Saturday, September 29, 2012

Animals, Animals, Animals!!!

So Friday was the first day of our new OCR unit, "Animals". For unit openers, I like to do some exciting and fun stuff to get the kids excited about the unit (although which kid out there isn't interested in learning about animals??). Well, apparently I did save a copy of my unit opener lesson plan from last year so I started from scratch. I decided to spend the morning doing centers that all related to animals. Of course, I come up with this brilliant plan Thursday night at 10pm so I stayed up figuring out what my centers would be and what I needed to get prepared before school (lots of copies and paper cutting!). And here is what I came up with...

1. Bear Worksheets
I found a collection of bear-related worksheets from Had a small packet with the crossword, word search, anagram, and maze for the students to complete.
A student, hard at work!
2. Bee Bookmark
Found this bee bookmark template on the same website. My students had to color and do the maze, and then cut out the bookmark and glue it together. Once they were done, they got to choose an animal book displayed in front of the concept/question board to read.

3. Paper Chain Snake
My paper chain snake, currently pinned on our concept/question board.
Pretty self explanatory. Most of the kids made paper chains before so they were able to do this all on their own. They were told to pick only two colors for their snakes.

4. Penguins

Got this idea from Erica's Bohrer's First Grade (which I originally found on pinterest). We are currently talking about addition in Math so I thought it would work perfectly. Create our penguins now. Write the addition story and add the fishes later (probably this upcoming week). I manned this station since it needed some initial explaining, but I was still able to wander around and take pictures of the kids hard at work.

After lunch, I showed the kids a short video I found online of animals being created through sand art. They thought it was really cool, especially since America's Got Talent recently had a contestant who does exactly that, sand art. Then we listened to some animal-related classical music. One song was called "Aquarium", the other, "Quick Animals". They listened to each song and drew what they thought was going on in the song and included a sentence or two about their illustrations in their writing journals. Forgot to take pictures of that but some of them turned out really cute!

And here is what our concept/question board looks like so far..
I added a penguin on there. Some of my students wanted to put their snake on too but most took theirs home. Still need to put up the concept and question signs.
To make the day even more exhausting, we ended the day by making paper napkin parachutes for Science (we are currently studying air). The students had a ball with that. Too bad we ran out of time so we didn't get to see me release my parachute from our school balcony! I wish I could post some pictures of the students "experimenting" with their parachutes but I haven't figured out how to blur faces yet.

It was a great day. The class did a great job with centers without having done any in first grade yet. They cleaned up the best they could but I did have to spend some time after school scraping glue off desks. Also have some lost glue sticks waiting for their owners to claim them! 

As wonderful as it was, I was EXHAUSTED. Lesson learned, plan unit openers earlier, especially if they involve centers. xP

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Language Arts This Week

I'm trying really hard to keep this blog updated!!! I really love reading other teachers' blogs and see what they have been doing in their classroom so I thought I would share some stuff that's been going on in my classroom...Language Arts today and Math tomorrow!

We use Open Court Reading (OCR) for our Language Arts curriculum and this week we wrapped up our current unit called "Let's Read".

We read a story, "Mrs. Goose's Baby", which is about a mother goose who found an egg and decided to take care of it. The egg cracks and lo and behold, it's a baby chick! Of course, Mrs. Goose doesn't seem to realize it and continues to care for the baby in her motherly goose ways. When we finished the story, we created a double bubble map (love thinking maps) comparing Mrs. Goose and her baby.
I love double bubble maps! They always look so awesome when they are done. :)

We also talked about sentences. I learned about sentence CUPS when surfing through teacher blogs and found this cute poster and mini-posters to use in the classroom. I printed out the mini ones, laminated them, and taped them to my students' desks so they can use it to check their sentences. I wish I could remember where I got it from so if you created this, please let me know so I can give you the credit you deserve!

We also created an anchor chart (is this an anchor chart? still not sure what an anchor chart is XD) on reality versus fantasy. I saw this anchor chart on pinterest and thought it was perfect since its one of the comprehension skills I have to cover.

