Saturday, October 29, 2016

Happy Halloween!!

Hey friends.......just wanted to send out a quick hello and wish everyone out there in Firstieland a Happy Halloween! We had our parties yesterday and had a great time.  All the Firsties came in their cute little costumes and we paraded around the school for all to see! We played some fun games, had some treats and sent them all home....it was an early release day.  Nice! Here are some photos of our team. We always pick a theme...this year it was the:

Four Seasons


Here are a few photos of years past in case you need some inspiration!

Wizard of Oz

Candy Land Characters
(of course this is my favorite here in Firstieland......🍭)


Here's hoping you all have a sweet Halloween!! Till next time......there's always something fun happening in.....

Firstieland 🍭



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bats 'n Bones

Last weekend my son came into town to visit for a few days from Texas (I only get to see him a few times a year because he lives across the country so YAY for the visit!) and we went shopping together.  He likes to shop just about as much as I do, lucky me, and so we stopped at one of our favorites - Barnes and Noble.  Ahhhh....every teacher loves a good bookstore.  Of course I had to take a look at the children's book section and found the cutest book!! Have you seen it?  It's called "Bone Soup".  You can pick it up here.


It's about a little goblin who comes into town and tricks everyone into giving up all their goodies (eyeballs, toenail clippings, bones, etc💀👻) to make his soup.  It's a great book for sequence of events and also creative writing!  What kid doesn't like a book about eyeballs and toenail clippings????? Soooo, I donned my best witches hat and creepiest voice and read the story aloud to them.  To make it more enticing I made a little table and a cauldron full of creepiness....


We started off with a Shared Writing.  If you read my blog regularly, you know I ❤️ Shared Writing. I told my firsties that I wanted to make Bone Soup and asked them what I should put in it. Since we have been studying about adjectives lately, we used our best describing words to make it more interesting. 


Next, I told them that I needed to create a recipe from all of these ingredients.  I told them that a good recipe always includes the amount needed, so we used number words in our recipe (more adjectives....Yay!!)


Finally it was time for the fab firsties to create their own Bone Soup recipe.  They each had a turn at reaching into my cauldron and choosing five creepy ingredients! They made the cauldron craft and completed their own recipe, making sure to use adjectives in their recipe.  You can pick up this FREEBIE here.



I put their recipes on display in our hallway and made it into a mini station for the rest of the week.  My class and the other first grades can visit it during center time and create magic potions and write in our potion book! 


We also read Stelluna last week and read some non fiction books about Bats on Epic Books (it's like Netflix for books.....and its FREE for teachers!!) We had a little mini unit on Bats and their habitats...fits in perfectly with one of our science standards and of course Halloween! We made a Story Map for Stelluna and the firsties made the plot on bats. I found this idea on Pinterest from the fabulous Cara Caroll over at The First Grade Parade!  I pinned a bunch of cute bat ideas....you can check them out on my Pinterest page here.



In Shared Writing, we made a web about bats and then the kids made a cute bat craft and wrote a list of things that bats can do.  They also made the cutest "bat cave" craft.....it's just a paper plate cut in half and the middle cut out.  We painted them black, glued them to blue paper and drew details with crayons.  So adorable!!



We finished up by making a life size bat cave and we put it int he hallway.....with a basket of halloween books and some flashlights.  The fab firsties can visit the cave during read to self and go "batty" reading books!!


So you can tell we had a  spook-tacular week!! We''ll be finishing it up this week with our annual Halloween Parade and party!! Hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween!  Next week, we begin learning about animals in fall and of course, the First Thanksgiving.  Check back to see what the Fab Firsties are doing in Firstieland!!

🍭 Firstieland










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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's Pumpkin Time!

It's finally beginning to feel like fall around here!  The air is crisp and the leaves are changing colors. It's my favorite time of the year!!🎃 So......of course it's time to break out the PUMPKINS! We spent last week learning all about them.....how they grow, describing them, what you can make out of them....so fun.  My firsties loved it!


