Search This Blog

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pinterest Ideas: Winter

Right after break, my class will be learning about Antarctica. In our district, each grade gets to learn about one continent and 2nd grade's is Antarctica. We usually do some pretty fun activities and learn a lot about penguins and other animals from that continent. One of my colleagues has a scientist friend that has traveled to Antarctica several times and we love having her come in and show us her slide show and tell us about her experiences there. It is always fun to see the kids' faces when they realize the scientist (who I'm sure they are picturing as an older man in glasses and a lab coat) is a woman who is probably in her late 20s or early 30s. :)

Here are some activities I found on Pinterest that I will be passing along to my team to help them plan for Antarctica and other winter activities.

How to draw a Penguin

Cute and easy penguin craft

You can see other winter ideas on my Classroom Fun Pinterest Board

Monday, December 26, 2011

Holly Bloggy Christmas

This year I participated in Holly Bloggy Christmas on Ms. Preppy's blog and Kindergarten Korner- a Secret Santa of sorts where you are given a fellow teacher blogger's name and send them a gift. It was encouraged that the gift be creative and created by you so I found a fun idea on Pinterest to make and send to my person, Christina Bainbridge from Mrs. Bainbridge's Class. Side note: her blog is AMAZING! There are always tons of fantastic ideas on there!

Here is the idea I found from Kiki Creates:

It's a flip calendar or countdown (depending on how you want to use it). All of the instructions can be found here. She has free printables for it made for September, October, November, and December.

I made mine a countdown but it can be modified for anything!

I also added two bird ornaments for her bird tree collection (only one is pictured, though).

And thank you to Louanne from My Kindergarten Kids for my "Joy" art!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I've been MIA!

Sorry I've been MIA- I've been working on a big project.

Baby J was born a few weeks ago so I am currently on maternity leave. I will share some fun Pinterest ideas over the next few weeks but I'm out of the classroom so I haven't done any school work in awhile!
Happy Holidays to you!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"New" Math

We adopted a new math curriculum in the primary grades called "Math Expressions." I've used it a little bit to supplement our old curriculum but now we have taken the plunge. The curriculum is very wordy so you always have to be a few days ahead of the game. There are tons of manipulatives, which is great, but also take a lot of work to prep. The main focus is on Math Talk and explaining how you got your answers and it is so rewarding to hear the kids speak like mathematicians.

Here are some things that we've done in class to correspond with our lessons.

These are called "Partner Houses." Last year they were called Fact Families. I use the names together so that the kids can relate the vocabulary they may see on the NWEA MAP testing in the spring. They worked in groups to create the equations and houses. We talked about how every partner lives in an apartment and no one lives with zero. The kids were able to figure out that you can "flip flop" the partners and have a new equation and they also discovered that whichever house they were creating had one less partner than the number (ex. the partner house for 9 has 8 equations, etc). 

This is my math board. It's taped to a plain wall in the corner of our room. Our primary team has had great success with Daily 5 and thought that an acronym of "STARS" would help us create small groups within our math class so we could target students who needed extra help while the other groups are busy working on math activities. STARS stands for:
Skills Practice- games and activities that relate to our unit
Teacher- works with me on the new lesson
Assignment- finishes the workbook page or assignment
Response Journal (or Reflect)- answers the problem of the day in their math journal
Study Facts- various fact practice activities
I chose to have three groups rotating so one group starts with Skills, then comes to Teacher and finishes their Assignment, then writes the problem of the day in their Response Journal and does Study Facts when they are done. 
It's a work in progress- usually I have a whole group lesson and then most of the kids work on the assignment and study facts or skills practice. I will take a small group while those students are working.

Underneath the choices are two posters we have created as a class. The one pictured here shows our discussion of the pros and cons of different math strategies. I was really impressed at what the students came up with. We discussed when each strategy would be appropriate. Some of the ideas I encouraged from our math book. I review this, especially with my small group that uses these strategies, quite often. This is a work in progress.

