Friday, February 28, 2014

Five for Friday: A Long Week!

Wow! What a tiring week! We had parent-teacher conferences rescheduled for Monday night. I love meeting with parents and talking my kiddos, but it makes for a long week! I'm so glad that it's Friday and I'm ready to put my feet up tonight and RELAX! Despite being exhausted... here are the things that I am loving about my past week... linking up to Doodle Bugs!

This week, we started talking about the difference between COMMON nouns and PROPER nouns. We started by creating this anchor chart so that students could see the relationship between common and proper nouns and their differences.
I recently invested in a fabulous Common Core Language Arts pack from Susan Jones on TPT.  She has some great, interactive activities for exploring nouns, verbs, and adjectives. The next two activities are from her pack. In the following partner game, students roll a dice. If they roll an odd number, they cover a common noun. If they roll an even number, they cover a proper noun. The kiddos loved it! Several groups sat in front of our anchor chart while they played to that they could remember the differences between proper and common nouns.
Then, we moved on to some "at your seat" work. Students used their highlighters to identify the proper nouns at the top of their page. Then, they changed common nouns in a sentence to more specific proper nouns to make the sentence more interesting (it gives the reader more details)!!
We will continue to talk about common and proper nouns... we look for them in our reading groups and the books that we are reading. Next week, we are going to start learning about verbs! Woohoo!

My district uses Everyday Math for our math curriculum and in our workbooks, they use Ds for Dimes, Ns for Nickels, and Ps for Pennies. I try to give my kids a lot of exposure to using actual coins while practicing counting money, but I find that they often struggle knowing which coin is which. Last year, I came across this simple game to help kids practice identifying coins. Students roll a dice and cover a coin on their board. Visit Oceans of First Grade Fun for more money math ideas!!
So last year, our district started using standards-based grading, which we are now calling "grading for learning." Throughout each trimester, we keep LOADS of data about our students' reading strategy usage, fluency, accuracy, comprehension, ability to read word families, sight words... ahh the list goes on and on... such useful information but it is all about organizing it to use it effectively! At the end of each trimester, we do more of a final check on each student's progress before we send home report cards. Last year, I felt like I was swimming in paper from all of my assessments that I was doing at the end of the grading period. Now that we have developed our common assessments, I came up with these handy little student data sheets.... One sheet, front and back, for each student.... OH MY GOSH! I am so excited to be organized and rid of all that extra paper! If you would like to see my full student record sheet, click the link.

Word Family Reading Assessment

Comprehension Assessment
Fluency Assessment
That's a peek at a few of our assessments! It is crazy how much better I feel about this!
So I just signed up for an online streaming Netflix account and I am now sooooo hooked on SCANDAL! I am OBSESSED! It really is a problem, but I love it!

Okay so maybe this is breaking the rules, but my #5 is something that I DO NOT LOVE. This is my pile of mail that has been getting bigger all week, just sitting on my table, waiting for me. Not looking forward to going through it! Yikes!
That's all for this week! Woohoo for the weekend!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lovin' the Weekend and Dr. Seuss!

Wow! What a fun morning we had yesterday. Originally, we weren't supposed to have school on Friday but it was a snow day make-up day. One of many that we will have this year... agh Wisconsin winter is getting to me this year (I love winter until about the end of January, but this year has been rough)! Since we were in school, I decided to make it our BIG DR. SEUSS READ IN EXTRAVAGANZA! The past few weeks leading up to yesterday, we have been reading TONS of Dr. Seuss books, which are my favorite, especially The Sneetches.... I think we've read that one three times already this year. :)

Here's a look at our Lorax craft that we did a few weeks ago. Students wrote about what they would do if they were the Lorax. I'm wishing right now that my bulletin background wasn't yellow but I didn't have the time or energy to change it before I hung up our artwork. On the plus side, my Truffula tree actually somewhat turned out this year... last year it looked so sad that I couldn't bring myself to hang it up.

Yesterday, the kiddos came to school in their pajamas. They were allowed to bring a small stuffed animal, a small blanket, and their favorite Dr. Seuss book from home.
Firsties look so cute and innocent in their PJs! Too cute!