We started out the week with one of my favorite books for this season "Jamie's Pumpkin".....the illustrations in this book are beautiful.  They are the most lovely watercolors and the book shows the sequence of how a pumpkin grows.  In our Shared Writing lesson, the children helped me compose my own story of how a pumpkin grows.  I showed them how to use the words First, Next, Then and Last in this writing.  I think it's super important to begin a writing lesson with Shared Writing.  This really helps the kids get their own ideas in their head and models the thought process involved in writing. It helps them become independent writers and gives them confidence to try writing on their own.  We made these cute little crafts to go with it and then the kids wrote the sequence of how a pumpkin grows. I never leave my writing on the board for the students to copy, although I did leave just the words First, Next Then and Last as a reminder.  





We also read Gail Gibbons book "The Pumpkin Book".  If you have never used any of her books in class, check them out! They are really great informational text for younger kids.  We ❤️ Gail Gibbons! This book describes pumpkins and we used this as an opportunity to learn more ADJECTIVES.  If you read my blog post last week, you know we have been learning all about adjectives this month.  


We took a look at some real pumpkins and then made a list of adjectives describing pumpkins in our interactive writing. 


I also found this cute poem on Deanna Jumps blog that we sang.  I put this poem at our Big Book Station after we did it as a whole group, for my firsties to practice on their own. 



We made big pumpkins and wrote adjectives all around them:



Do you use Scholastic News in your classroom?  It's really pretty fantastic. We don't have a formal Science or Social Studies curriculum in our school, so we supplement with Scholastic and it's really helpful.  Plus, it has a great online component! Cool games, videos and interactive lessons that go with each Scholastic News and it comes FREE with your subscription.  We read our newest magazine and then we made a list of things we can do with pumpkins in another interactive writing lesson.  


I always like to finish up a mini unit with a report on what we have learned.  I teach my firsties to use a web to gather their information.  We made one together on the board and then I showed them how to use this web to write a report.  I found the best You Tube video from Teacher Tipster on different "openings and closings" to use with kids when teaching them to write reports and stories.  He is the best! You can find the video here



We finished up our week with my FAB FIRSTIES making their own webs and reports about Pumpkins.  They used their openings and closings and tried to include some adjectives to make it more interesting. I think they turned out pretty fabulous!!



So we had a GREAT week......how about you?  What fun things are you doing with pumpkins in your classroom?? Leave a post and let me know so we can share it with everyone!  Happy Fall Y'all!

🍭 Firstieland




















Friday, October 14, 2016

Differentiated Halloween Stations

Let me start by saying - I LOVE STATIONS.  I could write an entire blog post just about the importance of stations in an elementary classroom (and I probably will!) but for today I'm just going to focus on the Halloween stations I'm using in my classroom this month.  The kids are loving them! Lately, I've been working on making all of my stations differentiated....that is currently my personal goal on my growth plan. My firsties visit stations during guided reading time.  They have a log that they use to keep track of which stations they have visited each week.  Each day, they visit a different station and put an X on their log when it is complete.  So here's what we have going on for the month of October:

Spelling Station
I like to add a few props to my stations to make them more fun for the kids.  You would be surprised at how excited they get with a fancy pen or silly hat! Something new at spelling this month is "Spooky Spelling" - my firsties write their words in white crayon and then paint over them with watercolors.  And just like MAGIC they appear!! This activity is differentiated into three levels - this picture shows the "on level" activity.



Math Station
This month, in math, we are working on addition skills.  My struggling firsties are still working on some number recognition so they have a counting activity. 


My on level firsties are working on addition.  I found the cutest little drink holders at Dollar Tree...removed the straws and filled them with different halloween goodies that we are using for the counters.  Spider rings, halloween erasers, mini pumpkins, etc all make great manipulatives for this type of activity! For a challenge, I made another worksheet where the kids use the same monster drink holders and they make an addition fact and also the related fact, by changing the order of the addends.