One of the things that Math Expressions stresses is having students create and solve their own story problems using given equations or equations the students come up with. Here I showed the class how I would create a story problem. I firsts choose a "Math Mountain" and what I will use for a subject in my story. I told them I often use food or animals- not sure why! I asked for suggestions this time and someone said "meat." So I changed it to hamburgers. I then decide that I will create a subtraction story by having someone eat something. I used my "Math Mountain" to write my story. To solve, I drew a picture (another big component of Math Expressions) and wrote my equation and answer. Can't forget the label! 
I then made a checklist at the bottom and had students some up and underline an area and check it off to make sure I included it in my story problem. I had the kids write their own problems and then they used smelly markers to check their own work. It was quite motivating!

I will share some of my strategy/skills games and study facts games in a future post.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Room

Of course my classroom is a work in progress all year long but I thought I'd share some photos and ideas with you.

Our school opened in 2005 so I am super lucky to have such great technology and storage. I have an LCD projector in my room, a student computer, my computer, TV with VCR/DVD, microphone sound system and a Tablet PC. I am crossing my fingers for some sort of Smart Board next year. Right now, we only have a few in our school. That is a floor-ceiling window over near the TV but it was pretty bright out when I took the photos so I shut the blinds.

I don't usually have the desks in rows (and I didn't in September) but I decided to spread my class out this month. I usually change the seating chart every month and let the kids decide where they want to sit in June (little do they know it's really for just a few days). I also like having the kids plan out a seating chart. I tell them to make a plan that would fit in our space, include 24 desks, and make sure everyone can see the whiteboard. 

I am planning more posts with some photos that "zoom in" on different areas in my classroom. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My School Supplies

I'm back! This pregnancy has really been tiring me out lately! I promise to post photos soon! Thursday and Friday this week we have a union professional development conference so I will have some extra time.

I thought I'd quickly post my very favorite school supplies- the ones I use almost every day.

Fiskars Scissors- love the "crinch, crinch" of these!

Sharpie Pens- any color! I love my handwriting and have to have just the right pen.

Prodigy PaperPro Stapler- LOVE! I played with my husband's and knew this was the answer to all of my math packet stapling needs! Staples 25 sheets of paper with one finger. All of my teammates agree. Best stapler ever.

Mr. Sketch Scented Stix- the original Mr. Sketch's thinner cousin. I like using these to correct papers (especially spelling). The kids love to sniff them. I have the thin set and the regular Mr. Sketch markers near my desk. When they start getting used, I retire them to my word work box.

Post-it Notes- a variety of sizes, colors and shapes. I use these babies for EVERYTHING. You can probably find a pack of Post-its in every nook and cranny in my room. I love using the star-shaped ones for Daily 5.

Scotch Blue Painter's Tape- the only tape my building lets us use on the painted walls. I think I have five rolls floating around my room.

Trend Stinky Stickers- get 100% on a test? Earn one of these. I even use the dirt-smelling ones for our science tests.

Clorox Wipes- must. have.

Homework Stamp- this isn't the one I use but apparently Really Good Stuff doesn't have the homework stamp anymore. My entire team uses the same stamp so parents know when something needs to be returned to school and when it can just be kept at home.

So there you have it- what are your go-to supplies?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Phew! Two Days Down...

Wow! I forget how crazy the first week of school do I forget every single year? I'm over-planned (as usual) but I'm glad I did not under-plan! These guys are keeping me on my toes. The best part is they are FANTASTIC at Daily 5!

I have some photos coming soon but I wanted to post some of my go-to websites so far this year. Happy surfing!

Reading A-Z: Love Reading A-Z! We use this website for our reading assessments. Each level has two benchmark books (a fiction and non-fiction) that come with running records and comprehension questions. The levels also have dozens of books for kids to read that are appropriate for individuals or small groups.

The Daily Cafe: Launching Daily 5 and CAFE are my goals for the first few weeks. I refer to this site when I need a lesson idea or printable.