The kids spread out around the room, read Dr. Seuss books, and did some Dr. Seuss writing/puzzles/mazes. For a FREE COPY of my Dr. Seuss printables, click the link!
I also made GREEN EGGS AND HAM... which I told the kids about a few days ago. I was soon met with many silly "ewww, gross!" comments so I did not have high expectations for the kids actually eating the green eggs. However, the most miraculous thing happened... every single kid ate their green eggs and ham... AND THEY WANTED SECONDS! I almost fell over. One little girl even smelled hers and said to me, "Mrs. O'Connor, they smell so good!" I don't know about you, but deviled eggs never SMELL GOOD to me... I love them, but the smell is stinky! I guess you truly never know what is going to happen when you teach first grade! That is one of the things I love most!

I was starving yesterday after school and I convinced my husband to go to Olive Garden for dinner (my guilty pleasure)! Comfort food! We stopped by Half Priced Books, where I love to look for books for my kiddos book bins and I found a few that I think they will love for Read to Self!
I also found a new book for myself. I can be kind of picky about books so I was excited to see that there is a sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It look creepy, but it is intended for young adults, so it's really not! I always love reading books in a series, but I just get so attached to the characters (something that my kiddos are feeling about Cam Jansen...). Excited to dig into this one soon! I am a big fan of series like the Hunger Games and Harry Potter and I would put Miss Peregrine into that "type" of book.
Hmmm, this is one of those weekends, where my husband and I really don't have any plans, which I LOVE! I am totally looking forward to relaxing this morning, drinking my coffee (loaded with Hershey's Chocolate Caramel creamer, of course! Oops!), listening to my favorite Pandora Radio Station (Ella Fitzgerald), and finishing some of my lesson plans for next week.

Friday, February 21, 2014

My First "Five for Friday"

I cannot tell you how much I LOVE looking at teaching blogs. So many great ideas out there!! Here's my first Five for Friday Post... linking up to DoodleBugs Linky Party!

Take a peek at my 5 favorite things from this week!!!
Since we have returned from winter break in January, I have been OBSESSED with finding new, fun word work activities. I try to have at least one new center every week for my kiddos to do. This week, we had two new centers:
Foam Letters:
I picked up these foam letters at Michael's Craft Store (I got three boxes on CLEARANCE!) and  sorted them into little tubs. Students use our weekly word list cards and the foam letters to practice their words!
Sight Word Sticks:
I posted about this new center on Monday, but here's another look at our sight word sticks Click the link to see my previous post and pick up my free printable! :)

One of the things that we have been working on in math is counting coins... so far we are using pennies, nickels, and dimes. We are soon going to add quarters as well so we did a little extra practice with using coins to make different values. Grab your free printables for the Count it Two Ways sheet and the Coin Cards.
We had parent-teacher conferences this afternoon which allowed me a little extra prep time between conferences. Put together these "Build a Sentence" books. Students flip through the cards to put words together to form a sentence... a little bit tedious to make so I only made 5 to use as one of my centers or with a small group during Work on Writing. If you are interested in making these for your classroom, here is the link for creating the flip books and the recording sheet.
Due to snow and freezing rain, we had two days off of school this week. I never thought I would say this but I am totally getting sick of snow days this year. Teachers had to report to school on Thursday afternoon because we had parent-teacher conferences. Between conferences, I got a little extra prep time in, which was GREAT! However, it means that my desk was a complete disaster when parents were in for conferences... I guess that is the reality of my teaching... I hope that a messy desk reflects that I'm being productive (not that I'm disorganized!), right?? Although, sometimes I'm not so sure.
Working on two computers at once... I was a busy bee!
I am so excited (maybe even more excited than my students?) for our Dr. Seuss inspired Read In today. Students are coming in their pajamas (me in my Cat in the Hat shirt) with blankets and stuffed animals and we are going to spend our morning reading and writing about Dr. Seuss. I even brought in a special treat... GREEN EGGS AND HAM. I'll post more about our day this weekend. Love fun Fridays!!

