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Friday, August 31, 2012

Freebie Friday

Sorry I've been MIA- I've been SO busy at school! I met my kiddos on Wednesday evening and I can't believe we will be a big, happy family for two years! My oldest also met his teacher Wednesday night and Dad had to do all the work since I was still at school. I'm bummed that I couldn't be there with him and it made me think of all of the things I will miss out on. I feel for all you teacher-moms out there!

In happier news, here are today's freebies that I've found!

(and a whole lot more free notebooking printables)

The Task Card group at ProTeacher- LOTS of free task card sets!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Teacher Week: Freebie Friday

A little change this week as I'm following along with Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin'...I've created two freebies for you!

I love the "Find Somone Who" ice-breaker game where students go around and find someone who can answer a specific topic (ex. "Find someone who is an only child" or "Find someone who has been on an airplane"). I have created one for my class to use and I thought I'd share it with you.

You can find it here on Google Docs.

I also have created Partner Cards. It is a pack of 30 cards that will help you put your class into groups of two, three, four/five, and six-person groups. The kids grab a card and then you can call out what image they should match to find their group.

You can find the cards here on Google Docs.

I also have my Daily 5 Check-In sheet (for 25 students, three rounds a day) on Google Docs, too!

Happy Weekend! I'm off to our cabin before I go back for Teacher Workshops on Monday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Teacher Week: Therapeutic Thursday

Hanging out with my little sister
 What helps me to unwind?

My fun boys!


Reality TV- Especially Top Chef! Which is ironic since I don't cook...

What about you? What helps you unwind after a long day?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Teacher Week: Where I Teach Wednesday

I'm linking up for Teacher Week at Blog Hoppin' and today we're focusing on where we teach. Since I don't have photos of my new classroom, I'll tell you about my school.

I teach at an elementary school in Minnesota. I guess you could call us a suburb of Minneapolis but it's just now growing into that role. When I first came to the school in 2005 I had to wear a hard hat and keep an eye out for stray nails on the ground- it was just being built! We *almost* didn't open on time for the school year but we just made it. It was such a fantastic experience to be part of a brand new school my first year of teaching! I was originally hired for a part-time reading/math position mostly because I was so nervous I wouldn't find a job. Luckily it turned into a full-time first grade teaching position before the summer was over. Phew! 

Here are some photos:

This is our main entrance- the gym is to the left there and the office is towards the right. Our school is sort of a "walk out"- the parents drop their kiddos off up here and the buses drop kids off downstairs in the back.

Here's a lovely shot of our playground- there is a little bit more that is left out on the right side. It's another play structure for the littler ones (we used to have preschool here, too, but we've grown so much they moved out). We also use Peaceful Playground so there are now lots of things painted on the blacktop. There is a HUGE field to the left and a baseball field. There is a lake back there in the trees. The views from our school are gorgeous!

At our school we "loop" or have students for two years in a row. Originally our building had preschool and grades 1-5. We looped first/second and then fourth/fifth and considered third grade a transition year. This year we will have K-5, with kindergarten and first grade as stand-alone grades and will now loop second/third and fourth/fifth. This will be a big change but I'm excited to teach second grade again and move to third next year! I have been looping first/second for so long that there is ALWAYS something new in our curriculum (math, reading, STEM, etc.) so I'm so glad this year I will have nothing new to teach, only a new classroom and new kiddos!

Our classrooms are clustered into different "communities." We have a large area as a hub in the middle of five classrooms. We have five areas that have five classrooms each and then one small area with three classrooms of kindergarten; 28 classrooms in all. We also have a gym, cafeteria, media center, art room, music room and another class we call "World Adventures" where the students study different cultures once a week. 

I love the school that I am at and I feel so blessed. Our families are very involved and they make the school a wonderful place to be! This community is fantastic!

