Sunday, October 30, 2011


Where is the time going?!? I can’t believe it is almost November already.  The busy season is coming up for me.  We have parent teacher conferences in less than 2 weeks!  I‘m so not ready!  Our building held off on starting guided reading until October this year and I am feeling like I don’t really know my kids or their reading because I started groups with them a few weeks later than usual. I haven’t started spelling yet and have not sent home sight word rings.  I have the assessments complete, but that’s about it. 

I have so many things I want to blog about, but there just hasn’t been time.  I am also battling some pain in my wrists and forearms – I think I have spent too much time on the computer and am hoping I am not getting carpel  tunnel!  I’m trying to let my wrists and arms heal a little.

I am excited to be organizing a local book group around the The Daily Café!


This group was formed through my local branch of the International Reading Association.  There are several books being studied and I chose this one. I have read it a couple times, but have not worked with other teachers.  I guess I have ended up being the facilitator by default – not that I mind.  So, I thought I could put things up on here as I go.  I am excited and will post when we get things going.

I’m off to let me wrists and arms heal a bit.  Have a great week!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

You Tube to the Rescue

Okay, so have you ever been sitting there planning on the weekend and realized you forgot a picture book that you needed? Have you ever read about a book on a blog and wanted to look at it immediately? Well, I had one of those “Why didn’t I think of it before” moments. There are tons of read alouds and movies of books on YouTube!

I just read a post about Scaredy Squirrel as a great book for making connections. I didn’t have the book and the library is not open and might not even have it, so I looked it up on YouTube.

Scaredy Squirrel

Here are some others:

The Rainbow Fish – Ms. Kathy has quite a few read alouds.

The Napping House – really well done!

Goodnight Gorilla

There are great for those days when you just don’t have the energy to do the reading or want to change things up a bit. Hope this helps someone else!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Surprise Author Study

We have been working on retelling during shared reading. I had started out with fairytales, but stumbled up a great author study for retelling. I’m not quite sure why I pulled out an Ezra Jack Keats book to read, but his books are AMAZING for retelling. They are fairly straight forward and worked really well to get the results I was looking for. (Don’t you hate it when you choose a book that ends up being way too complicated?) The kids LOVE listening to his books and can make tons of connections, plus it adds a bit of diversity to our reading. Our school is in a very suburban area and there is not a great deal of diversity. The facts that Keats’ books have city settings and diverse characters is fantastic! Plus, my grandmother was a teacher in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and she read these books to her class and to me when I was growing up. It is funny that all of the books my grandmother saved from her teaching days and read to me in the early 80s are now classics that children still love! When I see the covers, I always smile and think of her.

image image image

I used my little retelling signs and the kids were all over getting to hold a sign. I had to promise everyone would get a chance over a few days. I think I might make a bunch to put in centers. Click on the image to go to that post.


Check out the Website for Ezra Jack Keats for great information about this author and his books!


What books do you love for teaching retellings? Are there an author studies that are great to try out?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fine Motor Practice

Every year I seem to have a few firsties who need extra practice with scissors. Does that tell us that we are moving too fast to do art projects anymore?  I was looking for some resources to send home for practice – because we are moving too fast to provide the practice time at school.  I found a great site, Worksheet, that allows you to create practice sheets that you can customize and print.

Click on the screen shots to go there and check it out!



Have fun using those scissors!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Favorite Mentor Texts Linky

Funky First Grade Fun is hosting a Linky Party on our most favorite mentor texts.


David’s Drawings by Cathryn Falwell is a fantastic book for teaching students how to expand their stories and add details.  David makes a simple drawing of a tree.  As he shows it to others, he gets suggestions on how to add to his drawing.  This is a great connection to writing and how students can add details to their writing to produce an even better piece.  It is also great to introduce peer editing.

I love using any book by Cynthia Rylant and some by Patricia Polacco to teach narrative writing.  Both author are great about taking a moment in their lives and making it into a story.

image  image    image image

Reading Rockets is a great source for author interviews.  There are clips that support writer’s craft lesson and the students are enthralled to see their favorite writers talking about their work.


I Love You the Purplest, by Barbara Joosse, is a fantastic book to teach students more complex sentence structures and how to include interesting adjectives in their writing.  I love this book!


I know there are so many more great ones!  I can’t wait to check out the other link-ups! Check it out!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Great Books for Teaching Retellings

I have been working on retellings this week.  Of course, Pinterest came to the rescue with inspiration! This anchor chart was linked back to the blog The Techy Teacher.

Pinned Image

I made a similar one that I need to take a picture of.  I knew I wanted to use fairytales to practice retelling because the students are already familiar with them.  They do not need to digest a new story and the skill of retelling at the same time.

I already used Goldilocks this year and didn’t really feel jazzed about using it again.  Instead I pulled out The Little Red Hen.  I introduced the chart and set the purpose of the story.  We read the book (with my new FM system!!!) and then wrote our ideas as a class on post-its.  I stuck them onto the board.

image    image    image

I am going to use The Three Little Pigs tomorrow and introduce retelling sticks.  I made cards below and attached them to popsicle sticks.  I pass them out and the students holding the sticks tell that part of the story.  It holds everyone accountable for listening and thinking.  I won’t add the message and connection until later in the year.

