Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Choice Time in First Grade

Friday Choice Time is a favorite in my classroom each week!  I instituted Choice Time my very first year of teaching.  It takes place during the last 20 minutes of our day each Friday.  Students earn this time by participating in class and meeting classroom expectations throughout the week.  It is technically part of my Social Studies time.  Students are practicing social skills, expressing creativity, and learning to work cooperatively with others.  I love to join in, too!  I enjoy teaching them how to play games they may not be familiar with, having fun and informal conversations with my students, and watching them interact with one another in a different environment than our normal day-to-day classroom. I also LOVE playing games such as Connect Four, Jenga, Memory, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Old Maid, and more! :)  My students are 5-7 years old and it's so important for them to have this time to just be little kids!
I keep puzzles, games, art supplies, and more in the closet and place 6-8 items out each week.  I like having many different activities to switch out so it keeps it fresh and engaging for my students. Our Friday Choice Time takes place right after our weekly Sharing (Show and Tell) Time, so students may enjoy their Sharing Time items with friends as well.
I'm sharing some pictures from the past week that show a peek of my students enjoying some of our Friday Choice Time activities.  Do you do something similar in your classroom?  I'd love to hear what you do in your classroom and add to my collection!!

Plastic Animals
Various animals, insects, and other figurines allow students to use their imagination, develop language and vocabulary skills, gain self control, and learn how to share and communicate with others.
The ever-popular Dinosaur Tub
Several games are traded out each week.  Students are learning to take turns, follow rules, and demonstrate good sportsmanship when winning or losing a game.  My current collection includes Memory Match, Old Maid, CandyLand, Chutes and Ladders, Checkers, Connect Four, Go Fish, and Hi Ho Cherry-O.
A competitive Memory Match game
Chutes and Ladders...a favorite from my childhood!

Building/Design Materials
Legos/Duplos, plastic chains, and various figurines promote imagination, cooperation, engineering, and fine motor skills.
Lego Station
Lincoln Logs are a favorite from my childhood days.  They require cognitive thinking, spatial reasoning, cooperation, and engineering skills.
Jenga is another great game that allows for fine motor skills practice, cooperation, cognitive thinking, and sportsmanship.
Building with Lincoln Logs
Sharing Time Items
Students bring their prized possessions in for Sharing Time and give a short, oral presentation about their item(s).  They are always excited to show off their items to their friends and play together.
A student sharing her Shopkins with friends after her Sharing Time presentation.
Art Supplies
I get a TON of beautiful art from our Creation Station. :)  This station promotes creative expression, quiet conversation, patience, and fine motor skills.
Creation Station (Paper, fancy scissors, stencils, paper punches, coloring books, and more!)


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bigger Isn't Always Better! AKA 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal!!

My first eleven years in Vegas were spent in large classrooms with lots of storage and 15-22 1st graders.  While I loved having all the room for furniture and kids, being as I'm a stuffer/hoarder, I usually ended up with mess piles all over the place.  Of course, it didn't look bad to outsiders or the students, but I had lots of things crammed and hidden in wardrobes and shelving units.
Fast forward to this year and my new school and classroom.  It's the smallest room I've been in here.  I was a bit nervous at first, but it's really turning in to my favorite classroom ever.  The lack of storage and places to "stuff" things is actually a blessing in disguise.  I'm forced to be more organized and I got rid of a lot of things that I hadn't used and was just holding onto for no reason!!  My flexible seating works well for the smaller space and it doesn't feel crowded at all.
I'm going to share pictures of all of my favorite parts in my classroom!  Many of these are after we've started school, so they might not be "picture perfect" but they're real!!  If you have any questions or comments, leave me a comment below!  Thanks and enjoy!
Here are some pics showing the overall classroom:
Half of the Library.  I have another of the same shelf and more tubs to the right of this one.
Star Student board and past class pictures
Sink area and more rainbow decor. 
Student seating and my small group table/teacher work area.
Several seating options, looking toward our front meeting area.
Our meeting area...sit spots, rules, calendar, easel, schedule.
Most of our book boxes...2 more are on one other shelf.
Ready for Meet and Greet
View from the meeting area toward the door....some supplies out for Meet and Greet.
Boards and displays:
Anchor chart display
Charm necklaces ready to be loaded up!
More charts for the beginning of the year...later will be student work.
Hallway board
Emoji job chart
Behavior/Participation Chart and Job Chart
Some storage options:
The colorful tubs on top will hold reading group supplies, drawers below are various supplies.
Our Take Home Readers...checkout starts next week!
The 8 thin tubs on bottom are math stations, the labeled tubs on top are various notebooks and journals storage.  