Pinterest: This site has revolutionized my teaching. I have found so many amazing ideas on Pinterest!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

End of the Year Wordle

Since I posted the other day about The Daily Cafe website, I just wanted to share that I had an idea featured in their newsletter a few months ago! It featured an idea that my team came up with a few years ago using the Wordle website for an end of the year gift for our students- but you could also use the idea if you have a Student of the Week. You can find my idea in the Tip of the Week for May 20, 2011 here (you will have to scroll down for a little bit). They let me know that my tip would be featured and offered me a free subscription to their site! How awesome!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reading Pensieve

I wrote in an earlier post about how much I love using the Daily 5/Cafe method in class. I had tried Daily 5 in my homeroom and it was working well but something wasn't quite right. Luckily for me, The Sisters (Joan and Gail) were coming to do a 2 day workshop about Daily 5 and Cafe that summer and it was literally just a few miles away from my house. Yes, it was pricey, but my whole grade level team decided to go and we actually got some professional development money to offset the cost. It was the best money I've ever spent. Two days with other teachers, Gail and Joan (who are hilarious, informative, and SO kind!), and meals and snacks...heaven. I'd go again in a heartbeat and I recommend their workshop (especially the 2 day) to my teacher friends.

Check out the Daily Cafe website for more information about their books and methods.

One of the main components of Daily 5/Cafe is small group and individual reading instruction. The Sisters organize their paperwork and all of their notes in something they call a Reading Pensieve. If you remember, Harry Potter's mentor Dumbledore had a "pensieve" that he kept all his most treasured thoughts in. That's basically what this binder is- notes about your students as readers.

I wanted to share with you my Reading Pensieve (or "My Brain" as I sometimes refer to it with my students) so you can get an idea of what is inside. The Sisters have downloads for most of the pages I am referring to but you might have to be a member. They are also available in their book, The CAFE Book, which has a CD of printables.

Here is the cover of my Pensieve. I custom-made and ordered the binder from It was pricey but I have a birthday dangerously close to the start of school and there is a promo code here and if you sign up for the Zazzle e-mails the deals are even better.
Here is what's inside:

I've kept some essential tools in my pencil pouch in the front- highlighter, pen, etc.

The main tabs are "Keeping Track," "Whole Group," "Small Groups," "Reading Data," and "Students."

In the "Keeping Track" section, I have a calendar for the year. This allows me to make appointments with students and small groups- and keep them! If I tell a student I will meet with them in two days, I can write that in my calendar and remember to follow up.

In the "Whole Group" tab, I have several lesson plans that are available on The Daily Cafe to help me teach my mini-lessons in a whole group setting.

In the "Small Groups" section, I have lots of notes about the different small groups I teach during Daily 5. Above, you can see that this group was working on chunking and blending. I write a quick note to myself about what they did and then, to the right, the members of the group and how they seemed to do with those skills that day. I use a + if they seemed to understand, a check if they did okay but might need more reinforcement, and a - if they will definitely need more help with this strategy.

One photo I don't have is what is in the Reading Data tab- this section is basically for the students' reading scores on running records and the NWEA MAP tests for easy access for me.

In the "Student" section, I have a tab for each student in my class. In each one I've put a Cafe menu, another printable from the website to collect data when I meet with individuals during Daily 5.

One document I did not take a photo of is my check-in sheet for Daily 5. During Daily 5, the students can choose from five different options: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Work on Writing, Word Work, and Listen to Reading. In my class, students must choose Read to Self sometime during our three rounds. They can only do Listen to Reading twice during the week. I keep track of their choices using an Excel spreadsheet I created. I typed in each student's name, laminated it, and then jot down their choice each round with a Vis a Vis marker. I have a code system: R is Read to Self, RS is Read to Someone, W is Work on Writing, WW is Word Work, and L is Listen to Reading. Would you like a copy? I have a Google Doc just for you! Please note- this document only has enough spots for three choices each day since that is how many we have in my class. Also, I only keep track of their choices on a weekly basis (which is why I laminated the sheet and can wipe it off easily) because I found it was wasting quite a bit of paper to keep track longer.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Workshop Week

We had workshop week this week. Usually we start back Tuesday but we have some new technology and curriculum that we needed an extra day for. Luckily, we negotiated for the Friday before Spring Break off in trade for working Monday.

