Friday, March 20, 2015

TGIF! Five for Friday!

Happy first day of spring my friends! Good things are on the way! Welcome to Five for Friday! I'm sharing a little peek at the week in our classroom! You know the saying, "my plate is full"...well, mine has spilled over onto the floor...wait till you see the combination platter that was my week!

For St. Patrick's Day, we tried to keep things low key this year, but is a party day ever easy? Our parents donated all kinds of fun green food items and treats for our celebration. We even enjoyed some traditional Irish soda bread!  My little leprechauns listened to some toe tappin' music and  tried to do some Irish step dancing for brain break. It was a blast! 

The kiddos were so good and calm for me. I think they knew teacher was STRESSED!

By the end of the day, I looked green (maybe from scarfing down three green Rice Krispie treats?) and had the biggest bags under my eyes that makeup just was no match for. 

 It also happened to be report card day. In the rush of it all, I almost FORGOT to hand them out! The bell was ringing and we were scrambling to put them in folders after backpacks were already packed up. 

What would the end of a party day be without a little more excitement??!!

We had two exhausting days and nights of conferences. It's so hard to be away from home two nights in a row. I always have a hard time coming down off of the rush and didn't get to sleep until VERY late on those nights. 

This was my display table for conferences. I went with a theme even though it was after the holiday. I also set out one class book, and some mints (that were eaten by some little munchkins who helped themselves)! One thing I always like to do is to have the parents write their child a little happy note. The children are just so delighted to get their special letters! 

There were munchkins around at conferences because the PTO has our Scholastic book fair set up for shopping. We had a chance to preview it this week. While we were there, I filled up my wish list bucket. I got quite a few books as gifts that I am SUPER excited about. One is all about candy experiments. Oh Yeah! :)

 We have been inviting in some mystery readers! I asked the parent readers to provide some clues about themselves and we try to guess who it might be before our visitor arrives. This child thought her mom was headed out of town on a business trip so was very surprised when she popped in to read on the way to the airport! SO SWEET!

As a reward for the end of the trimester, we always have a snuggle up and read day. It gives the teachers a chance to get the room back in order from conferences and to plan a little for the next week.

 It was a perfectly relaxing way to end our week.
We all had a half day off today WOO HOO!!! so I got some errands done and wrote this post!

Thanks for joining me today for Five for Friday friends! 
You can link up your post or read more at Doodle Bugs Teaching!
 Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How a Teddy Bear Can Save the Day!

Hi Everyone! I'm just popping in to let you know that I am blogging over at Primary Powers about how I use our friend Teddy to help with classroom management! This has been one of the BEST strategies I have EVER used because it has also improved student behavior!

 Head on over to see how I use him for turn-taking at the computer stations for AR. You can get some helpful ideas for using a Teddy in your room to make other routines run more smoothly too! 

Click on the picture to read all about it!  

I hope to see you there!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Five on Friday the 13th and a LUCKY Giveaway!

No matter what the calendar and superstition says, I'm feeling very LUCKY this Friday the 13th to be doing something on the computer that is FUN, like blogging! It was one stressful, tiring week of working on assessments, data entry and report cards for what seemed like an eternity! What a great feeling knowing there is only one more round after this! Welcome to for Five for Friday- a linky party with Doodle Bugs Teaching! I'm sharing a little peek at the week in our second grade classroom (the fun parts anyway) and some info about a LUCKY spring *giveaway*! Are you feeling lucky? 

Coffee was my best friend this week. I had the hardest time getting up every morning because I barely slept more than three solid hours a night. This year the time change really messed me up. How about you? I picked up this awesome mug at Starbucks. It is really BIG so just the right size for me!

We are still working our way through every Tomie dePaola book we could find for our author study! This week was Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato, Big Anthony, His Story and Strega Nona! I had fun practicing my Italian during the read-alouds! The kids loved all of the stories! We worked on character traits with Jamie O'Rourke in our reading response journals!