Click on the image to snag your copy!


That’s all I got today!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Virtual Manipulative Resources

Love2Learn2Day is having Math Monday Blog Hop #28. Click on the button to check out the great resources!

I was excited about math this year because I spent so much time writing curriculum last year and read these two great books:

image     image 

I wanted to work through some of the new concepts in our curriculum through the use of our Promethean Board.  I found 2 great sites with virtual manipulatives.  Check them out to see if they are helpful to you.

The first is from the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.  It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but had some neat features.


The site below is fantastic.  It is through McGraw-Hill and you can change to all sorts of manipulatives. I took a screen shot of some that I tried.  Love it!  I think this will really help me out.


Some how, despite all of my excitement and new understandings, I have just gotten a bit stuck teaching math this year.  We have a new series: GoMath.  It is great, but I am just having a hard time working with a textbook.  It is the first time our students have worked with a textbook of any kind.  We used to start with patterns and graphing and now begin with adding and subtracting.  HUGE difference.  I am also finding that my little ones who are still working on kindergarten concepts are not eased into the first grade material anymore.  They are dumped into adding and subtracting. 

I think next year will be much better, but teaching math is a challenge right now.  I’ll keep plugging away and trying to make heads or tails of the new and different concepts I am teaching.  I hope to have some great things to share as my brain gets wrapped around the new curriculum and all of my new resources.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Give Away Coming Soon & Class Fall Cleaning

I know I promised to do a giveaway to celebrate 50 followers, but I have been swamped the last two weeks.  We had open house and I am in general just not in the flow of the year.   I have a few things for the giveaway, but have a few more ideas.  I hope to open it up this weekend.

I am feeling the need to purge and clean out my classroom.  I keep thinking that my day will be less stressful and I will be more efficient if I get organized. Instead of having spring cleaning, I am thinking of doing a fall cleaning in my classroom.  Anybody interested in linking up to join in?  I started thinking about the areas in my room that I wanted to get organized:



filing cabinet(s)

classroom library

student storage

other storage

computer files

desk/teacher work area

Is there any interest in joining up?  Any additions or thoughts on a  schedule? I was thinking about 2 weeks per area.  Let me know your thoughts!

Happy Friday!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fantastic Finds Linky

I wrote this post just to write it and then found Thinking of Teaching is having a Fantastic Finds Linky that fits perfectly! so, I have some edits to make.  Check the linky out and link up you fantastic finds!

Thinking of Teaching              Photobucket



I found Fall is Not Easy, by Marty Kelley through my school librarian and it is my new favorite book – well for now!  It is about a tree that goes through some interesting changes when trying to become a tree with fall leaves. I read it just for fun today, but think it would be great to reinforce using picture clues as a reader.  The text is basic, but the pictures are the real story.  It might also be a great book for beginning to talk about inferences and having the children use what they know and notice to talk about how the tree is changing.

image        Buzzin’ on Cupcakes in 1st Grade

I also found Leaves, by David Ezra Stein, at Buzzin’ on Cupcakes.  It happened to be sitting outside the library when I went to pick up my kids and I grabbed it off the display.  I used it to discuss beginning, middle, and end. Buzzin’ on Cupcakes has more great ideas for this book.  Check it out!


I found this neat site: Teaching with Kids’ Books.  It is a great source to check out new books and old favorites.  It is organized by grade levels and themes.  Check it out!

That’s it for today!  How can a four day week make you more tired than a full week?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Do the Twist and Shout

My kids are eating up movement activities this year! I have these huge 4 hour blocks in the morning and that is rough at the beginning of the year. I have 2 great activities to share with you!

The first I call “Dance, Dance, Freeze.” I’m not sure if this is an actual game. If it is , please let me know I will give someone credit. I put on a fast c.d.. Right now I am using the sound track from The Frog Princess. I play the c.d. and the kids dance. Periodically I stop the c.d. and they have to freeze. It is fun to see who gets into it and who takes some time before they will take the risk to dance. It is also fun to see how they interpret different paced songs. Any other ideas for great c.d.s?


The other activity I uses dice. I used the wooden cube from math and write exercises on one and what to count by on the other. I roll the dice and we count and do the exercise. This really breaks up large blocks of time and gets the wiggles out.. It is also a great activity to leave for subs to do. I made dice to copy onto cardstock. They are pretty durable if you wrap them in a layer of packing tape.



Friday, October 7, 2011


I always find so many great things at the Dollar Store! I found these great signs. Please ignore the half finished bulletin board! I was putting up the Problem/Solution Puzzles my kiddos did. The Pledge sign fit perfectly and livened up that corner.

P1010100 P1010098

Here is my most brilliant idea yet this year – really, I mean it! I have so many adults coming in and out of my room all day and it drives me crazy when they need something and start poking around the room to find it. Odds are, they won’t find what they are looking for and it distracts me every time. Solution: the teacher supply basket!!! I found these baskets at the Dollar General. I guess they are for automotive stuff. I have 3. One is on my desk ion the back, one is on a shelf in the middle of the room, and one is by the computer and Promethean controls in the front of the room. It holds a stapler, tape, highlighters, pends, pencils, scissors, post-its, sharpies, rubber bands, tape, and so on. Love it! It lets everyone get what they need and not drive me bonkers in the mean-time.


