Tuesday, January 31

A Peek at My Week(s) and Two Freebies

Wow!  The past two weeks have been so busy!  And it doesn't look like February is going to be any slower.  I have so many ideas to share.  I guess this post will be a little random, but that's how it goes.  So, in no particular order...

We celebrated the 100th Day ... two weeks ago...    This year I wanted to simplify the day, while making sure I still included some new Pinterest finds.  We started off the morning by making gumball machines.  I was inspired with Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten gumball machine.  I wanted each of my kids to make their own gumball machines-- with, you guessed it, 100 painted gumballs!  I wasn't quite sure if this would be the biggest disaster of the year or a really fun idea (but I talked the other 8 first grade teachers into giving it a try with me!).  So, with VERY explicit instructions we got to work.  The kids assembled their machines first.  Then I carefully showed them how to dip the Q-tip into the paint and dot, then dip and dot, dip and dot--- until they had 10 dots of one color.  I set up two colors of paint at five set of desks.  After they finished one color they were free to do the second color.  When everyone was finished we rotated to the next table.  I was in shock!  My very chatty class was SILENT!  It was first grade teacher gold!!  They were so busy dipping, dotting, and counting that they didn't make a peep!  They were very proud of themselves when they had 100 pieces of gum.  And no one screwed theirs up-- they all turned out just as neat as the one in the picture!  Click {here} to get a copy of the poem at the bottom.

We also completed a 100th Day Mystery Picture.  I gave my kids a sheet with two hundreds charts on it.  Click {here} to get your own copy.  Then I called out one number at a time and told them what color to use.  With each square they were guessing what the picture would be.  Easy, fun, and a great way to assess number sense.

This past week we wrapped up our study of winter/snow/arctic animals.  We were inference investigators thanks to Abby's super cute Snow Day Case Files.  They LOVED it, and learned a thing or two about making inferences.  Although, I was a little surprised at some of the inferences they made-- guess my schema and their schema are way different :)  I can't wait to follow up with Cara's "No David" lesson tomorrow.

We also read "The Mitten" and did a little activity.  Each child chose an animal then wrote 3 clues using the sentence frame "Who _______?"  At the bottom of the mitten they wrote the answer.  (Example: Who is white?  Who is small?  Who can hop?  A rabbit, that's who!).  I actually typed their clues as they finished writing them.  It tied in perfect with our phonics study of wh/qu and questioning.  We discussed using good descriptive words so that we could easily guess the animal.  Click {here} for a copy of the mitten page I found on Jan Brett's website.
This is my sample, and yes-- I used clipart for the picture!  An artist I am not!
And, now for a few freebies.   The first one is for math.  The kids will use the monster cards and practice adding 1 and 2 and subtracting 1 and 2.  This is another great assessment of number sense to 100.  Click {here} for a copy.

The second one is for reading.  It seems that I might be a tad behind some of you-- we are still stuck on short vowels in StoryTown.  Hopefully soon we'll be moving to long vowels.  Until then, here's a little more short vowel practice.  The kids will use a vowel die to create words, then sort the words as real or nonsense.  My kids have actually already completed this same activity created by Made for 1st Grade, but it had a winter theme.  As I was listening to my kids complete the tub, I kept hearing them say things like "If I roll a "e" then I'll be able to make the word "red."  I loved the activity so much that I created a new one for February.  I hope that's not against copyright rules.  Click {here} for a copy.

Sunday, January 22

Chinese New Year

For the past several years, I have celebrated Chinese New Year in my classroom.  My school has a decent number of Chinese children, and I always have a couple in my class.  Their faces light up when they find out we are spending the day learning about their culture.
There are LOTS of good Chinese-themed books to read.  We start out with the one below.  It's great for explaining many different concepts in a simple way.
This book discusses the animal zodiac and tries to explain some of the different animals.  Ahead of time, I check to see which year each child was born (you think they would know, but many don't!).  I tell them which animal they are and we discuss some of the characteristics.  They always get a kick out of this part-- and they want to know which animal their brother, sister, mama, and daddy are....

 Here's a little sheet I typed up with all of the animals on it.  I give it to them to take home.  I also let them color a picture of their own animal. 