The students were estimating and measuring this week in as many ways as you can possibly imagine!
One of the days, they measured their way around the room with a length of string one yard long. 

In number corner, we are also working on solid figures and identifying shapes by number of faces, edges and vertices. We assembled a cute little shape book to add some cut and paste fun to the unit.

The kiddos made this cute leprechaun craft but they are not quite done yet as you can see. Monday we put the finishing touches on like sprinkling gold gitter on the coins and giving the peekers a face! The plan is to display them for conferences next week. The students came up with some really clever ways to catch a leprechaun!
For our fun Friday activity, I gave them their own little pot of gold to snack on during movie time! 

  My friends and I are getting together for a LUCKY little pre-holiday GIVEAWAY! *10 winners* can win a huge POT FULL OF LOOT! Be sure to stop by Primary Powers for a chance to win some great classroom resources! 

Click on the picture to check it out!

 Thanks for joining me today for Five for Friday friends! 
You can link up your post or read more at Doodle Bugs Teaching!
 Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fun and Games! Growing Dendrites {Strategy 4}

Welcome to another edition of the book study friends! I enjoy this book because it is a great reminder of what I am already doing well and it is also forcing me to take a look at ways I can improve my teaching to include more best practice strategies!

We all know that research supports the use of educational games to enhance learning. The FUN FACTOR that games provide can't be beat! Maybe you have been thinking about making your learning activities more game-based, but are wondering where to start or how to fit them into your already busy day. If so, this linky for the book study may give you lots of new ideas to put into action!

Thank you to the amazing Katie King at Queen of the First Grade Jungle who is hosting this chapter from Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia Tate. Read on to see the games my class just LOVES and to get some more suggestions from the book!

Why is using games in the classroom a best practice strategy? 

This quote from the book pretty much sums it up:

Games are not only perfect for raising the level of feel good-amines in the brain, but also, in the correct amounts, games can increase cognition and working memory. (Jensen, 2007)

Fun and Games in Our Room

This game of Blink is a favorite in our classroom. It is great for identifying attributes like shape, amount and color. Since it is a race-to-be-the-first-out game, it is also helping some of my students with visual discrimination and processing speed.

 My class really enjoys dice games in math.
I picked up these nifty little dice-in-dice at Lakeshore. 

A game that was recommended in the book is similar to what we play with I Have, Who Has! 
My kiddos think this place value set is so much fun! 
They have to be good listeners and thinkers during this type of activity!

Our district purchased Bridges in Mathematics this year. What I like about it is the that it includes many games. The program works instruction for the game and game playing time right into the lessons. 

My class likes to play card games for math practice too.
 It was a pain to take out the cards we didn't need, so I made a set just for our math activities. 
This set includes a zero which is important in math.

In case you missed it, you can find the card set here.
 It is a FREEBIE over at Primary Powers! 

You may be thinking that adding more games to your classroom will mean lots of extra work or spending some cash, but there are many games that can be played with things you already have like a deck of cards, index cards, or a Nerf ball. 

Here are some other easy suggestions from the book:

  • Toss a ball. The student that catches it must answer a review question.  They receive 1 point for catching the ball and two points for a correct response.
  • Create a vocabulary and definition game of memory on index cards. 
  • Play Charades and act out vocabulary words.
  • Play Pictionary and draw vocabulary concepts instead.
How can you work in time for games?

With so much to teach, it is easy to run out of time to work in a game. This used to happen to me all of the time! But now, I schedule a block of time on Fun Fridays for our game rotations. It is one way I can be sure that game time is a top priority!

So all in all, I think I am on the right track with incorporating games into math, but I'd like to start doing the same in other subjects too.

What are you doing well with for this strategy?
 What might you like to improve?

Don't forget about the importance of games just for fun during inside recess time. They are great for learning how to be a good sport and how to work cooperatively. 