Library Station
My firsties ❤️ to sit and read in our cozy library!  Add a few new Halloween books, a witches hat and witches fingers for pointers and you MAGICALLY have some engaged kiddos reading books!

Big Book Station
We have been learning about adjectives and I found the cutest poem on Pinterest to use for this activity!  I added it to our big book station along with some great October books, a monster hat and a fuzzy monster hand to use as a pointer! 




Word Work Station
This month my firsties are building their sight words with letter tiles and working on the "ck" ending. I found these cute little plastic pumpkins at Dollar Tree.  Each pumpkin has the letter tiles to build one of our sight words.  The kiddos have to dump them out and arrange the letters in the right order, then write it on the worksheet.  I also made some cute Haunted Houses with "ck" word families. .  Match the correct ghosts to the house that they live in!



Art Station
I like to put a simple craft at my art station each month.  I keep it simple so that my firsties can finish it in about 15-20 minutes, the time I spend with each reading group during guided reading. This month they are making "candy corn".  If they finish the task early they can use some of the other materials at the art station like playdough, markers, fancy scissors, etc.  


So that's what is happening at our stations during the month of October.  If you would like to use these stations in your room, they are available on my TPT store here.  I'd love to hear what you are doing in your room during the month of October! Do you use stations?? Leave a comment and let me know! Hope you have a Happy Halloween  🎃!!

🍭 Firstieland














Saturday, October 8, 2016

What Is Balanced Literacy? Part One - Reading

Balanced Literacy.......this is my bible, my baby, what I TRULY BELIEVE IN.....when it comes to teaching kiddos how to read.  If you do nothing else in your classroom.....use balanced literacy.  Seriously.  So what is it? Balanced literacy is simply that.....a balanced approach to teaching children how to read and write.  Children are highly engaged in the reading and writing process.  The teacher facilitates their learning using different approaches that include whole group, small group and individual instruction.


So what are the components of a good great FANTASTIC balanced literacy program? Here's the list: Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, Independent Reading, Shared Writing, Interactive Writing, Independent Writing.  Today's blog will focus on the Reading Part of Balanced Literacy:

Read Alouds
Why should teachers read aloud to children? First of all, because they love it! What better way to teach children to love reading than to read good quality literature to them? They get engaged in the story, they laugh, they look forward to that quiet time when they just sit and listen to a good book.  But during this time we also teach children that there is a purpose for reading...we can read for enjoyment and we can read to learn new things.  We show them different strategies to help them comprehend a story.  We teach them how to use clues in the story to figure out unknown words and new vocabulary.  And.....we teach them how to listen.

I think the key in reading aloud is choosing quality books that have great story elements - a great plot, engaging characters, rich vocabulary, interesting settings.  When you choose books like this, you can draw the children in and then WHAMMO!! teaching them reading strategies becomes easy.  After reading a story aloud, this is when I introduce concepts like plot, characters and setting.  We compare stories using venn diagrams and T charts, we list the characters and the setting.  Basically we talk about the elements of the story and why they are important to our comprehension.



Shared Reading
Ok....I LOVE shared reading. People.....this is where you really get a lot of bang for your buck! This is the step where you truly teach kids how to read! Shared reading is when the teacher and student read together from an enlarged text.  This can be a book, a chart, a poem....anything really, but at this level - and this is IMPORTANT - it must have pictures that match the text.  Using pictures clues is one of the first reading strategies to help children learn to read. Please don't listen when people tell you that pictures teach children to guess....no, no, no.  Pictures teach children to use strategies like looking at the beginning sound of a word and matching it to the picture to figure out unknown words. Without pictures the only strategy a child learns is decoding.  Decoding is fine for CVC words, but we want them to develop a sight word vocabulary.  Sight words are memorized and pictures can help them in that memorization process.  Pictures also help the child with comprehension.  We need to teach them to look at the pictures and really think about what is happening in a story.  Sometimes subtle things are happening in the pictures that may not be mentioned in the text....this is where we teach them to REALLY LOOK at the pictures and understand the story.  