On Monday, I taught the teachers of grades K-2 about the new upgrades to our grade book and reporting system. Nothing too crazy but I'm sure I'll get questions in a few weeks when we start entering grades finally. We also got to play with our new STEM units- in grade 2 we worked with the "Improving a Playdough Process" kit and it was pretty fun! If any of you do STEM at your school I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday we had a staff meeting- the dreaded policy presentation where our principal has to read through a million slides about pest control and field trips and copyright laws. They did have a fun activity for us afterward, though. Our school's theme this year is "Lakers Think Outside the Bowl" (our school is "The Lakers") and they had a little fish pond for us where we could win prizes. I won some sticky notes but some teachers got 30 minutes of coverage for their class! After the fun, I kicked some booty setting up my classroom. I did pay for it later, though- lugging this pregnant belly around so much was exhausting!

Wednesday we had an all-district breakfast and meeting. Our superintendent spoke and did a great job injecting some humor into his speech about the goings-on in our district. They also made a slide show of photos from the different schools set to "Make a Wave" by Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas. I think everyone teared up a bit! Once we were back at school I had only a few hours to set everything up for Back to School Night. At 4:00, kids started coming to meet their teachers and put their supplies away. It was fun to meet some of my new kiddos and their parents. Again, my feet were so tired at the end of the day!

Today (Thursday) was quite restful. I met with my team and debriefed and discussed plans for the first week. I got a lot of small things done in the classroom which was nice, too.

I am not feeling ready to go back yet but I my plans are solid. I think it's going to be a pretty good year!

I will post photos of my classroom and some back to school pictures soon!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Free-For-All

It's Friday, the last day of freedom for me. Monday I will be sitting through meetings at school (one of which I have to lead, too).

Today I have two free documents that I have created. The first is a mini monthly scrapbook I created for first grade. You can use the document as is or make it larger if you'd like. It is small because we have a time capsule that we create at the beginning of first grade that we open at the end of the year. This little book will be kept in their capsules and taken out (by me) each month. I chose one important unit or event that represented each month for the kids to write/draw about.

 The second is a list of activities to promote vocabulary acquisition in math. I was on a PLC a few years back and we researched vocabulary and how to encourage the retention of words. These games can easily be adapted to other subjects, too!

Click the image to find them on My4shared site here:
From My Mixed Up Files on My4shared

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three for Thursday

Today on the blog hop we are posting three favorite links.

Favorite font:
You can see a list of fonts I love in this post, but if I had to choose one favorite, I find myself going back to this one quite often

I downloaded it for free, but I think that offer has expired. You can order it for $1.99 here or do a search- it might still be free somewhere out there.

Favorite blog:
Oohh...hard to say. I stumbled upon The Inspired Apple from finding Abby on Pinterest. I love her stuff!

If I could pick two, I also follow Clutter-Free Classroom.

Favorite Online Resource:
Right now, definitely Pinterest.  As for teacher goodies, I'd choose Teachers Pay Teachers or Scholastic Teaching Resources (especially their Instructor Magazine area).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Classroom Photos

Today I'm going to share with you a sneak peek into my classrooms of the past. I don't have any photos of this year as it is still a work in progress.

In the middle of second grade, I let the kids draw a plan for our desks. They must include 24 desks in some configuration so that everyone can see the board. This arrangement won our class vote for the month. In the background you can see our calendar area under the TV, our Cafe Menu and Daily 5 board, our Reading Recommendations board, and our Alphabet Tree where we write fancy words that we find in our books on leaves.