Next, I use a very simple flipchart I made
We find China on the map, then watch a very good movie on Safari Montage

We complete the Venn Digram together

We look at how to write "Happy New Year" in Chinese

After looking at the real characters, I let the kids try writing it themselves.  I do it like a directed drawing.  First, I give them half of a piece of construction paper (hotdog style).  They fold it to make four boxes.  This helps to keep their symbols a little neater.  On the document camera, I draw one line at a time (trying my best to explain it as I go).  They always impress me with how theirs turn out.

 This is kid work, not mine-- they all turned out similiar to hers (this wasn't just the best one!)

I like to read Grandfather Tang's Story to them and then have the kids make their own tangram animals.  If you haven't read this book before, it's great, and the kids love it.
It's always interesting to watch the kids do their own tangram animals.  It seems so easy for some, and so difficult for others.  Some of the kids that are really good at reading or math struggle, while some of the strugglers finish quickly.  It's a great assessment of spatial skills.  I give the kids a little sheet with several animals to choose from, then let them get to work.  They have to cut out the tangram pieces, arrange them on their paper, let me check it, then glue the pieces down.
The cat was very easy for one little girl to do, and it turned out perfect.  The bunny...well... let's just say I don't think it will be hopping away anytime soon!

Throughout the day I read several other books-- two of my favorites are Ruby's Wish and The Seven Chinese Brothers.
Next week, as one of their reading tubs, my kids will be listening to Sam and the Lucky Money (from BookFlix) and completing a reading response sheet.

How do you celebrate Chinese New Year in your classroom?

Friday, January 20

National Geographic Kids

While we were studying about polar bears last week, I came across a resource I didn't know existed.  I thought I would share (in hopes I'm not the only one who didn't already know about it).
 I have used the National Geographic Kids website for several years now.  I have always used the search feature to find info on the animals we are studying.  Last week, I noticed they have a page for all animals (in one little spot all together).  You can get there by clicking on "Animals and Pets-- ALL"
It's even organized where the kids can easily find the animal they are looking for (either by type of animal or by habitat).  How great is that?!!
Each animal has a little info, some pictures, a video clip, a map to show where they live, and some have a sound bite. 
We studied the polar bear together, and then I let my kids look up an animal of their choice in the computer lab.  They were way into it!  It's definitely a place I'll send them when we research animal habitats.
A little funny story...  We were looking at the map (pictured above), when a child asks, "Mrs. Morse is that cross where Heaven is?"  What a sweetie pie!

Monday, January 16

A Day in my Shoes

When I saw a Linky Party about everyone else's day I was so excited.  I'm a little bit nosy and love to see how everyone else spends their time each day.  It's been interesting to read when everyone is getting up, how long it takes to get ready, what time the school day starts, school schedules, and after-school routines.  I thought I'd add my day to the mix:

6:00- Alarm goes off... I hit snooze
6:09- Alarm goes off... I hit snooze again
Alarm- snooze, Alarm-snooze- this goes on until 6:30 or so

6:30- I roll out of bed, wishing I had just a little more time to sleep.  I'm always in a pretty good mood once I get up, but getting up for me is tough.  I wish I was a naturally early riser, but I'm not!

6:30- I jump in the shower- super quick, regretting that I didn't get up just a little bit sooner.  I reflect on the day.  Some of the best thinking time is done in the shower.

6:40- I wake my husband and tell him to go and wake up our four year old.  He gets C. dressed every morning (and he's done it since he was born!  I know I'm lucky!).  Hey, if I have to be up early so do you hunny!

6:40-7:15- I get ready while C is getting ready.    I have mastered the art of getting ready quickly (that way I can sleep longer).  If I'm lucky my 2 year old girl will wake up before I leave.  It's my only chance to see her before the afternoon.  I get her some milk and settle her in my bed for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. 

7:15- We rush out the door, leaving hubby and K. behind.  Hubs doesn't have to be at work until 9:30-- must be nice!  He gets K. ready and drops her off at daycare before going to work.

7:30- This is when I should arrive at school, and I do as long as traffic cooperates perfectly...  We really only live 10 minutes from the school (that gives me five extra, right?).  As I walk down the hall I pass all of my sweeties sitting in the hall waiting with the aide.  It almost seems like I'm a celebrity with all the waving and "hey, Mrs. Morse!".  I quickly put down my stuff, clock in, and glance at my e-mails.

7:40- I take C. down to his preschool class (I LOVE having him at school with me!).  A quick kiss and a "hi" to his teacher.  Generally, I'm running up the stairs back to my room as the bell rings.

