Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Giveaway! Making this week a LUCKY one!

Yesterday afternoon I finished packing up, moving out, and left my classroom ready to go for its next teacher with her own little darlings to begin their learning! I drove away from my school without turning back...I love my little ones and all, but a little time to recharge during a track out  is always welcome! The joys of a year round teaching schedule.

My first act as a "free" teacher, ready to roam my city was to...head to Barnes and Noble for its night to honor educators. Gosh, it does sound dorky to admit. I spent some time getting to chat with other teachers and the B&N spokesperson who was just so friendly and sweet! Teachers were able to collect a few freebies, and I know my little babes will be excited to check them out when we return to school! Also, all county teachers were able to enter a little drawing to win a Nook Color.

I filled out my paper slip, and even asked for a new one (after of course discarding the first!) when I worried that my handwriting wasn't neat enough on my original slip...I wanted to make sure they could read my contact information right?!

Well what do you know, today I was driving to a fabric outlet store to shop for new drapery fabric to stitch over my break when I got a phone call from the friendly lady at B&N!! All I could think about was "Thank goodness I opted to rewrite my slip with my neatest handwriting!" This is such a teachable moment!
I have never won anything of real value before so I am just beside myself right now. I have this gorgeous yellow and cream striped fabric in front of me just pleading to be sewn and pleated, but it has to wait because my attention is currently being captured by my newest reading device.

 In honor of my good fortune, I would like to pass on the "I'm SO lucky" feeling! Upon reaching 100 followers I will give away a freebie package to 3 WINNERS using the random number generator! The package will include an assortment of units from my tpt store.

Discover Plants Unit
Circle Up! Literature Circles for Young Readers
The Academy Awards: A Night at the Oscars Unit
Amphibians Literacy Rotations

Y'all are fabulous and deserve to feel as lucky as your children are to have you as their teacher!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Biography, All About Me, and a Freebie!

So this post is not really about me, but if it was, then you should know that I normally have a...uhh...slightly obsessive personality. As in, I wipe the baseboards in my bathroom and kitchen every evening kinda obsessive.

But that's ok...because it's ok to be different.

We started out this Biography and Active Listening Unit by reading the book "It's Ok To Be Different" by Todd Parr. I shared an example of something that I do that is different. No. I did not scare my children by saying I'm a cleaning psycho.

Instead, I asked students to lay down on the floor by their tables and look up at the ceiling with their feet in the air (I so wish I had taken a picture of them giggling away on the floor!) I told them I sometimes like to imagine what it would be like if the ceiling was the floor. Needless to say, they thought this was super silly, but many admitted they do this too!

"...we also have to jump over the lights so ower foots don't get burnt."
 Then, I invited my little babes to write about the things they do that makes them different. They LOVED getting to share what makes them unique. It was such a joy to see them wiggling around in their seats just dying to share their little oddities. EMBRACE IT LITTLE ONES!

"It's ok to be different. I'm skade of the mockbrse because I hurt my back."

"I love to be olon some times. I like to read olon. I am some one very different. That's why it's ok to be different."

Grab this writing paper as a SECOND FREEBIE. It is an easy-to-do writing activity as a part of a biographical unit or as a stand alone practice. After all, the true purpose of this writing mini project is so vastly important: being different is great, and it's what makes our friends special, funny, and interesting to be around!

It's Ok To Be Different freebie Writing Paper

We had been working on completing a study on biographies and autobiographies that integrated our reading skill focus on asking questions to improve comprehension. Perhaps you saw my "Wonder-Full World" freebie? I hope so...but if not, please feel free to pop over to my tpt store and grab it FREE:)

After using "What a Wonder-Full World" to get lots and LOTS of practice on how to engage in conversations where we not only ask questions, but listen long enough to come up with "piggy back" questions, we began discussing the traits of a biography. This is the anchor chart we came up with. It's filled with some great ideas of things kids could ask each other to make for interesting interview questions, and ultimately, a unique biography!