What is your favorite part about your school?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Teacher Week: Technology Tip Tuesday

I'm linking up for Teacher Week at Blog Hoppin'! My tech tip for today is all about blogging with your class. These days you can never be too careful with child privacy online but it is also the wave of the future. Enter Kidblog

It's a website for teachers and students where you can make a blog for your class but you don't have to worry about e-mails or privacy. You can create your class list and privacy settings to ensure that your students can share ideas with each other and no one else. 

You simply create a class on the site and then make usernames for your students. I used their first names only and set a password for each that they could remember. Then you start posting!

Here are some demo screen shots from the Kidblog website:


Settings (Theme and Privacy)

I have used my blog in a few different ways. I sometimes post a preview of an upcoming lesson to get kids excited. :) I have also posted photos from our class (since it is private) for them to share with their parents. We've created book reviews, slide shows, and blog posts that we share with families online. This summer we even had an online book club with a new book selection every month. The kids read the book and I posted a sprinkle of activities and websites that went along with the book and then questions at the end of the month that they could comment on. 

One of the things I've found most helpful when letting students do the blogging are guidelines that I discovered at Primary Practice. You can find some fantastic templates for students to help them pre-write their posts. I also let students who don't have access to a computer check the blog at school and comment during the day (usually during Listen to Reading during Daily 5 since they were at the computer anyway).

I am excited to use my Kidblog this year- I think the kids will really enjoy it!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Teacher Week: Must-Haves Monday

This week is Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin'. It's so fun to see all of the blogs that are linked up- what a wealth of knowledge!

Today is "Must-Haves Monday" so I will share a few of the things I HAVE to have at school.

1. Post-it Notes. All sizes. All colors. All shapes. Love these. I usually stash a few packs near my desk, the door, my reading table, my meeting area, in my get the idea. :) 3M also has a Post-it website for teachers will all kinds of lessons using their product. Check it out here. I also liked this idea from Clutter-Free Classroom: a Post-it Organizer page!

2. Coca-Cola- my caffeine of choice since I'm not a coffee drinker. :)

3. Markers. Any kind. I love to use these Project Popperz and/or Mr. Sketch markers for my anchor charts. These guys are hard to find so I will probably go back to Mr. Sketch when they run out. One year I had the mega 18-color pack of Mr. Sketch markers and many of my students went out and purchased a set for themselves. I think I had 6 kiddos with them in their desks!

4. A teacher stamp with your name on it. I LOVE mine. I use it daily to stamp my kiddos' planners after checking to see if they had a parent initial them. I ordered mine (not this one but looks similar) as a treat to myself from Lettergirl on Etsy because she's a local gal and I l-o-v-e her handwriting. I think you can also get them from Vistaprint.

5. A good water bottle for you! I am lucky- we have a Culligan water cooler at my school. I have tried many a water bottle but really like this simple one for some reason. I found it at my local grocery store. I am a straw girl, though many of my teacher friends are more "chuggers." I try to fill it up in the morning and again at lunch to make sure I'm getting my daily intake of water. 

What are your teacher must-haves??

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sneak-a-Peek Linky Party

Update on the classroom: I was able to get a TON of stuff done in my room. And then the battery died in my camera when I was going to take photos. Sheesh. I will DEFINITELY take some soon to show you.

I am joining up with Blog Hoppin's Sneak-a-Peek Linky Party to show you the goodies I got during the Teachers Pay Teachers sale!

I'm not gonna lie- I was hoarding stuff on my wishlist waiting for the big sale. :)

This was my most expensive purchase but I have been saving up my TPT points and waiting for a sale for this one. It is FILLED with morning worksheets that review basic skills with students. For some it will be a little bit challenging and others it will be easy but they can all use a review of these topics.

Metacognition Tool Kit from Amanda Nickerson at One Extra Degree
I have read several bloggers' reviews of this and they love it! I think the tools will be a wonderful reference for kids as they are working on metacognition skills. Did I already mention how much I love me some Debbie Miller? ;)

Pint-Sized Presidential Fun from Cara Carroll at First Grade Parade
I HAD to buy something of Cara's during the sale. ;) I am excited to use this unit in November since voting and elections are big in our standards this year. 

