Friday, November 30, 2012

Yippee!! TPT Winter Tips and Freebies

I'm so gosh darn excited! I am featured in this year's Teachers Pay Teachers Winter Tips and Freebies book!

I've already downloaded it and have been checking out all the cool pages in it. Seriously, you should see the items that teachers are giving away this year. 

Don't forget to check me out on page 43!

I've been busy reworking some old products. I was reviewing a few of them and couldn't believe how much I've raised my standards in the last 6 months. Two of my favorite "redo"s are Ninja E and Mystery Words. Both are really fun activities I used with small group reading instruction. They were both first grade favorites of mine to use during for RtI instruction. 

My youngest daughter has been sick with a stomach bug all week. Ugh. Has it been going around your school, too? It's running rampant in ours. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Friendly Letter Writing Unit

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It is 11:02pm and I am listening to my sis, my mom, my auntie and the Hubs putting a puzzle together. They are making up parodies to songs exchanging the word "puzzler" randomly for others. So far my favorite is The Joker (Steve Miller). "I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight puzzler...."  You know the puzzlers are getting punchy when they are start singing. Out of tune.

Last night we played Headbanz. Games are good for the soul.

My heart feels all full and content.

Exciting news! I finished the Friendly Letter Writing Unit that I've been writing. I designed it during and after teaching Friendly Letters to my Fab 4s. I wrote it using the backward design method, which is my favorite way to write lessons and units. I started teaching the Fab 4s Friendly Letters right before the election, so our big writing project was writing letters to the President. This unit is pretty cool because I created PowerPoint slide shows that teachers can use to present the information to the students. It has everything you need to teach Friendly Letters to 3-5 graders.
You can check it out here....

Here's the BEST NEWS. Monday and Tuesday are TPT's big Cyber Monday 30% off sale. It's a great time to stock up for December and the new year. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Blackest of Fridays

Please tell me that you reading this over a cup of coffee at 9:00 am, after being awake for the last 24 hours. Tell me that I'm not the only crazy who was shopping at midnight and 5 am, with no money to spend but unable to resist the Black Friday urge.

I am a little pissed at Target, though, for starting their sales on Thanksgiving day. My heart is sad for their employees who had to leave family festivities to go to work. That, my friends, sucks the big one. I didn't do any shopping at Target or any other retailer who opened their doors before midnight on Thanksgiving.

I hope you saved a little moola for TPT's big Cyber Monday Blowout. 30% off!! I don't know about you, but I'll be filling my shopping cart this weekend!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Some days it's the toughest job in the world

I have been missing in action this last week. I have been nursing an aching heart.

Our job is the best job in the world. In the entire world. Because we love what we do so much, with the heavy heavy emotional investment we make each day, when things go south it takes a toll on our spirits. Because we can't go into any specifics whatsoever on our blogs, I can only say this: when students make less than stellar choices and parents become involved it can open up a world of hurt for everyone.

This was brought home tenfold Monday as my husband got a call at work from my daughter's middle school advisor, who ranted about our daughter's work habits. It's strange how things work, that this phone call came right in the middle of my own sensitive dealings with students and parents. I really needed the reminder; I became so angry and defensive at what felt like an attack on my own kid. It helped me see the parent perspective instead of only the teacher's.

Everything is ok now. At least I hope everything is ok. I tried as best as I could to let my parents and kiddos know that I care for them, and my job is to help nurture kindness and compassion as well as mathematical thinking and reading comprehension.

I still can't quite shake the heavy feeling in my heart, though.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkeys! BIG TPT sale! Cyber Monday and Tuesday!

 I love this time of year. LOVE it.

I walked around our school yesterday, amazed at the turkey art displayed. I wanted to share these great projects that our teachers guided their students in. I am always filled with joy and inspiration with the creativity and resourcefulness of our teachers. Some of these projects are time-tested favorites of grade levels, some were created by the teachers themselves, and some are the product of dedicated Pinterest searching. We are going to start with K and move our way up.