So helpful! Hopefully I will get more of these ideas as the year goes on!

*** Edit ***

Something else random! The blog buttons on the side of my blog bugged me. I learned how to make them scroll, but they still drove me crazy because they were different sizes and made me dizzy. I found this great blog:

For The Love Of Blogs

The author posted a tutorial on how to resize blog buttons. Voila! a consistent look. Give it a try!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Plot Center

First, I have gained a few followers lately and plan to have another give away when I reach 50 - just 2 more people! I can't believe I just went public with this blog this summer! I dabbled for a while, but didn't really put myself out there. I am so excited to be connecting with so many great people and learning so much!!!

I have these Frank Schaffer Sequencing Cards and had a brainstorm the other night. I thought they would be great to use in a center to reinforce plot and sequence in both reading and writing. I have the sets of cards separated in baggies and made a sheet to put in the center.

3-scene Sequencing Cards (Paperback) ~ Frank Schaffer (Author) Cover Art 4-Scene Sequencing Cards

Click on the images to snag your copy of the response sheets. If you don’t have the games, I am sure there are printable cards out there on the internet or other materials you might already have.



I am trying to utilize a few more of the pre-made items I have in my classroom, rather than making and storing new materials. Hopefully this is helpful to someone out there. I might even buy the set with 6 cards to add for differentiation.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Plot Thickens!

This week we are focusing on plot and retelling during shared reading. Last week we worked on characters, setting, problem, and solution. This fits well with writing narratives in writing.

I plan to read Marley Goes to School by John Grogan.

Abby at the Inspired Apple has a wonderful chart for beginning, middle, and end that is inspiring the chart I plan to create. I love the language she uses and wish I had her artistic talents! She should really start publishing her wonderful work with an educational poster company!


I plan to have students make a flap book to show the B, M, E. Click on the image to grab your copy.


The amazing thing about this blog is that I have access to all of the materials I am creating. I have reworked things that I have already used in the past to put up and have created new things. I can get to them at any point and seem to have a better organizational system via blogging that my binders or filing cabinet. This venue also really helps me to think ahead and I am loving that!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Word Work Linky

I am linking up with Hilary at Rockin' Teacher Materials for a Word Work Linky. She read my mind! I have my word work center mostly up and running and even took pictures to share! This is my motivation to download the pictures and get them up.


I split word work time between sight words (Dolch Words), Words Their Way Word Study, and spelling (based on Dolch Words). I start introducing materials to the students by teaching the kids how to use each material and how to take care of it. We practice by using class names and my rule is that each word must be practiced 3 times. They say the word, spell it, and say it again each time they practice. Here are the materials:

  • Letter beads to string on a pipe cleaner.
  • Wikki Sticks/Bend-a-Roos
  • Magnetic Letters
  • Magnet Boards
  • Letter stencils
  • Mini-white boards
  • Marble/Rainbow Pencils
  • Sign Language
  • ***NEW Color change markers by Crayola
  • I also have printed computer keyboards that I have laminated so the kids can practice “typing” their words.

I store two items for practice in each of the blue buckets on the bottom shelf. When students have word work time, they grab a bucket and go practice their words – either from their sight word list, their spelling notebook, or Words Their Way sort words. I change what I assign the kids to work on. I try to pair up one building activity and one writing activity, and I change them out every other week or so to keep the novelty fresh.


The upper shelf holds our Dolch Sight Word Games. I color-coded the drawers and materials to match the list label on the outside. Some of the games are Battleship, Go Fish, Connect Four, Pig and Stop, Bang (or some variation of it), Roll, Say, Keep, bingo, and probably a few others. A lot of the games came from The School Bell’s Dolch Kit:


Other games have been modified from games I have found. I have a few games from blogs that I need to get printed and laminated to add.

Once I get spelling up and running, I will share whatever I decide to do with that this year. I am thinking of combining our mandatory spelling words (we have 42) with word lists from Words Their Way.

When I work on words during guided reading, I have a few tricks. First, I found a Plexiglas sign holder at Staples for about 6 bucks. I had wanted a whiteboard to use during guided reading to break down words and teach strategies, but was having trouble finding one. I wanted something that stood up, but was small enough to not be in the way. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how well this works!!! It is the perfect size!


I also use letter tiles for making words activities. I covered 4x6 pieces of recycled cardboard with the grippy shelf liner and put the letters we will use on them. The letters do not slip around and I can stack the boards in a basket for the group lesson. No pictures right now.

Sometimes I use word strategies that apply to a given book and sometimes I use a book that has a sequence of building words that gets the kids to think about how changing letters changes the sounds in the word. I will have to find the book at school to add the title.

Now that I am thinking about it, I have a few more things to share. Maybe I will add a few more posts later, but I think this is enough for today. I hope someone finds some useful ideas here!