We use bucket fillers in my classroom and I usually have students write about kind things that other kids have done for them. I read them all out loud on Fridays and occasionally choose students that went "above and beyond" to call home and tell their parents the good news (or I write a note home).

Classroom Promise Pack from Amy Lemons
Since I have my kiddos for two years, I am hoping that these activities will help to reinforce our promises to one another. 

Super in Second Beginning of the Year Activities by Babbling Abby
And what list wouldn't be complete without a unit from Abby? I am always looking for fun first week activities.

Next week is Teacher Week on Blog Hoppin'...will you be following along?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A giveaway to share and room update

Have you heard about the Back to School Expo?

So I've been working in my room...well, basically rearranging furniture because I can't decide how I want the layout to be. I have a HUGE window in my new classroom and I love it but it's hard to figure out what to put  in front of it!

Here are some "before" pictures (and my little guy in a stroller!). I have since gotten almost all the tables changed out for desks (woo hoo! I was lucky!) and have been moving my teacher's desk around to every corner. I'll share some "after" pictures soon!

Ignore all my junk in the middle- I haven't put anything in cupboards yet!

See my big window? Isn't is awesome? Imagine my anxiety level at 9:07am when a big yellow bus pulls up right there on Tuesday, September 4!

This is the front of the room. I don't have any tables anymore- they gave me desks!

This is the back of the room- I LOVE all these cupboards! This room style has two extra cupboards, too! I also like those buckets for the kids (they are actually kitty litter pans!)- they put their extra supplies in there. On top you can see I started to put my seasonal/thematic book boxes up top- they fill up that whole space now. 

And check out the cute little boy in a stroller! :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

TPT Sale!

Man- I went crazy yesterday at the TPT Sale! I purchased several items on my wishlist and was so happy to have the discount! Is there anything else I need? ;)

Remember, use the code BTS12 to get an extra 10% off of some already sale-priced lessons!

I finally get a chance to work in my room this week so be ready for lots of photos! My oldest son is taking an art class at my school with some of my fellow teachers' kids so we can work on our rooms. That was good thinking! I'll still have the baby most of the afternoons but he'll sleep, right? Or I'll just shut the door and he'll crawl around on my freshly cleaned carpet.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cafe: Chapter 7- Strategy Groups

I'm following along with The Cafe Book study over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach. Jana's post is fantastic today so I'd recommend checking it out!

Chapter 7 is the last chapter and one of my favorite parts about The Cafe- Strategy Groups. This is definitely one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" moments- grouping kids by strategy rather than reading level. Of course, I still have kiddos together roughly at the same level because they have similar needs, but it doesn't matter what book a student is reading- they can always practice the strategy they need.

Before strategy groups can start, you need to assess and confer with individuals and begin Daily 5. During the assessments, keep track of who would fit into strategy groups together. The Sisters usually start these groups in mid-October, or about 6 weeks after school begins. They start with the most at-risk students and create groups based around the students' needs.

They have students all choose a book and quietly read aloud at the same time. They listen to each student in turn. Then they teach the mini-lesson that they would like the students to use. They have them practice alone or with a partner, and then they make a plan for next time and encourage students to use the strategy during read-to-self. The structure is very similar to the individual conferences. The great thing is that you can use these groups to plan for partner reading so they can practice together and students know who they can go to for help.

If you are interested in more information about Cafe, head over to The Daily Cafe website run by The Sisters. They have a section specifically on Cafe and some freebies to get you started.

Cafe: Chapter 6- Whole-Class Instruction

I'm following along with the book study over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach.
*I'll be posting my thoughts on Chapter 7 later today!

Chapter 6 is all about Whole-Class Instruction. The Cafe Menu has all of the strategies that you will teach your students roughly in order, depending on your students' needs. 

