Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Little Amphibian Researchers

Amphibians Literacy Rotations

We recently finished up a study on amphibians, and my little babes were hard at work learning all about this this slimy group of creatures!

For my group of first graders, this was a week long study. We kicked it off with a quick assessment of prior knowledge in this darling little frog-ifed bubble map! The kids wrote in things they thought they knew about frogs and other amphibians on the green spots, and then stuck them on the frog's body. As we studied amphibians throughout the week we would remove spots from the body if we found out that facts from our initial schema were, in fact, incorrect.

The little ones also completed a series of Writing and Word Work activities during our Daily 5 rotations. I have attached just a few samples of their super smart work! It's so hard for me to choose which photos to post because they all turned out so well (although a little blurry...I only have a camera phone!)

We have been doing a lot of studying on the parts of speech that work together to make up super, complete sentences, so these amphibious sentences were a perfect complement to our recent studies in writing!

This activity is accompanied by "Part of Speech" cards to aid students in manipulating and truly building super, amphibious sentences! They turned out great! I have already noticed a difference in some of my little writers' ability to understand what they need to include in a complete sentence. They are referencing terms like "noun", "verb", and "spicy adjectives" when editing their work for completion...success!

My personal favorite from this chickadees paper "A smooth toad did the wiggle dance." Way to build a super sentence!
I used this rotation work as an assessment to see how well my little ones were able to properly use various verb endings in their own writing to make the sentence 'sound right.' 

Students recorded fantastic facts they had learned about amphibians later in the week. My batch of children were all FASCINATED with the concept of an amphibians body being covered in mucus. Go figure! One little boy would always giggle at the mere mention of this fact saying it was like "The froggie's body had a little cold!" Precious.

 This unit is posted in my tpt store. I hope you will consider popping in at my store to check it out if you are interested in adding some new nonfiction flair to your own class's repertoire!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Intelligence is BEAUTIFUL!

So today was one of those days. I joke with my kids about how some days I feel like a mother hen with fifty thousand little chicks chirping my name...they laugh, but I'm serious here. Holy cow. I felt stretched so stinking thin today, but then I came home and looked at this photograph from working with my church in Guatemala. Sweet reminder of why we are all here, working our tails off!

I had the most glorious opportunity to partner with some of the most incredible, giving people that work towards building economy, education, and health in a small village of Guatemala. My church has been partnering with this village for quite some time now, and I have been beyond blessed to work with  teachers, principals, and of course, students to better understand and share ideas about teaching.

This is what it's all about. Happy Wednesday. WE CAN DO IT!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Amp Up the Discussion!

 Circle Up! Literature Circles for Young Readers

I will be honest...I thought to myself "wowzer!" when I saw how all over the place my incoming first graders were in their reading levels! These are some smart little babes! I do not fib when I say that the disparity between my lowest and highest readers upon entering first grade was, wait for it, 26 reading levels!!

Now I can not complain in the slightest about this incredible gap because it is truly a testament to how they have been encouraged to have a love for reading before ever stepping foot into my classroom from their own families and past teachers (THANK YOU!) But it must be said that I am a literacy-aholic. I love to teach all things reading and writing. In fact, oftentimes I find that my guided math rotations are planned to relate to certain texts or require story problem writing and book making. However, this wide range of readers issued quite the challenge. How does a teacher best meet with that many groups of children each week? What quantifies as "fair" in terms of meeting with each group for a sufficient number and amount of time? How do you best challenge first graders in a guided reading setting with time constraints of 15-20 minutes/group MAX who are reading long chapter books?! My answer (at least for now) is Literature Circles.

Hallelujah! The idea to use this strategy hit me when I was leading a guided reading group one day and realized that I simply can not meet frequently enough and for sufficient amounts of time to engage some of my young readers in truly brain-building discussion. So I began to reflect on a memorable reading group from my elementary school days...I even surprised myself that I remembered this with such great detail! It is quite a clear memory actually, which, when I really think about it, is quite sad because how many people really remember a fourth grade literature circle down to the very book title?? Yes. I was teased for being a teacher's pet in elementary school. It's out on the table.

The book was "In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson." I distinctly remember receiving the names of fellow students that would be in my reading group for this text. Then, we would rotate our jobs as we completed assigned readings periodically throughout the week as homework. Now as a kid, I recall feeling stressed out as anything about certain jobs because they just made me think so dang much! Go figure, right?! But it was always so much fun to come back to school and be involved in discussion groups with friends!

After having my flashback to fourth grade Literature Circles I realized that it must have made an impression on me for some beyond odd reason, but I decided it was worth a shot in my own, much younger classroom. Let me tell you, it has gone SO well! I am one happy teacher to be slowly backing away from the role as discussion leader as I train my little ones to ask their very own higher level thinking questions. They each complete their job tasks based on the night's assigned reading as homework. Then, they meet with their "Book Club" as we call it, two or three times a week. As they become more and more independent, I have to meet with them less and less for traditional guided reading. I find that this pen to paper thinking, reflecting, and discussion is much better than what I could possibly hope to accomplish in reading bits and pieces of various chapter books with them sporadically throughout the week. Where is the consistency in that?! I like for my little ones to know that I will ALWAYS follow up on what they are learning and thinking about while reading...always be ready and prepared y'all!