Here are a couple of my little ones' work! They spent a lot of time coming up with a total of 6 questions: 3 "skinny" questions and 3 "thick" questions. Then, they pulled a classmate's name out of a cup to find out who they were going to interview. They were all so anxious and excited to see who's name they were going to pull out of the cup! Finally, they wrote their biographies. What great writing!

Also, during their Daily 5 Writing Rotation they wrote an autobiography. They were asked to include at least 3 of the items from our Biography Anchor Chart when writing about themselves. I was blown away with how many details they included in simply 15 minutes of independent writing, but I guess I shouldn't have been...I know they just adore sharing about themselves!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Little Bloggy Questions!

Phew! Let me tell you how excited I was to see that Tessa from Tales from Outside the Classroom, Tamera from My Heart Belongs in First, and Kelly from All That Glitters In First Grade tagged me to answer some of their little bloggy questions! Thanks so much for taking interest in me and my little teaching truly gives me so much motivation to continue working to provide more ideas and freebies for fellow teachers! 

Rather than answering 30 questions (I don't know if anyone is THAT interested in learning about me!) I chose a smattering of questions from these three fantastic ladies!

1. Who made the biggest impact on your decision to become a teacher?
This one is easy for me to answer! The kids...our future leaders! I absolutely love teaching, but during moments of doubt, frustration, or exhaustion I am reminded of this calling when I see the way our world functions and the values our culture has put on a pedestal. It makes me think "Wow, it is absolutely my responsibility to help shape our future leaders so they may make positive impressions in their own communities." Whatever their impact, both big and small, it makes me giddy to think that I am a small part in that 'big picture' down the road!
2. What is your favorite thing to teach?
I don't know if I necessarily have a favorite subject, but it is my passion to teach with cross-content integration. I love to see how many connections my little ones make when their phonics objective, reading skill, writing tasks, and math problems require them to make use of the knowledge they are learning during a Social Studies or Science unit!
3. What is your favorite thing to do outside of school?
 Outside of school?? What is this thing you speak of?! Just kidding...kind of.
Ok, for real...I love to run, cook (and of course EAT!), and spend time with family and friends. Until recently, I used to be the kind of person who ran everyday, religiously, and for many many miles. I have run long distances for what seems like forever. I had a bad accident in college that forced me to abandon my active lifestyle for about 6 months. After bouncing back from that loo-hong recovery I had a new appreciation for the ability to run and completed a few half marathons and marathons. Recently, however, I have lost my best running buddy due to his full time job and night classes to complete his masters degree. This has had an adverse effect on my motivation and running schedule!
4. How do you find a balance between work and school?
See above question. I am probably not the best to ask for advice on this subject! When my long, lost running buddy comes to see me after his own never-ending work days, he tells me to quit the nicest way possible of course! He cares about my sanity.
5. McSteamy or McDreamy or McDonald's?
McSammy. From West Wing. Gosh, he is just so good looking. Do you know who I am talking about? Look him's so worth a look. 
6. What are you planning on doing over the summer?
Since I teach on a year-round schedule my longest break is only 6 more school days away! This break will be THREE WHOLE WEEKS! I am considering this break to be my fake-summer break. I am planning on cooking a nice dinner almost every night, making new drapes for my living room, and going on a little North Carolina beach vacay!
7.  Do you have a classroom pet? If so, what kind?
It is against our school rules to have a class pet, but to be perfectly honest, it is not a cause for complaint in my book. I figure I have enough little ones to take care of each day at school, and they love to bring in their own little critters, of the cuddly variety, from home to play with our classroom "pets" (stuffed animals!) 
8. If you could visit one place in the US, where would it be?
There is this one place in Virginia where you stay on this tiny private "island" of sorts. You have to canoe to your living space where you have your own small cabin. Now before you think this sounds like I have a desire to rough it...I should tell you that a private chef comes and visits to cook you dinner at the water's edge each night. It's my dream vacation!
9. What's your favorite color? (I'm running out of question ideas!)
My favorite colors are either pink, yellow, or navy with grey. I love grey!
10. What are you addicted to?
Coffee! One hundred percent. I drink three things: coffee, water, and err, juice:) I stay moving, dancing, and singing all day with my little ones. I truly don't know if I would be quite so patient without my morning cuppa-calm!