When we read together in Shared Reading  all of the children can see the text and the process of reading at the same time. Children get the opportunity to read aloud and demonstrate comprehension by answering questions about the story. Children see the front of the book, back of the book, how to turn the pages, read from left to right and find sight words that they know on the pages. They are taught the difference between print and illustrations in Shared Reading. They learn how to read fluently and how to make their voices expressive. This activity also helps give children the confidence to try reading books on their own.

There are many big books on the market that you can purchase and if you have unlimited funds (NOT!) then buy away! But if you are like many of us, our funds are non existent limited and we need to come up with other creative ways to make enlarged print stories.  I usually write my stories based on our theme and sight words for the week.  So, for instance, if you are learning about the farm and your sight words are "that" and "is" you could write a simple story like: That is a cow. That is a pig. That is a horse. etc....Each page would have very big print - large enough for the child to see it sitting in a group with you at the carpet and it would also include some kind of illustration.  Sometimes I draw my own or often times I will use a coloring page or a stock photo that I find online.    I make my own "big books", laminate them and bind them and VOILA!!! instant shared reading materials!  Cost = $0......LOVE IT!!! ❤️
Remember when you are creating your materials,  they need to be at the correct reading level to really help your students advance in their learning.  A Kindergarten teacher is going to be working with Level A at the beginning of the year.....a First Grade Teacher will be working at around a level C-D at the beginning of the year.  I think that Shared Reading is valuable at both grade levels, but your materials that you are using need to be geared toward the correct level.  Making a level D big book will look different than a level A.  

Guided Reading
In guided reading, students meet with the teacher in a small group.  They are given the opportunity to read and learn with books at their own level. They are guided by the teacher and read orally or silently. They are given the opportunity to answer comprehension questions and use strategies to figure out unknown words. Guided reading helps give children the confidence to choose books appropriate for them and to read on their own.  

Independent Reading
This is where the children "show what they know"....children should always have some sort of book box or bag filled with books at their level.  During independent reading children practice reading and using strategies that they have learned in Read Aloud, Shared Reading and Guided Reading.  At the beginning of the year, in first grade, I fill a book box for each of my students.  I use the recommended level that their Kindergarten teacher sends to me, to choose books for each child.  I usually start with about 6 books for one of my firsties in their book box.  After I do a beginning of the year benchmark, I may need to tweak those books.  Some children will fall back in the summer - that dreaded summer slide -  while others will push ahead - YEA!!!  

I like to begin independent reading on the first day of school - SAY WHAT????? Yep, first day.  Ok....I get it....they can't all read yet.  That's ok....we are going to build our stamina.  That's where we learn to sit quietly and do nothing but - READ.  So we begin with 1-2 minutes of quiet reading on the first day.  I read a story aloud to them first....usually something by David Shannon like "No David" or "David Goes to School" because they love those books.  When I'm finished I ask them if they would like to be able to read about David all by themselves and wouldn't it be cool if they could pick up this book and read it??? And of course they all yell YES!! AH HA!! Reel em in......now I have them hooked.  So this is where I introduce "Read to Self" and tell them that we are going to build up our stamina so that we can eventually read this cool book to ourselves too.  I show them their book boxes and off they go to read quietly for 2 minutes.  We come back together and talk about how it went and did we read the whole time, etc. We do this every day until we eventually build up our time to about 20 minutes of silent reading (YES, THEY CAN DO IT!).  


So that wraps up the portion of Balanced Literacy that is Reading......this is the first of a year long series that I plan to do on Balanced Literacy.  I'll be posting different monthly ideas and pictures to help you along on your journey so please check back. Next week I will be posting about the Writing Portion of Balanced Literacy.....it will include lots of cool ideas to get you started on doing some cool interactive writing with your kids.  Here's a sneak peak......hope to see you next week and please feel free to hit me up with any questions or comments!! 


🍭Firstieland



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