Here is a close-up of my Cafe Menu board- the kids write the different strategies we learn on sentence strips. The stars show each student's reading goal that we set together.

Here is our Daily 5 board with the student choices. Above are the i-charts we created as a class with our guidelines for behavior for each of the choices (yes, they are color-coded).

At the beginning of second grade, I teach the kids how to draw portraits. We mix tempera paint to get the right color for our skin and then finish the rest with watercolor. We outline them in Sharpie.

And here I am, dressed as Pippi Longstocking for storybook character day. I am standing in front of another group of portraits that I hung with our hopes and dreams for the year (from Responsive Classroom).

I will post photos of my new room soon! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teacher Talk

Today on the blog hop, we are sharing tips for new teachers. In many respects I do feel like a new teacher but I have some tips for those of you embarking on your new journey.

  1. Don't try to do everything. There are some things that cannot get done. When you are going through your college program, you create lesson plans that are amazing and time-consuming. When you are a teacher sometimes you just have to teach out of the manual. It's okay. The kids will still like you. Not everything needs a read-aloud and an art project.
  2. If you need some quiet time, have the kids break out the watercolor paint. Works like a charm.
  3. Find a mentor teacher if your district does not have a mentor program. Luckily, my district did. They provided me time to observe my mentor in the classroom and meet with her to ask questions and exchange ideas. Veteran teachers can be a valuable resource.
  4. Get to know your students and families. I cannot emphasize enough how important building relationships will be for you.
  5. When you are trying to build your library, start cheap. Check out yard sales, library book sales, secondhand stores like Goodwill, and definitely sign up for Scholastic Book Clubs. You will earn free bonus points to choose books for your library.
Good luck to all of the new teachers out there! You will do great!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Teacher Week Blog Hoppin'

I'm joining up with other teachers from around the web for Teacher Week 2011. If you'd like to play along, just link up here: Blog Hoppin' Teacher Week.

  • Monday you will get to know the bloggers. 
  • Tuesday will be full of advice for new teachers. 
  • Wednesday will feature photos of our classrooms. 
  • Thursday will be a link to a favorite font, blog, and online resource.
  • Friday will be a "free for all" loaded with free goodies for your classroom.
Today I'll let you know 5 things about me:
  1. I have been teaching at the same school my entire career. This will be my 7th year of teaching. When I was first hired, I had the unique opportunity of going to a brand new elementary school the first year it opened. It was amazing to be part of such a strong team of teachers- all of who wanted to be on board to help get the new school off the ground and see it's vision through.
  2. I used to teach preschool before embarking on my new journey. While I was teaching at a preschool full time, I went to earn my undergrad degree by taking mostly night classes. I received my degree in Elementary Education and I am certified to teach K-8 with an emphasis in communication arts and literature. I earned my Master's Degree in Teaching and Learning two years ago. My final project was a year-long study on reading comprehension and response journals. I will be sure to share the things I do in my classroom.
  3. I will admit that I do, on occasion, eat school lunch. I once had a thought that I should eat school lunch every day and document it to see if I lost weight (or gained). 
  4. I have one son who is in preK and another boy on the way- due around Thanksgiving. I will be taking my maternity leave for December and a few weeks in January. Right now, we are calling the baby "Sharky" (yes, my son loves sharks).
  5. In my spare time (when I have some) I enjoy scrapbooking and reading for my book club.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Are You Pinning? Linky Party

I'm on Pinterest, are you?! It's a fabulous website that allows you to "pin" your favorite bookmarks to a bulletin board of sorts. You can share your links with others and "repin" things that others post. It's ideal for teachers since there are so many fabulous resources out on the web.

Michelle Lundy from Math in the Middle is hosting a Pinterest Linky Party to share other teachers' Pinterest boards so you can follow your e-colleagues. Stop by her blog post here to join the fun and see who else is playing.

Don't forget to follow me on Pinterest by clicking on that small red "Follow Me on Pinterest" button on the right.

Happy pinning!