I love the sponge painting on the top turkeys. The turkeys below offer a great opportunity for a family project (these are completed at home).

 One of my all-time favorite projects! First graders are sent home with the large turkey cut-out and they work together with their family to cover it with whatever they like. The turkeys are always uber-creative!

 Second grade did two different turkeys this year. I think the bottom ones are cute, especially with that poem! The top ones? Pure genius. I never would have thought to use leaves to make the tail fans. I think these just might be the cutest (and most clever) turkeys I've ever seen.

 Third grade did these clever rolled-paper turkeys. I am especially impressed with the writing project above. After talking with a third grade teacher I discovered that this was a Common Core writing project focusing on temporal words. Smart!

Next to the leaf turkeys, these are my favorite. Families helped our CD kids create these turkeys that focus on all there is to be thankful in their families. Brielle Anfinson did this project with her students.

I'm a little ashamed to admit that I neglected to take photos of our fourth grade turkeys! I'm enjoying my pajamas way to much to drive back up to school to snap any photos.

Fifth grade is too busy starting things on fire to make turkeys out of paper. They made catapults instead. Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like more fun?

A very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Enjoy the peace of being with your loved ones.

Check out TPT on Cyber Monday and Tuesday (Nov 26-27). I know that after a nice little Black Friday action you'll be ready to sit down at your computer and get ready for the next few weeks before Christmas, as well as stocking up for the new year!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Quick and Crafty Linky - Duct Tape Labels

This week for Quick and Crafty I'm going to share a very quick, very inexpensive, and very easy way to spice up a bin. It's easier than a band of ribbon and nearly just as cool looking. Maybe cooler (after all, it is duct tape!)

Simply find some duct tape in your favorite color or pattern.

Print out a black and white label.

Cut a band of tape long enough to stretch across the bin and use clear tape to fix the label over the top.

For a template for the black and white labels, go here.

Link up and share your Quick and Crafty for the week!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Goodbye 30's and Spelling

I woke up on Tuesday a 40-yr-old. My hubs keeps saying it's "just a number", but this was a tough one to swallow. I didn't think it would be. But it was.

I got to spend the entire day in pd. I would rather have been with the Fab 4s. They were so excited that it made me feel excited. They wanted to bake me brownies. It actually felt like getting ready for an actual birthday, instead of what birthdays become when you grow up. I would have liked to have spent the day with them.

I've been working with kids this week on reading, finally starting to pull small strategy groups and working with my RtI group. I was worried about not knowing how to do it, after teaching first grade for so long, but it was ok. My Fab 4s aren't going to suffer horribly at my hands after all ;)

I created 4 sheets for the Fabs to practice their spelling words with. They each have a different list so I needed something that was flexible and fun. I know that these sheets won't last the entire year, but I think they will be fun for a few weeks at a time. I am thinking that I'll throw in magazine words and stamping words in between, and toss in some iTouch spelling games.

You can get the goods here....

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Techie Classroom Cool Tool - Comic Life

I wanted to share with you my cartoon form.

I love my cartoon me!! 

I found this cartoon written out on a piece of poster board. My girls love to draw, and graphic novels are one of their favorite genres. This fits the bill for a lot of students, too. My Fab 4s love graphic novels, and they are in heaven if they get 5 minutes of free drawing time.

This is the perfect time to share one of my favorite techie classroom cool tools:

Comic Life is not a free tool; it is a software program that you have to purchase. You can, however, download a full version free to use for one month. It's worth it to check it out and see how you could use it in your classroom. 

Comic Life is a comic/graphic novel making program. 

You can choose different templates

and different text options

and can be used in many different contexts. We made a Character Traits Comic last year in first grade. 

This is a flexible tool that your students will love. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Quick and Crafty Linky - Clay

Quick and Crafty doesn't have to be a decorating adventure or a clever solution to a problem. It can be for the sake of learning, too.

Start with a core and wrap layers of clay around it, ending in a top layer of blue and green. Slice it open and you can study the layers of the earth, from the core right to the crust.

