Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You Know You're a First Grade Teacher When...

Babbling Abby, of The Inspired Apple, is doing a Linky Party!

You know you're a first grade teacher when:

1. You realize at the end of the day that you have had to pee since the day started.
2. You live on coffee in the morning.
3. You find great supplies and ideas for your classroom everywhere - including the grocery store and Lowes.
4. You have so many picture books that you can't remember which ones you have and where they are in your collection.
5. You are always trying to find a better way to organize or better office supply to use.
6. You can eat an entire, if not balanced, meal in less than 10 minutes.
7. You can do more things in the first 15 minutes of your day than most people do in their entire work day (really - I gave someone a rundown of the gajillion things I do in the first 15 mins. of my day when they insinuated that my job was easy, just like babysitting).
8. You have a list of names that you would never consider for your own child.
9. You are so tired when the day ends that you hit what I call Zombie Mode - you see and hear, but stare into space and comprehend nothing.
10. You have the ability to hold up an entire fleet of buses when one of you kiddos forgets their __________ (insert backpack, boots reading bag, and so on)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Desk Tags

So, I am working on making a new set of desk tags to make it through the remainder of the year. The old ones were a little worse for the wear and covered in stickers. I created them because I wanted them to be simple and something that I could easily replace. I found the kids really refer to these tags as a number line and for letter formation. I was able to make the J and 1's correctly, but never did find a 4 with correct formation. I talk with the kids about this or white it out and write it in. I print onto card stock and laminate. Hope someone finds them helpful!

Name Tags

P.S. If anyone can tell me how to upload a preview of the document into blogger, I would be soooo

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tips and Tricks for Reading Groups

There are a few things that I have found to make reading groups a bit easier.

1. Reading Buddies

Sometimes it is tough to convince little ones that it is good for them to read a story more than once. I started using reading buddies. I think I saw this on a teacher's website years ago, but they were used for independent reading. I have an old barrel that used to contain pretzels. I put a bunch of Beanie Babies I have found at yard sales inside. After students have read through a story once at the reading table, they can choose a buddy to read to or even a second for a third reading. This gives me time to do running records, check sight words, and conferences with readers.

My ground rules:

  • You may choose 1 buddy to read to at a time.
  • If they become toys, they get put away.
  • If you argue over them, they get put away.
Works wonders!

2. Book Basket:

We have the fortune of having a great book room at our school. We check out multiple copies of books through our library and have to return the whole set when we are done using them. This can be tough to organize in the midst of teaching groups. I have a cute basket with handles that I put in the middle of my jellybean (kidney) table for students to put their previously read book into when they arrive for their group. After the reading group, student take the book they have worked on home for homework every night.

I try to take a few minutes at the end of groups to organize the books in sets within the basket. When they are complete, I rubber band or bag the set and put the sets in a basket by the doors to be returned to the library. This makes a great job for a helper!

3. Group Book Storage:

This year I have made a commitment to check out a week's worth of books every week. I do this when I drop of students for library class. I check out 5-6 sets per group each time. When I get back to the room, I sort the books into baskets that I keep on the counter for each group. This helps when I have a sub too - everything is ready for reading groups.

4. Reading Stars

I saw this idea of Mrs. Ross's site. I loved the starts, but wanted to keep the symbols we used consistent. I used the star idea and adding pictures that correlate to the Beanie Baby Reading Strategies. (If you haven't seen these, check out the site. There are a couple different version out there. They have been amazing for my little ones and have spread like wildfire through our whole building.) I then taped a star on the table in front of each seat for students to refer to.

Not only do they make my table more cheery, but the kids have started to use their strategies for decoding more consistently!

4. Chair Pockets:

I totally lucked out on these. Someone was throwing these away at school and I snagged them before they were headed to the dumpster. They are great for managing materials at the computers and at the reading table. Student can put their book bags or center materials in them to keep everything in one spot.

5. Making Words Pads:
I made little pads with squares of cardboard and the rubbery shelf liner. I can put letter tiles on them for students to build and break words. The tiles do not slide around and I can prep and stack them in a basket for the group without having the tiles slide all over the place.

Well, those are a few of my favorite guided reading tips and tricks!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wonder/Easter Egg Plant

How fun!

I bought an Egg Plant! The fruit (non-edible) is actually shaped like an egg. The seeds are available on Blooming Flower Seeds. (I just didn't call it an Easter Egg Plant because my district does not include most holidays in our curriculum.)

I used The Mystery Box created by Abby of The Inspired Apple to introduce the plant. Then we planted the seeds. I am hoping to use my students' work on this activity for editing practice (I know - ugh!) Eventually it will become an observation and measuring activity too!

Edit: I decided to create a journal for my V.I.P. to complete each day as he/she observes the Egg Plant. Click here to get it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Report Card Season

Who loves report cards???

Well, I'm not too sure many teachers do. It takes an incredible amount of time to complete assessments, grade, and comment on report cards. Many, many hours beyond our teaching hours. I've been at this for 10 years now and I can easily say that report cards have not become any easier. In fact, I probably put more time in now because everything for my district is web-based. I miss my dear old report cards on Excel! The site never froze, I rarely lost comments in outer space, and I did not need to reload the page each time I added or edited a comment.

At any rate, I have been reading a bit about how teachers in blog land make this time consuming responsibility more efficient. I love to make lists when I am thinking through something, so here is my list of how I manage report card season.

1. Student Files - I keep a crate with a file folder for each student. I keep students notes, any important papers, and any assessments that I do not need to refer to frequently or update (i.e. DRAs, Words Their Way assessment, Math Assessments, etc.). This tends to be where papers go after I have used them for determining report card grades and comments.

2. Assessment Binder - I use some of the pieces from Daily 5 and the Literacy CAFE. I keep a record of when I assess each student for sight words, informal running records, and writing conferences. I have a section in the front where I put the date I worked with a student to keep track of how often I reassess. Each student has a section with a Dolch List record to track sight words, a sheet to track spelling words (students have individualized lists), page/pages for running records (the running record is on the left and there is room to comment on teaching points on the right), and a writing conference sheet (observations on the left and teaching points on the right). I also include a CAFE sheet for reading with reading behaviors and a similar sheet with our writing Focus Correction Areas. My goal is to highlight features as students have mastered them. This binder provides a great deal of information for my comments.

3. Database of Comments - I created one this year. After 5 years of teaching first grade, I felt like I had just run out of things to say. I was spending hours reinventing the wheel, only to end up say the same thing in different ways. Since our cards are web-based, I also found that I would add comments only to find out when the full card was printed with the last semester comments, that I used similar words. I reviewed old cards that I had saved and created general comments that can be customized for students when needed. This has really helped me to focus on making sure that I am not repeating myself and I can comment in a timely fashion, while still saying meaningful things.

4. Set Aside Blocks - This year I went through each student report all at once and then moved on to the next. I ended up completing them in a day and a half. Usually I comment on a section at a time for all students. This allowed me to view everyone with the same eyes, but also made me feel likes I worked on comments for weeks. Not sure what the verdict is in terms of what works best.

5. For Me - chocolate, snacks, coffee, and sappy movies.

What do you do/use to make report cards easier to get through?