade Team (along with a twin of one), my Principal, and my husband at our wedding.  That night was fun, but went by so fast!!  I had three tables of teacher friends there from my current school and my old school here.  Lots of family, too.  Such a great day and night!
This was a fun week and I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to keep up and figure out the fancy apps that I'd never tried before!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Flexible Seating...On a (very tight) Budget!

After seeing all the cool posts and pics about Flexible Seating, I decided I wanted to change my room up a bit as well.  I've always been pretty "flexible" on seating.  I don't use desks...For years, I'd had five long rectangle tables with community supplies (pencils, crayons, scissors, etc.) in the center.  Each table had a bookcase at the end for Data Notebooks, book boxes, dry erase boards and supplies, and folders.  Kids were able to stand and work, work on the floor with clipboards, sit on a pillow for reading, etc., but they still had a home base seat with a name tag.  I liked this set up, but all the shelving at the end of each table took up a bit too much space for me.  I wanted to downsize my furniture a bit.
I was ready to start something new this year after seeing lots of great setups in other elementary classrooms.  I wrote a Donors Choose funding request, but it wasn't funded. :(  I was still set on trying this out...However, I could not go spend a bunch of money on all the fancy things because I was getting married and taking a honeymoon this summer.  That's where ALL of my extra money went this year!
I sat down and listed what I wanted, how it would work/look, and worked with my awesome neighbor teacher (who has always done "working areas", long before "flexible seating" became so popular) on arrangement ideas and logistics for things like backpacks, supply storage, and such.
I bought a few inexpensive items and used other items of mine from past years or that we already had at school.
Our "kneeling" table and Ikea pillows
The kneeling table is the most popular area in our classroom and my personal favorite as well!  This was one of my long rectangle tables from last year, with the lower half of the legs unscrewed and taken off, so that was free!  I bought three different types of pillows at Ikea (six pillows total).  They were $3.99 each!  Students kneel or sit on the pillows.  This table can fit 6 kids easily and more, depending on what they are working on. 
Total spent on this area:  $24.00  If you already have suitable pillows, then this would be FREE for you!

Tall/Standing Table with Ikea stools
The "standing" table is a rectangle table, but shorter length than my old ones.  This was something we already had at school and I had the custodian raise it a bit.  It's a great place for kids to stand when writing or playing a game.  Some of the taller first graders bring stools over and sit at this table as well.  This is a great place for about 4-5 kids at a time.
Total spent on this area:  $0  (stool prices coming later)
Good ol' desks with school-issue chairs.

A few of my kids love having their own private work space, so these desks work well for that.  The little table in the middle is something I used to have at home.  It works well for setting a supply tub in between the desks for two friends to share.
Total spent on this area:  $0 (and I used a piece of my furniture from years ago that I just didn't want to get rid of!)
Rectangle table with Ikea stools and school-issue chairs.
I kept two of my long rectangle tables from years past. (Three, if you count the kneeling table)  They both have a combination of Ikea stools and school-issue chairs.  Students can move seating around as needed.  This table regularly has 5-6 people working at it.  My other rectangle table has room for 3-4, because I have bookcases on one of the short ends and one of the long ends.
Total spent on this area:  Six Ikea (Marius) stools (throughout the room)-$30.00
Orange tiger and purple cow camp chairs
I stumbled upon these beauties at the grocery store last spring and HAD to have them!  I bought two tigers and two cows.  Kids sit in these to read or if they need to write, they grab a clipboard for a hard writing surface.  Always be on the lookout for cute seating choices that you can use in your classroom!  Easy-to-move seating choices for 4 kids.
Total spent on this area:  Four camp chairs-$28.00
Two Ikea rugs for floor work
I put two square rugs together in our Classroom Library area.  Super soft and cozy for kids who want to work on the floor.  Another great place for 3-4 kids to work.
Total spent on this area:  Two Ikea rugs-$20.00
Hooks for backpacks and coats
I almost forgot about this part when I was setting up!!!  Luckily, my neighbor reminded me that they wouldn't have an actual "seat" to hang backpacks and coats on, so I bought these Command Hooks at Walmart.  (I don't have a coat rack or anything like that...)  Then, I wrote a number on each hook, so they always use the same hook each day.  Each student has a number which is on their book box, data notebook, etc.  This has worked wonderfully!  They take their lunch boxes out in the morning and put them in a big tub, so the backpacks aren't too heavy.  These hooks are made to hold up to 5 pounds and we've had no problems so far!
Total spent on this area for me:  $28.00, but FREE for you if you already have a coat/backpack rack!

$78.00 if you already have pillows and a backpack area
$102.00  with cute Ikea pillows
$130.00 if command hooks are needed
And, that's it!  I'm so happy with my room.  I feel like I have so much more open space after getting rid of two big rectangle tables and moving my bookcases around.  The kids are champs at choosing and using their working spaces appropriately.  I may add other types of seating in the future, but this is working wonderfully well and the kids are happy and busy!  I'd love to hear about other budget-friendly options that you are using with your students, too!  I'd also love to answer any questions that you may have if you're ready to try this!