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Teaching Portfolio for Interviews

I always show up at a job interview with resumes and my (informal) portfolio.  It's a bit like a scrapbook of my teaching career and classroom environment.  I've heard that it's common in our extremely large district for candidates to show up to an interview with nothing, so I'd love to show you a quick glimpse of something fun and easy that makes me stand out and be remembered when I go to an interview.  At the beginning of the interview, I introduce my portfolio and invite principals or others in the interview to look through it at their leisure.  On panel interviews, some may browse through it during the interview, but I've also left it with principals and they've returned it to me when they come to observe a lesson.

Portfolio Binder 
I bought my most recent binder a few years ago at Office Depot.  It's attractive, has pockets to hold additional resumes if needed, and my Office Depot page protectors fit perfectly.  Within the portfolio, each page is kept in a page protector.
My resume includes the following sections:
⇒ Teaching Experience
    = Past teaching positions
⇒ Classroom Achievements
    = Curriculum and assessments used, unique programs or traditions
⇒ Key Contributions
    = Leadership positions, school clubs, special assignments, grants received
⇒ Education
    = College degrees, post-graduate credits, additional endorsements

Classroom Snapshot
⇒ Newsletter Sample
I put a few recent samples of my weekly newsletter.
⇒ Classroom
Here, I like to show some of our classroom anchor charts, book boxes, activities, a few letters from students and families and anything else that shows my classroom environment.
Each section has a cover page
A few notes from parents and classroom observers

Professional Development 
⇒ Conferences, Trainings, Clubs
A bit more detailed than my resume, school clubs/teams, additional curriculum training
⇒ Presentations
Trainings, Presentations, Staff Development, Performances
⇒ Teaching licenses, Certificates
A few important highlights

Recommendations and Evaluations

⇒ Recommendations from principals, superintendents, colleagues, and literacy strategists
⇒ Most current evaluation

I've used this format for my two most recent interviews and I was hired both times!!  😊  It doesn't take long to put together and it may be the difference for you at your next interview!  If you have any questions, leave me a comment or e-mail me at

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'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...a Growing Collection!

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!

Language Fail
One of my students speaks Russian.  Each day, we walk together to her after school club.  She decided she wants to teach me Russian for a week and then test me.  I told her I'm not so great at other languages, but it sounds fun.
She spoke the word for "mother" during my first lesson and told me to repeat it.  I tried my best.  She looks straight at me and says, "Yea, you're gonna need a lot of work."

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*

Field Day Fun!
Boy:  WOW! I'm sure glad I took my underwear off so they wouldn't get wet and shrink!

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.

Very Important Information
As I was reviewing the table of contents in a student's informational book, I noticed a chapter called "Do Not Lick The Ball".   😂

Just Wait, Kid!  
I was frantically looking for a math activity that I'd misplaced while the kids were cleaning up.  One of my little boys was following behind me because he is like my little shadow.
I was muttering, "Where did I put that?" and I hear him behind me, say under his breath, "Short term memory lossssssss."

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!"

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!

Happy Birthday to Me
Student:  Your birthday is in September.
Me:  Yes, it is.
Student:  You gonna be 38 on your birthday.
Me:  You're right!  Good job remembering!
Student:  You gonna be old.

I Heard Nothing
My tiniest 1st grade girl (weighs about 30 pounds soaking wet) won a spelling game against a boy who had been acting like he was going to beat her easily.  As she walks up to get her treat, she says, "IN YOUR FACE, LUIS!" and points at him.
I had to laugh!

World Champion
I lost my first Ruzzle a 6 year old boy.  The class went bonkers!  He shouted, "YEAAAHHHH WORLD CHAMPIONNNNN!  I WON!!!!!  My neighbor teacher stopped by to see what all the ruckus was about!

Research Papers
Animal Research excerpt..."A platypus is a weird mammal.  It lays eggs.  But, it is what it is."

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!!! 

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!"

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.

Hey Diddle Diddle
Student:  She looks like the cow jumping over the moon!

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!!