Ready to go... they are stinking up the fridge at school as we speak... Oops!

Well, that's all for my first Five for Friday. Time to get going on my lesson plans for next week before my kiddos arrive in an hour.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Snowed in!

One nice thing about having a snow day is the opportunity to be lazy and productive at the same time... I love laying around in my sweatpants and fuzzy socks, curling up on the couch, and exploring my favorite teaching blogs. Of course, I always find things that I NEED TO MAKE RIGHT NOW!

Idea #1:
I was inspired by this post from Reagan Tunstall this morning (see her post here) about Sight Word Sticks for word work. Luckily, I had a few empty soup cans under my kitchen sink and a box of colored popsicle sticks from Michael's Craft Store (can you say EDUCATOR DISCOUNT?!) and I whipped these up this morning! We are working on spelling our Primer Dolch Words so I made 5 sets of primer word sticks. Reagan has a great set of printables to go with this idea on her TPT store, but here's an ABC order activity for free from ME with a set of labels for your stick holders!
I covered the cans in fun cardstock and slapped a label on them! Easy!
Idea #2:
In my classroom, I have a chromebook and projector set up on a cart. I am always looking for new ways to use the technology with my students. I decided to create a powerpoint slide to display on our projector for a LONG I WORD SORT as a Daily 5 word work center. Above is visual of the slide. You can save the image to your computer to project in your classroom by clicking this link! I have yet to try projecting this slide and I am hoping that it isn't blurry when expanded. Students will record their word family sort on this FREE PRINTABLE. If all goes well this week, I hope to make more projectable word family sorts!

All About Books: ROUND ONE!

Yet another day off from school today... this time due to snow as opposed to sub-zero temperatures. Agh.

I thought I would take some time to post about the All About Books that my students worked on in the fall. It was our first experience with nonfiction writing and we read TONS of non-fiction books about whales. I found a lot of my ideas from this fabulous post from The Inspired Apple. I sent an email out to the rest of the elementary staff requesting nonfiction books about whales or the ocean and was blessed with many responses and lots of great materials. One fourth grade teacher had THE BEST NONFICTION WHALE BOOK EVER, but I cannot find it anywhere online to purchase it for myself. I found some great Youtube videos about whales as well... and after many requests to sing "Baby Beluga," I broke down and found a video for that as well!

To begin the unit, I read the text, Humphrey, The Lost Whale: the story of a humpback whale who got lost and started to swim up the Sacramento River. The kiddos were enthralled!!!

After reading the story, I displayed this poster at the front of the room and we spent a day just asking questions about whales... things we were wondering about. As students asked questions, I wrote them down on a post-it and let them stick it on the poster.

After a day of just asking questions, we went to our set of nonfiction whale texts. We talked about how to look up specific information using the table of contents. As we came across the answers to our questions, I used a different colored post-it to write the answer. Students came up and connected the question to the answer.
After our questions were answered (it took about a week! we had LOTS of questions!) we began to organized our questions by category. I created this chart to organize our post-its on. Our questions fell into these categories
  • I wonder how whales eat and drink.
  • I wonder how whales move in the water.
  • I wonder how whales survive in the ocean.
  • I wonder what whales can do.
  • Other facts about whales.
Students moved the post-its from our original poster onto the chart. We talked about how to organize our information.

After organizing our information, we began writing All About Books as a whole group. Each day, we picked a category and wrote a sentence or two about that topic. I wrote our sentences on the board each day and students copied them into their ALL ABOUT WHALES BOOK (pick up a free copy here).

Here is a look at part of one student's All About Whales book:

 All About Books gave us a great opportunity to discuss text features in non-fiction writing. Every day, we added to our table of contents. We always made sure that we used the same language on our table of contents that we used in our headings.
One key element of informational writing is that our pictures match the text!
 On the last page in our books, we practicing labeling the parts of a whale's body.

This unit took place in November and we are going to revisit informational writing and All About books in March. During our next round of All About writing, students are going to be doing more independent research and writing in small groups. Not sure how I am going to organize this yet... but I need to get going on it!