And now comes the time to pass the torch with my own little bloggy questions. I can't wait to learn more about some of the people I love to visit and read about!

My questions for y'all are:
1. Do you have a daily routine that gets you excited to start your work day?
2. What do you like to bring for lunch?
3. Have you always taught the same grade level? How often have you switched?
4. How do you like to recharge on the weekend?
5.  Choose 3 adjectives to describe your class. Is that why you love them so much?!
6. What's your best strategy for motivating your kids?
7. What is the most important lesson you have learned from your students?
8. How has your teaching style changed since you first started teaching?
9. Where do you like to vacation? Beach or mountains?
10. Favorite restaurant AND favorite dish. I hope I can replicate it!

My tags go to Jennifer from First Grade Blue Skies, Jackie at Here We Go Loopty Loo, and Mrs. Nichols from The Polka Dot Patch. Thanks to you all for sharing your bloggy teaching ideas to benefit little ones everywhere!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hallelujah! Leaning Tower of Chocolate and Marshmallow Crescent Rolls!

Happy Easter to everyone!

I don't know about y'all, but I am zonked after a weekend full of preparation for today's big, after church lunch! I baked BIG TIME yesterday, and let me tell you this new cake recipe threw me for a loop! I saw the idea for a three layer, chocolate sour cream cake and thought to myself "oh yum, that sounds perfect!" It was delicious, but about 20 pounds of chocolate later this is what I got.

I usually somewhat pride myself on presentation and my piping bag abilities, but I was way out of my skill set with a cake this large. What initially started out as carefully swirled rosettes quickly morphed into Mission Rescue-Too-Heavy-and-Cracking-Cake. My patience got to me, and the cake became a Leaning Tower of Pisa Chocolate. Tah-da!

This morning I wrapped up my Sunday School rotation in teaching about the resurrection. The lesson is a "bread of life" cooking activity where the little ones roll up a marshmallow (Jesus) inside a crescent roll (tomb) after reading part of Luke's gospel. We make connections while reading and discuss our predictions of the setting and other imagery while waiting patiently for the rolls to the women waited to return to Jesus's tomb.

P.S. Do y'all find that when you read to your kids at home you model the whole retelling process?? I am just terrified that my future babies will always think "Ok mom, get on with the story and quit your yakking about text to world connections...!" Just curious...I always ponder this when doing read alouds or working with kids outside of my regular classroom!

Finally, when the kiddos get their hands on the warm rolls we all open them at the same time and marvel at the disappearing marshmallow. It's just such an authentic lesson in showing kids how just because the physical form of something has changed doesn't mean it's not still there. What a fantastic thing to realize. We can always hold the Easter miracle in our hearts. Hallelujah and Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Prep for Spring and Earth Day!

"Discover Plants" is perfect for prepping your class for Spring and Earth Day!

How is it already April?! I think spring is just crazy busy for everyone, and I have been way stru-guh-ling to get everything done in a mere 24 hours a day!

Recent news at our school revealed that we are now strongly discouraged to use...paper. HA! I laughed when I heard the news. With budget cuts we have now exceeded the allotted amount of money for paper, and teachers are now faced with the reality of rethinking the ways we plan, teach, and motivate our students. In all seriousness though, I am choosing to think of this as a blessing! After all, this news has come at a fitting time seeing that it is now SPRING and Earth Day is right around the corner! It has forced me to not get to comfy with the plans and routines I had in place, but rather inspired me to revamp, redesign, and recreate! It has been fun, and teaching always is eons better when I am as excited about what I am teaching as I expect...and hope...and little ones to be!

So without further ado I present my "Discover Plants" discovery based unit. This unit is PACKED with 45 pages of experiments, recording sheets, vocabulary cards, anchor charts, and creative application of learned knowledge. Also included is my integrated "Plant Writing Menu." These items will keep your little ones learning and growing for weeks!