Funny story about this picture below...
So I don't have much wall space at all if you've seen pictures of my classroom in previous posts so basically the only place I can post things is on my windows. And pink marker apparently fades in the sun. We created a double bubble map during the first week of school comparing first grade and kindergarten. And the kindergarten portion faded away! One of my students noticed this week and was like, "Look! It's like kindergarten has faded away for us because we are in first grade!" Haha. So true. :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

M.O.N.K.E.Y. Folder

So I said I wanted to blog about my homework/communication folder but never got to it. I'm finally getting to it! :D

Before I begin, I must give all credit to the original idea to, Ms. Stienstra, my Master Teacher in second grade. She taught me well and really prepared me for my first year of teaching.

Last year, we were the first grade Superstars so we had S.T.A.R. folders. This year, we are the first grade Marvelous Monkeys so of course we need M.O.N.K.E.Y. folders this year!

I know some teachers use binders and other use folders. My master teacher (the Outstanding Owls) used those poly three-prong folders (the plastic kind). I really like them because they are very durable and don't get destroyed easily so I definitely wanted to use it for my own classroom. They definitely survived the entire year of first grade last year!

Here is the cover to our M.O.N.K.E.Y. folders:
The blocked out part is the student's first and last name.
Personalized by and for each student! This was one of the first things the students saw when they reached their desks on the first day of school. They got to color this along with their name card that I use for attendance. I collected them, laminated them, and then taped them onto the covers of each folder. In case you were wondering, the students don't receive their MONKEY folders until the second week of school (since I need to you know...apply their personalized cover). During the first week we used first week folders which I collected the second week of school to never be seen again until the first week of the next school year.

And now...inside the folder! (in order)
1. empty page protector - for decodables and anything small that might get lost easily.
2. M.O.N.K.E.Y. Rules - picture below

3. Monthly progressing monitoring calendar picture below. I use a clip chart in my classroom and at the end of the day the kids color the color their clip is on in the corresponding day on the calendar. This template was taken from a third grade teacher at my school and then revised for my own classroom.

4. A list of sight words, divided into three sections (we test the kids on sight words every trimester for report cards).
5. A page with all the OCR sound/spelling cards on it which I received at my district's new teacher OCR training. The purpose is for the students to refer to them for spelling help once we have flipped all the cards (around mid-year).
6. Penmanship Chart of uppercase and lowercase letters.
7. The 100 number chart - Mainly for students to use at home when completing their homework but some students like to use this during math lessons.
8. Book Bingo - An optional reading "program". Students get prizes for completing different parts of the bingo card. They have a whole year to complete the card if they want to. And they get a new card once they complete one.
9. Binder paper - Parent communication section if parents want to write notes to me.

The pockets in the folder are also labeled "Return to School" and "Leave at Home".

And that's my class's MONKEY folder! I really love using this sort of homework/communication folder because it really instills a sense of responsibility in my students. Plus I also like how each one is personalized for its owner. When I passed these folders out I pointed out to my students that their names are on the folder and emphasized how the folder belongs to them and not their parents so it is their job to be responsible of it.  During the first couple of weeks when a student doesn't bring his/her MONKEY folder to school and comes to me and tells me their parent forgot it, all I need to do is ask them if the folder belongs to their parent. That's all the reminder they need. And they have been doing a wonderful job being responsible with their MONKEY folder so far!

Quick story to share. One of my five year olds forgot her MONKEY folder at home which also happened to be the same day homework was due. She came to me and took full responsibility and told me that she forgot her folder at home. Her mom emailed me later that morning telling me that she had taken the folder out to sign the homework packet but forgot to put it back into her daughter's backpack.  So even though technically it wasn't my student's fault for not having her MONKEY folder, she still took full responsibility of it because, as she told her mom, the homework and folder belong to her! I think they really get it! :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Non-Teaching Related - Slow Cooker Meal!

So if you're like me, live alone and stay late at school (don't leave until around 5 or 6pm) then you might want to invest in a slow cooker. Actually, come to think of it, having a family might be more beneficial since slow cookers produce a LOT of food.