7:45- Kiddos come in, so excited to tell me all about the night before.  I give each one a hug, handshake, or high five, and they get started on their math tubs.  I love starting with math tubs because the late bell doesn't ring until 7:55.  Morning work is hard to do when every child starts at a different time.  Children work on their tubs while I do attendance, check their folders, send lunch money and notes to the office, and then eventually circulate around the room to see who needs help.  There's usually those couple who need help daily.  They hunker down at my table and we do their tub together.

8:25- Math Notebook

8:45- Math Lesson

9:10- Calendar- I love this time of the morning because I change it up depending on the needs that day.  Sometimes it just turns into a read-aloud time, or a sharing time, or a "come to Jesus meeting" if we've had "that kind of day" the day before.  But many days, it's just calendar on the Promethean board.

9:30- Snack- we eat snack in the room.  I hate having kids eat in the room.  I don't like all the smells of foods mixed together, and I can't stand the crumbs.  But, my kids are generally "starving" by then, and it's a nice break in our morning.  I have an extremely LONG morning in the room (not complaining, it's good teaching time, but it's LONG)

9:40- Read to Self- the kiddos get their book boxes and read.  This is time for me to pull my lowest readers for Intervention

10:00- Writing- We normally do Daily News before a quick writing lesson.  Then, the kids get busy writing.

10:45- It's finally time to leave the room!!  PE time.  I take my kids to the gym for PE while I run around like a crazy person trying to get stuff done.  This is time to check and respond to the 50 e-mails I've received all morning, make copies, check my teacher work box, straighten up the room just a tad (because I'm OCD), plan, use the restroom (I haven't been since I left the house at 7:15)-- all of you are teachers why am I trying to explain.  You know that 30 minutes flies by!

11:15- Pick up my kids from PE and go straight to lunch.  My scheduled time is 11:20, so it works out perfectly to take their lunchboxes to PE and not waste any time going back to my classroom.

11:20-11:45- Lunch- a nice and quiet break to eat my lunch-- not!  That doesn't ever happen.  We sit in the loud, sometimes hectic lunchroom with our kids, while they peck you to death coming to the table with first grade concerns (I can't open my water bottle, I need ketchup, Jack is in my spot, I need to go to the bathroom, my mom said I could get ice cream but I don't have any money......).  It's not really an enjoyable lunch, but at least it's a time to sit down and do a little teacher talking for a few minutes.

11:50-12:20- Recess- There's no parent/aide/assigned teacher to watch the kids at recess.  But, that's ok, I don't mind getting out and breathing a little fresh air (unless the air is below 40 degrees- then I'm freezing- remember I live in Alabama- this southern girl doesn't like the cold).  I go out to the playground with 3 other first grade teachers.  This is our time to catch up on the day.  I love these girls.  We plan a little, problem solve, and just chat.  Sad how it turns in to school related stuff more than personal stuff, but that's how it normally goes.

12:20- As the kids come into the room, they grab their reading tubs and get started.  This is my time to work with students, and a time I wish I could magically morph into five different people.  My favorite thing to do during this time is reading conferences.  I love reading with the kids every day, and they love reading with me.  It's not uncommon to have kids asking "are you going to read with me today?"  or "I picked out a new Level I book and I want to read it to you."  First grade teachers are in the process of some professional development to learn more about flexible small groups.  I won't lie-- this is not how I like to spend my reading time, but I'm willing to give it a chance.  So, after conferring with several children, while at the same time helping Susie who can't log into the computer, and Johnny who doesn't understand how the tub works, and Billy who is playing in the hall, and Amy who is arguing with Tucker about which book they are going to listen to, it's time to clean up.  This is the most exhausting time of the day. 

1:00- 1:40- Phonemic awareness, phonics, and comprehension lessons.

1:40-2:20- Specials.  I take my kids to specials 4 days a week.  On Fridays, I have to go to the computer lab with them.
While they are at specials I pack up their folders and put them on their desks.  We used to pack up before specials but it was cutting into reading time, so now I do it during my "break."

2:20- I pick up my kids and we book-it back the room so the early kids can quickly pack up before the first bell rings at 2:25.

2:35- The "normal" bell rings.  I take my kids up to carpool and head back to the room.  This is usually my time to decompress and talk  a little.

It seems like each day of the week there's something to do right after school.  On Mondays we have faculty meetings; On Tuesdays my grade level meets and plans; Every other Wednesday I have a small group book study; On Thursdays I tutor (my choice-- good money!); Nothing on Fridays!