This was my board for second grade. We covered a comprehension lesson every day plus an accuracy lesson and then either a fluency or vocabulary lesson, as suggested by The Sisters. Check for Understanding is at the top of the list in Comprehension, so that is one I taught right away. The skills get a little harder as you go down the list. Now, if I was teaching K or 1, I might do more accuracy strategies because that is what those students are working on. Intermediate teachers might do more of a focus on comprehension and fluency since many students already have those accuracy strategies. Never hurts to review, though!
My team has also matched these strategies to our basal curriculum so sometimes we do go out of order. 

The Sisters recommend teaching the lesson to a whole group and allowing them time to practice with partners. Then they have a student write the strategy on a sentence strip and put it up on the menu. Students are encouraged to practice the new skill during independent reading. They review it the next day and connect it with other strategies that they have been working on.

Here are some questions that Jen over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach asked in her post about this chapter (my answers are in red):
  • I absolutely LOVE the look of the CAFE menu bulletin boards I have seen.  If you don't have the space in your classroom for such a large bulletin board, how are you planning to list the strategies for all to see?
I have used a small bulletin board, cement block wall, and a whiteboard to display my Cafe Menu. It can go anywhere- I might use my cabinet doors this year. If you do have a limited space, I'd recommend pre-cutting the sentence strips so kids can't write forever. ;)
  • I have a 90 minute literacy block.  With all I need to squeeze in, will it be possible to have 3 whole-class strategy lessons a day?  How are you fitting in your strategy lessons - will you plan on having 3 a day?

I usually do three a day. I schedule them all over the place. I usually have one strategy lesson immediately after Morning Meeting. This one is usually about 10 minutes- either a quick lesson or review. I have one before we start Daily 5, and another after Round 2 of Daily 5 before lunch. It doesn't have to be around Daily 5 time- it can be when you have 8 minutes before recess or 10 minutes before math.
  • I used to start my literacy block with independent reading (and I would conference with one or two students during this time).  If my students should be practicing the CAFE strategy taught during independent reading, should I move my reading time?  For those of you that have tried CAFE already in your classrooms, when do you have your students reading independently?
I start my literacy block with a mini-lesson and then do Daily 5. I have three rounds of D5 during the day which is separate from my basal time. My students choose their independent reading time during one of the three rounds of D5. If I had older students, I would still start with a mini-lesson and then have the independent reading time. Maybe a strategy lesson to break things up in the middle of the time or else at the end.
  • Do you have your students create their own strategy cards?  I have seen a lot of premade cards (that will look great on a bulletin board), but the sisters really recommended having the students create them.  What do you do in your classroom?
I write the first one to model to students how the cards will look and then I have a different student write the cards each time. I LOVE my handwriting but I know it's important for the kids to write them. I have the kiddos with good handwriting make the important ones, though!
  • I'm thinking I will somehow mark our cards each time we connect to a card we have already discussed - to give a visual that shows how interconnected the strategies are - and how we are never "finished" with a strategy.  Have any of you done this?
I haven't done this but there are a lot of connections! Maybe you could use a shape on the card for each connection- like ones with blue stars are all connected. It would be fun to have string attaching them together.

I did want to remind you that The Sisters have several Cafe Menus available on their website. There is an Emergent Menu, Transitional Menu, Cafe Menu, and Spanish menus available here

There are also fabulous ideas for teaching the lessons on the Interactive Cafe Menu here.

Chapter 7 (the last one!) coming soon!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Taking a Break

I'm just taking a break with the kiddos...I'll be back Thursday with my thoughts on Chapters 6 and 7 of The Cafe Book!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Freebie Friday

Primary Graffiti had a different Freebie Link-Up each day! There are TONS of freebies!

First Grade Blue Skies posted about her "Back to School, Splat!" freebie pack:

There is also another cute Olympic Memories printable in this post!

Amanda from One Extra Degree posted her spelling test template (it's two pages- a front and back):
And Christina Bainbridge from Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge just posted her Collaborative First Day Tips booklet. I have a little tip in there about morning work on the first day.