Paper barnacles made by wrapping "paper clay" around balloons makes a hands-on project for learning about the ocean.

Working on structures? Even the human body can be modeled out of clay. This could be some deep, deep learning about anatomy. 

Liquids and solids take on a whole new meaning when you make milk clay. 

Concentric circles in geometry?

Modeling clay is sticky and it doesn't dry out. This makes it great for ongoing projects and reuseability. 
Polymer clay has bright colors and is baked to hardness. It has a soft plasticky feeling to it when it has been hardened. There lots of clays that can be left out to air dry and harden, like Crayola's Air Dry clay. Model Magic by Crayola is very lightweight and airy, and hardens in when it is left out in the air. It's like modeling with a circus peanut. 

Next time you are looking for a hands-on project, think about using clay. 

Have a Quick and Crafty idea you'd like to share? Link up!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Non Fiction Book Study - help!

This is a little embarrassing. I have to admit something...
I am a total hack when it comes to teaching reading to fourth graders.


Seriously. I don't know what I'm doing. I mean, yes, on some instinctual-teacher level I know what to do. But having never taught reading to anyone older than 8 years old, I'm feeling a bit out of my element.

Tomorrow we start our tier 1 intervention block for reading. I chose a non-fiction text to read with the three girls I am working with, because we've been talking about expository texts in our mini-lessons. I chose the most interesting, weird, cool, gross book I could. It's about germs.

Here is what I need some help with: I created a book that I want to use with the kids so that they can write down various elemental parts of thinking while reading non-fiction texts. I want the kids to have to write, because backing up their thinking with evidence from the text is something I've noticed all my Fab 4s struggle with. AND....since the CCSS is heavy on non-fiction writing, I figure the more I can sneak it in the better off we'll all be. What I would like is some constructive feedback. I'm asking if you would please download the file and look it over. You are welcome to use it, but I'm not feeling very confident that it's finished. Anyway, would you mind and leave me some comments on what I should change? Ideas for improvement?

You can download the pdf file here, off of google docs.

Many, many, many thanks. This whole year I feel like a first year teacher again.

The Best Ideas in Bloggerland

Ms. Simoneaux at First Grade Fresh wowed this week by posting a slew of photos from her classroom. I love the design and creativity of her anchor charts and bulletin boards. Check out the glove! It's a hands-on tool for the five-finger story map. 

It's time for November's Currently!

Bails has been playing Mind Craft, which I think is a really pixalated version of World of Warcraft. All she does is build barns and put animals in them, though. 

How can a person not love November? I'm waiting (almost desperately) for Tuesday to come and go, for two reasons. The first goes without saying: I would like to stop getting cold calls from various politcal agencies. Come on, people. I'm voting. I always vote. I'm not changing my vote. Leave me alone. Secondly, I leave the 30's behind on Tuesday. I don't know how I feel about it, other than I thought I would be all cool about it but instead feel somewhat sad and panicky. 

My house is a disaster. I need to clean, but have been compulsively working lately.....

I really need to buckle down and finish the CCSS 2nd grade math assessments I've been working on. It's a want AND a need. 

"Mad World" is stuck in my head this morning. I think it's from reading the news and Facebook. 

Thanks to Farley for hosting Currently!! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Anchor Charts of the Week

The Fab 4s write a lot when it comes to thinking about reading. One of my favorite formats is writing me a friendly letter in their Reading Journal. I have learned more about them as readers by reading these letters than meeting with them one-on-one.

Even though we have been writing letters for nearly two months, I still get the occasional letter that is not following the proper friendly letter format. I created this simple poster for reference.

Now when I ask a student to make sure they follow the proper format they can refer to the poster.

I love to display examples of story maps around the classroom. They get changed out when we run out of room; that way we always have a few for reference. We read Jumanji last week and did a story map together.

I always love the idea of having these charts done before hand and ready to hang up, but I worry that it won't be as relevant as if we create it together. It definitely doesn't save on paper redoing them every year, but I think it's worth the material (and time!).