3:45- This is about the time I start working on things for my classroom. 

4:15- Time to leave school and run to the grocery store or run another errand.  It is MUCH easier to shop without the kiddos!

5:00- I pick up my daughter (who is bouncing up and down with excitement) from a home daycare.  I have to be there by 5:00.  Many days I'm speeding to get there in time.

5:20- I swing by my mother-in-law's to pick up my son (he only goes to school until 12:30, so my MIL picks him up and keeps him in the afternoons).  I check C's folder and sign his sheet right then while I'm still in the car-- the mornings are too busy.  My MIL is a talker... so we talk... and talk... and talk.  By this time, all I want to do is get home.

5:30- Thankfully, I live 3 miles from my MIL and I can get home quickly.  I get the kids in the house and settled playing.  I try to sit down for a couple of minutes and talk to the kiddos.

5:45- Start cooking dinner, emptying the dishwasher, washing a load of clothes, breaking up fights between the kids.

6:30- Hubby arrives home-- time to eat!

7:00- Kids go in the tub.  They play while my husband and I clean the kitchen and talk (a few minutes of uninterrupted adult talk).  Wash hair, get on to kids for dumping water on the floor, clean up the mess, get them out and dressed for bed.

7:30- My husband reads to my son, while I rock/sing/read/pray with my daughter.  I love this time of the day.  I'm thankful that she's two and still enjoys wock wock time.  She cuddles right up and we generally fall asleep rocking together.

8:15- I lay her in the bed and go tell my son good night.  My "me time" has begun for the day!  I've been trying to do better with running (well it's more like a jog) on the treadmill.  I love to play my worship music loud and drown out the rest of the world.  It's my time to reflect on the day, pray, and run out all the stress.  I also get around to a little blog-stalking, crafting, washing more clothes, cleaning the house, and watching TV.  Recently my husband and I have gotten into reruns of 24.  What a great show!  I check my school e-mail one last time (makes the morning time easier) before I go to sleep.  I would love to go to bed by 11:00, but it's generally closer to 12:00 before the lights go off.

11:45- Good night!  I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  Hopefully, it's a quiet-night's sleep without the kids waking up or me talking/walking in my sleet (but many nights I'm not that lucky)

Wow!  That was much longer than I intended for it to be. If you made it to the bottom you deserve a prize.  Join the party.  Link up with Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher and share your day.

To Joplin With Love

I love giving to others-- especially when they are in need.  When I saw Deedee's post a few days ago I knew I wanted to help.  It gave me chill  to see how many other bloggers have also decided to giveaway some of their work to the teachers of Joplin.  I sent my Christmas pack and Winter pack-- the only two things I have for sale.  I wish I had more to give, but the rest is already free on my blog!

If you haven't already, you should join Mrs. Wills' linky party and send Joplin a little love.

Tuesday, January 10

First Grade Funnies and Calendar Flipchart for Second Semester

I love lilstening to first graders.  They say some of the funniest things.  Here are a couple I've heard in the last two days:
"My Grandmother is taking me to ANTlanta in a few weeks."

As a girl is reading to me she reads, "Last week Jesus went to space in a spaceship."  The word was Jessie, not Jesus.  She never even stopped to question what she was reading!

This morning, I hear two children arguing about last night's BCS game (Roll Tide, by the way!).  One is saying "the game was in New Orleans".  The other is arguing, "no, the game was in the United States."

On to the calendar...  At the beginning of the year, I posted about my calendar flip chart for the Promethean Board.  I e-mailed many of you a copy of it.  Well.. it "expired" in December.  So, I thought it was probably time to post the second semester version for those of you who want it.  This flip chart will only work with the Promethean Board!  Please let me know if you would like me to e-mail you a copy.  Promethean Planet is not cooperating and I can't get it to upload there.  I'll try again.
Here are a few pictures of what it looks like.
First page (I removed "today is, tomorrow will be...).  Each month you can change the calendar by: Retyping the name of the month and deleting the image of the January calendar.  The images for February-May are stacked behind January.
Each song title is linked to a page with an audio file of that song and the lyrics
A page to practice place value, odd/even and greater than/less than.  I like to write addition or subtraction sentences or initials for coins (Q, D, N, P) on the Greater than/less than part to make it more of a challenge.
A place to practice money.  I've removed the coin poems (hopefully by now everyone knows the coin names and values).  I added the bills-- oooh, aaah!
A place to practice composing a number.  Sometimes I like to create a challenge: Example - ways to make 16
I might write one that says 76- ____ = 16  or ____ + _____ + _____ + _____ = 16 (your answer must be the same number all four times)
 Keep those extra smart kids busy with the challenge while others are creating their problems!