I don't use my slow cooker as often as I should but it is so convenient. Drop all your ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and go home to food all cooked and ready for eating! Tried out a pot roast recipe today and, well, I'll let this picture say the thousand words. :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

New Blog Design!

So my original blog design has been bothering me for a while. Too simple, too plain, too boring! Seeing all the other cute teacher blogs out there made my blog look like nothing. So now that it's finally the weekend and I am feeling motivated, it's time to do some redesigning!

I am no expert at blog designing or any of that computer language needed to really cute-isfy things. But I did spend more time going through blogger's many templates and found something much much cuter. Also searched through some of the gagdets to some other things. Also, with the help of other resources like Teacher Blogging Basics, I added a cute little arrow on the bottom right corner of the window that will automatically bring you back to the top of the page. :)

Hopefully as I go along with this blogging journey, I'll learn more about blog designs and making this blog even cuter! But I am satisfied for now. :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Another Freebie!

I am so behind on blogging, I know. There's so much I want to post about but there's just no time!!!

But this is another blogworthy moment because I am on a creating streak!!!

So my school uses Open Court Reading (OCR) for our Language Arts curriculum. We started turning our sound/spelling cards this week. So far we've turned over the sausage and monkey cards. Tomorrow we will be turning over the lamb card (short a). I found a lot of great "short a" activities for my kids to do to help them reinforce listening for and recognizing the sound. However, I wanted a sorting activity for my strugglers who are not able to read yet. Couldn't find something to my liking (most of the things I found were just words and no pictures) so I decided to give it a go and try to make my own. Well, so many ideas were going through my mind when I was creating this so I ended up making three versions! @@

Click on it to check it out! Please leave some comments or feedback if you download it. My first sorting creation and I swear it almost drove me crazy because I had so many ideas on what I wanted but couldn't seem to fit it on in one thing. And that is why there are three "versions". So as you can see, there are many ways to have your students sort these. I plan to have my lower students do the first version. Might pull this activity out again when we eventually introduce "long a" and have the student sort the "long a" and "short a" word families. We shall see. 

But all in all, I'm excited! I decided to get a personal laminator over the summer and I LOVE IT. So everything is printed out, laminated, and ready for tomorrow! Yay! :)

Freebie Fridays

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Introduction to Buddies - Intro Letter

Omg! A completely blog-worthy moment! I am SO proud of myself!! But first, a little background info. ..

My school is using the Caring Schools Community program to develop and promote positive social-emotional skills within our students. Part of the program requires grade-levels to buddy up with other grade-levels so that the kids can get a chance to interact with children of other ages. Buddy classes meet up every week and do a variety of activities -- some academic, some fun, and some a mixture of both.

This year, my first grade Marvelous Monkeys will be buddy class with our neighbor, the fifth graders! I met with our buddy teacher after school today to pair up our students and plan for our first buddy session next week. We decided to have our students write letters to their buddies before we meet and then have the kids read their letters to each other. We decided on four types of things they would share with their buddies which would be used in their follow-up activity. The four things were: favorite foods, favorite hobbies, what they want to grow up to be, and what they want to do with their buddies. Of course, this is a LOT of things for little first graders (who really are still kindergarteners) to write so I decided to help them by creating a letter template which just has them listing all the things listed above.

And that is exactly what makes this blog-worthy! I have been so inspired by all the awesome products I have seen other teachers posting online. Secretly, I'm envious of them because I wish I could have the creative juices to make such cute and awesome worksheets and lessons. Well, I guess hard work pays off. Here is the buddy letter I created!

If you want to use this in your classroom, you are free to download it here!  If you do download it, please leave me a comment or some feedback. I would love to see some comments! :)

Can't wait to use my letter template tomorrow!


I decided to give it a go and display my first creation as a freebie on TBA Freebie Friday. Maybe this would help me get some followers. :)

Freebie Fridays

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

TBA Open House Week: Tuesday - Classroom Photos

What a crazy start to the week, so glad it's a short one! However, it's Back to School Night tomorrow!!! Aaahh!! Spent my time after school today making my packets and putting up some student work and getting the classroom ready for Back to School Night, just in time for TBA's Open House week! So here it is! :)

First, first day of school pics...
My hallway bulletin board. Monkey theme this year. :)
My door bulletin.
View of the room from the back of the room. 
View of the classroom from the front of the room (taken the day before the first day of school).