If you made it this far along in my suuuper long entry today, I am hoping that means you are interested in trying out Literature Circles in your own classroom! If so, please consider clicking on over to my tpt store and check out the roles I am using with my own little babes right now!

Happy (almost) Friday!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunday Surprise

After church on Sunday I was greeted with the most delightful surprise! I checked my email and was shocked to see the most exciting news(well...incredibly exciting to me!) that I had received the Liebster Blog award! The Liebster award can be given to blogs with less than 200 followers in order to help give support to up-and-coming blogs. I am most honored to have received this award from Kelly in All That Glitters In First Grade and Christi in Ms. Fultz's Corner! Thank you so much for your vote of confidence in my new blog to deliver new and innovative ideas to share with fellow teachers! 

The best part about receiving this award is that I am able to graciously offer it to other new bloggers! Drum roll please...here are my picks!

Jessica at apples and papers
Tanya V. at A Class Act 
Dee from First Impressions  
Kelly Young from Young and Lively Kindergarten
Mrs. Bailey at Klassy Kinders  

Thanks to all the other teachers out there who share their fantastic ideas to make learning better for all of our students!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It's Froggy Time!

You Have to Kiss Some Frogs to Find Your True 'A'

I think it is so funny how kids just LOVE reading nonfiction books! I truly wonder at what point does it happen that nonfiction books begin to seem a little dry and not nearly as engaging as fiction or at least an informational text with some sort of story line?! I seriously wish that I was the kind of person that sat down to read a good 'ole nonfiction book in my free time, but alas...I am not. I do enjoy reading the newspaper, other history books (with some sort of story line wound in), and some good quality "fluff" literature, but I honestly can't remember many times where I have desired to pour over a nonfiction text (unless cook books count!)

 So my hope is to keep teaching my children about NF books in a way that is fun for them to track how much they learn while reading these types of texts! Maybe their love for NF will aid them in their highly academic futures and successes! Recently, we began a unit on frogs in order to buckle down on our retelling skills of NF books. I will be sure to post a more complete unit in the next few days, but here is just one small freebie I wanted to share at the moment until I can get my pictures of everything froggie in our classroom loaded to my computer!

You Have to Kiss Some Frogs

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hey Girl!

Alright...Happy Tuesday to all the teachers out there! I am zonked from moving my whole entire room today from a far off shelf in a track out closet and into my new room waaay down the hall. On a positive note, I am excited to be just about all ready for my kiddos to return this Thursday!

As a result of moving furniture, hot gluing anchor charts, cleaning, and then rearranging furniture...I am not posting a new freebie or product tonight, but I will be this week!! However, I did want to share something with y'all that just made me smile (Lord knows I need an excuse to laugh sometimes on a long day of school mid-week!)

/\ Smile, chuckle, and enjoy!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Dancing Teacher

So I don't know about y'all, but I LOVE to have my kiddos singing and dancing practically all day long! I always find that on the days where I forget to schedule enough "wiggly" moments for my students' sake, I start to lose my patience over their not-on-task wiggles which cause a distraction. So...the best way I can possibly accomplish maintaining both mine and the kids sanity is to incorporate movement into most everything that we do! 

The Odd and Even Cha Cha
 I have attached my new math product called "The Odd and Even Cha Cha" which includes a whole group  lesson on how I like to introduce the idea of odd and even numbers to my class, and stays true to my belief that a dancing teacher + dancing students = a happy, smart class!

Also included is a practice sheet that I use in guided math rotations (and double dip by using it as a formative assessment to add to my grade book!) and all the fixings for a differentiated file folder game. I hope y'all will take the time to check it out and see if it is something that your kids would enjoy as much as mine do! I'm not kidding when I say that all year my kids refer back to the odd and even cha cha song when helping to solve more advanced problems having to do with "fair share." 

Hope you enjoy and HAPPY FRIDAY!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Who's Your Duncan?

I am up late huddling over my computer as I finish up the rest of my plans for February, and a memory of the comedian Gerry Dee hit me smack dab in the middle of planning social studies lessons for my firsties. I wanted to take a moment to share this stand up routine with y'all because a good portion of the clip is about teachers and their students. My favorite part of the clip is at about the two minute mark when Gerry Dee refers to a student he had named Duncan. I think that there must always be one little Duncan...or Duncanette that has all sorts of interesting questions all the time!

I know I love the Duncans of the world (probably because I identify with having so many questions), and I'm sure y'all love the fantastic questions asked daily by your own little ones! I hope you get a chuckle out of this too!