The top pick in my room is Mouse Trap!
 But... my students don't actually play the game, they just build the contraption and watch the steely marble go, just like I did when I was seven!!!

Now head on over to see what everyone else is sharing! 
Just click {here} to read or link up!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March Writing Prompts and Papers

Now that Read Across America activities are behind us, maybe you have started planning for St. Patrick's Day and other fun monthly themes! There are so many things to celebrate in March. The list goes on and on! Just for the record though...Daylight Savings is NOT one of them! What can you get accomplished in one hour? For me, that would be a load of laundry, a quick blog post, a trip to the grocery store, a hair appointment, some major housework and a huge dent in my school to-do list! On that note, I'll make this quick! 

This weekend, I brought home writing assessments to check for report cards and data collection. I beyond pleased with my students' growth so far this year! I'm sure that it had a lot to do with the specific instruction that I have given them, but I also feel that providing my kiddos with daily writing PRACTICE opportunities has been a huge factor. 

In case you missed my previous posts, I set up a monthly writing station with a variety of pick-a prompt cards and papers to select from. Here's a peek the March set:

This month, the prompts include these themes:

  Dr. Seuss' Birthday
 St. Patrick's Day
Leprechaun Traps
Pot of Gold
March Madness
The Iditarod Race
Oreo Cookies
Johnny Appleseed Day
Green Eggs
Feeling Lucky
Children's Poetry Day
and other fun stuff!

The kit also comes with lots of cute papers that coordinate with the prompts!

We are starting our writing station tomorrow.
 I think the kiddos are going to really like the activities this month. 
They get so excited when I introduce the new prompts!

 If you are looking to add more independent writing practice to your day, you may like to get something like this started in your room too!

To read the full description, you can view the March Writing Center {here} at my Creative Lesson Cafe store at Teachers Pay Teachers. 

Enjoy the rest of your day! Make every hour count!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites- Book Study {Strategy 3}

Do your students love the Magic School Bus videos? My class BEGS to watch them! We like to imagine how fun it would be if we could be in Miss Frizzle's class taking field trips like they do! The focus for this next chapter {strategy 3} is all about in-school and out-of-school exploration and the importance of providing children with opportunites for learning outside of the classroom walls. Today I'm linking up with Mrs. Wills Kindergarten for the next edition of the book study club for Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia Tate. 

The author begins this chapter by giving an example of special "field trips" she would take with her own child. I found myself smiling along with this intro. You see, during summer vacation, when my own child was growing up, not a day went by that I didn't plan some special outing or activity for us to do. EVERY DAY was a field trip!

I thank my lucky stars*** that I had the time and resources to give him those experiences. I am hopeful that these have helped to make him a well-rounded young man and prepare him for the REAL WORLD he is about to enter after graduation next year. 

Some days our outing was a simple thing like exploring nature at the local park. Other days, we went to a museum or activity center. How else would we ever get to pan for gold? Too bad we didn't get some genuine gold nuggets to pay for that college education! HA! 

It is so sad to think that there are many students who never have these opportunities for a variety of reasons. For those kiddos especially, the out of school field trip is VERY important! 

I love this excerpt from the book:

If students are to link their learning to prior knowledge, they must see the personal connection between what is being taught in the curriculum and their life experiences. (Lieberman & Miller, 2000) 

Let's aim to give students all the life experiences that we can in the year we have with them!

 Different Types of Field Trips

1. Obviously, planning an out of school trip around your curriculum or unit is one idea. Then the class has some shared experiences and background knowledge to build upon for the rest of the lessons.

On average, our second graders go on three field trips a year. It costs about ten dollars per student for each trip and that adds up! We try to plan some educational and CULTURAL outings. Some of our favorite out of school trips have been to science centers, the community library, the apple orchard, local farms, Sanders Chocolate Factory, a fun run at the middle school track, a historical museum and old-fashioned school house, cosmic bowling, the movie theater, local plays and the Henry Ford Museum.