Sunday, January 8

Winter Math Centers and a Freebie

I'm excited to post about my new winter math centers pack-- "A Wintery Mix of Math Centers."  I've included 7 math games/activities to use during independent practice time (in my room it's called Math Tubs).  These centers were designed to practice Common Core Standards and be easy enough that most children can complete these without teacher help.  Four of the games have a snowman/penguin theme, while the other three are Valentine-themed.  Here's a little preview.  If you're interested you can find the set by clicking here.  I tried to keep the price teacher friendly, at $5.00.

And as a thank you to my sweet blog followers, you can pick up one of the games FREE! Click here to download.

Friday, January 6

Penguin Fun

I found the cutest penguin activities this summer on First Grader At Last!  I'm so glad I saved the idea-- and actually remembered it!  The kids learned about penguins today and had lots of fun.  We started by creating a penguin schema chart.  I was really impressed with what the children already knew.  They weren't super excited about sharing until I started writing their names next to the fact they gave (on the sticky notes).  After that, there were hands flying high!  Next we read Penguins by Gail Gibbons.  As we came to "facts" that were incorrect, we moved the sticky notes to the Misconceptions fish.  I also wrote new facts on our penguin chart as we found them in the book.

My favorite part of the day was making pink penguins.  We read Pink! by Lynne Rickards.  What a cute book!  Afterwards, the children used construction paper and scrapbook paper to make their penguins.  I didn't give them any patterns.  They had to listen and follow directions as we made each piece.  I love how different they turned out.  The last part of our project was to write about their pink penguin.  This is probably the best they have done with writing all year!!  They were so excited about it.  Most started out the same way "My penguin's name is ____".  After that I allowed them to write anything they wanted (a description of their penguin, about their penguin's family, activities their penguin likes, where their penguin lives...).  After I modeled mine they got started.  It was SO quiet in the room as they created their descriptions. 

Next week the kids will measure themselves against an Emperor Penguin, complete a graph in their math notebook ("Have you seen a real penguin?"), and read more fiction and nonfiction penguin books.
Click here to download the graph.

We will also complete the activity below.

Thursday, January 5

It's Snowing in Alabama

Since there's a good chance we won't be seeing any real snow in Alabama, we started decorating the room to make it look like a winter wonderland.  Here are a couple of my favorites for winter:
Snowman Writing Activity
I first give the kids a cut out snowman and let them decorate it with construction paper.  We talk beforehand about what should go on their snowman- hat (what kind--toboggan, baseball cap, top hat..), stick arms, maybe gloves or mittens, a scarf, face details, buttons...  I remind the children that each snowman should look different.  I have found that when they create the accessories from construction paper the finished product turns out neater than if they use markers.  Although I give in a little because a scarf can be hard to make from paper. 

After they have created their snowman, they each write four descriptive sentences about it.  I give them a couple of sentence starters like "My snowman has _____" or "He/She is wearing ______".  The assignment is to create a LOST poster with a description of their snowman so that we can "find" their snowman.  We discuss using color words, size words, numbers, and other appropriate adjectives.
I like to display these on a bulletin board with the snowmen and posters seperated a bit.  Once they're up, we'll go back and read the descriptions and see if we can match the snowmen to their descriptions.

Click here to download the snowman template
Click here to download the LOST writing paper

3D Snowflakes
I love to hang things from the ceiling, but I'm not a huge fan of it hanging in my classroom.  Two other first grade teachers and I hang artwork in our little corner of the hall.  Each month we swap it out with something that fits the theme.  In August and September I hang the first letter of each child's name, in lots of different colored paper.  In October, the kids paint candy corn to hang.  In November, I hang their turkey glyphs.  The children make poinsettias to hang in December.  And that brings us to January.  For the past 7 years I've had the kids make these 3D snowflakes.  They are really simple to make and pretty to hang. 

All you have to do is have each child cut out two snowflakes.  Then line them up on top of each other and staple on the dotted line (I use three staples).  Fold back the paper so it becomes 3D, and volia... a snowflake!  Click here to download a copy of the snowflake.