My library/reading area.

The area behind my desk. Cal alum, here, go bears!

Trying out the idea (found on pinterest) of using book covers as chair pockets. Also helps me give my groups color names. :)

My three empty bulletin boards. I only have three bulletin boards and one white board (two combined together) in my classroom. Not a lot of board space, right? :(

Now, some Back to School preparation pictures...

Lucky me, this board has a pole going through it. 
My vocabulary board. 
Our "Concept/Question Board" (we use Open Court Reading). 
Our Davids! (read a little more here.)
Okie dokie. I should probably get ready for tomorrow. Back to School Night is always a bit nerve-wrecking. Good luck to me! :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

TBA Open House Week: Monday ~ Meet the Teacher

So I've been an avid follower of Teaching Blog Addict (TBA) starting from my first year of teaching last year. Now that I've started (and hoping to continue) blogging, I figured I should join in on all the fun with linking parties!
Open House Week
Today is meet the teacher day! :)

Well, let's see, what is there to say? I already gave a short bio of myself in my first entry (this is only the fourth!), what can I add?

During my graduate program in teaching, I student taught in 2nd and 4th grade. I absolutely LOVED my time in second grade which probably had a lot to do with my Master Teacher who pretty much taught me everything I knew about teaching going into my first year. I was a little bummed when I was told during the interview for my current position that it was going to be for a first grade position (the posting was originally for second grade). But, first grade is wonderful too, especially after a year. :)

A week of school has already gone by and I think I am going to have a wonderful year with this new class. Of course, I will continue missing and remembering my previous class (who can possibly forget their first class ever?), but I know my new class of 23 students (had 26 last year!) is going to be great! I already foresee some challenges in academics with such a range of abilities but I am much more prepared this year (I hope)! 

I suppose with only one year of experience down, I am still figuring out my teaching style. I consider myself a pretty strict teacher. I hold pretty high expectations for my students. However, I am still finding a balance with strictness while I continue to learn and remind myself of what my students are developmentally capable of throughout the school year (can they really work on something quietly during the first week of school????). For example, last week I have already taken way more dance breaks than I did last year during my first week of school. Those kiddies have so much trouble sitting for a time period! So, hopefully after a couple more years of experience I'll really have a teaching style figured out. :)

Well, that's all for now folks! Hope everyone who is already back in school enjoyed their long weekend. I know I enjoyed mine. :) 

Come back tomorrow for some classroom photos! :)

PS. I like using smiley faces in case you haven't noticed. I tend to end most of my emails to parents with a smiley face. :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

First Week Over!

The first week of school is finally over!!!! For some reason this was one tiring week for everyone! This week was up and down and up and down, but we ended on a good note. A recap of some things that we did this week. 

We read First Grade Stinks! I introduced thinking maps to the kids and we created our first double bubble map comparing kindergarten and first grade.
We read David Goes to School and made a T-chart discussing some of the bad things David did in school and what he could do to improve next time.

And then we made...
Our very own Davids!!! 
All hung up in the classroom! :)
Got this wonderful activity from here. I had already cut out most of the parts for the kids. Left the shirt and shorts for them to cut out themselves. Gave them the parts, projected a picture of David on the elmo, and let the kids do the rest. I told them it was a test to see how they do with making their David look the same. And they did great! We did have some special ones though. :)

Look like we have a bear David here with the ears on top. :)
We also had our first birthday of the school month on Friday so we ended the day with a birthday celebration with some mini cupcakes. I'm so very glad that we have a long weekend because I could sure use the rest (aka time to prepare). I have finished putting my MONKEY (homework) folders together which I hope to share in my next entry. And now to creating my new job chart, preparing for Back to School Night, lesson planning, and cleaning up my place (and boy does it need cleaning)! :)