  So much fun!
There is something to be said for a field trip as a bonding experience for building relationships. That is learning too, right?

2. The Inside-School Field Trip: Another recommendation in the book is regularly taking your students out of the room to explore the school building (with a purpose). One example is to go on a scavenger hunt for shapes or to take photos for a project.

We go on a daily in-school field trip at the start of the year to practice our positive behavior in different settings like the library and lunchroom. 
We even cram 28 kiddos into the small classroom restroom to talk about the expectations and hygiene in there! 
That is considered a field trip! :)

3. Outdoor Field Trip: This one does not require a bus ride any place. This could be as easy as letting the students go outside to collect leaves, do a messy experiment, observe the clouds or something simple like that. Maybe there is a neat destination that is even within walking distance. How fun would that be? 

4. The Virtual Field Trip: Finding an amazing site to show your students is the next best thing to visiting. Unless we really have a Magic School Bus, some places will always be out of reach! 

When learning about the history of St. Patrick's Day, I show my class photos of what it looks like in Ireland with a virtual 360 tour!

image source

Here are two super sites for interactive video tours you might try out:

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Polar Husky- The Iditarod 

You can also ask your school if they have equipment that supports Interactive Video Field Trips or Distance Learning!

  Set a Professional Goal!

 Most of us are pretty good at scheduling the fun out-of-school field trips, but how well do you work in the other types?
 I know I have room for improvement there.
 Maybe try planning an in-school hunt or outside activity soon!

As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts about the importance of "field trips" in the comments below! 
Then, stop on over for the rest of the link-up with Mrs. Wills Kindergarten!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Reading, Writing and 'Rithmatic- Five for Friday

TGIF! Life is good on Friday nights! I'm linking up with Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching to share my Five for Friday picks for the week! This is a good fit for a post this week, because, as you will see, it was a little bit of a smorgasbord of stuff!

1. We'll start with a personal accomplishment from the week!

Can I hear a loud AMEN?!!! The ACT test is over! Do you remember taking it? For years there has been so much hype for this high-stakes test! What a relief to just be done with it. Good grief! Now the wait for the scores... My high schooler is pretty confident he rocked the test! Fingers crossed. Being undecided about college plans, we hope to keep all options open!

2. We've been working on measurement in our classroom. In our Bridges in Mathematics series, the unit begins with the students creating their own cute little inchworm rulers. The class enjoyed a roam the room, worksheet-free activity as they measured a variety of classroom items with them. Later in the week, we moved on to standard units with inches, feet and yards.
In our number corner workout, which is a whole separate thing from the math series, we are collecting quarters, making deposits and withdrawals in our "bank", regrouping to the hundreds place in subtraction, studying solid shapes and talking about quarters as fractional parts of a dollar. This is just part of our March Number Corner display.

3. We also began our reading response notebooks this week. If you haven't tried using them, this is a super simple way to get students responding to text following a read aloud or independent reading time. The kiddos are really excited and proud of their new books! Our author study with Tomie dePaola books has been a perfect starting point!

4. It is writing assessment time so I crammed in one last lesson on types of leads. No time to be Pinterest perfect this week friends so our Types of Leads Poster Set is displayed on the whiteboard!

5. You may be wondering where all of the Read Across America fun is in this post! We did work in one little Dr. Seuss activity during our testing week! We enjoyed watching Horton Hears a Who! Most of the kiddos had never seen it before so they LOVED it!

 I have EXTREME teacher guilt about the lack of Oobleck and red and white striped projects this year! Wish I could say we had done more, but the timing was really bad this week! 
We are planning fun things throughout the month with our author unit, so that will be another post! 

 Thanks for stopping by today!
I always enjoy peeking into other teachers' rooms to see what is going on there and to get some new ideas.
 I hope you enjoyed having a look into ours too!
Head on over to the link up for more!
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