Sunday, February 8, 2015

The 100th Day & SMOOCH!

What a cah-ra-zy time of year! We've just completed our 100th Day of School - which was a blast, thanks to the sweet Cara Carroll, and it's already Valentine's, President's Day, Chinese New Year, and Black History Month!

We had the BEST 100th Day EV-AH! when I found The First Grade Parade's fantabulous activities on Cara Carroll's website! If your 100th Day hasn't arrived yet, go there NOW to make it the greatest! We started the day with some estimation, then had our tee-shirt fashion show, and followed it with Cara's 100th Day Stations. I heard my kiddos say, several times, "This is the best 100th Day ever!" Just look at them enjoying their time:


 


I know the kids had fun making their shirts, but I feel sure I had more fun than anyone else! Yep, my owl and branch, together, are made of exactly 100 buttons! And, no, I didn't sew them on. Meet E6000 glue! It works on everything!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              SMOOCH! Valentine's Day is Saturday, and we have a teacher workday on Friday, so Thursday's the deadline at our school! It seems like, around this time of year, my kids have forgotten how to add and subtract with regrouping, so I whipped up a little practice for them. I have this little cutie for just $1 at Teachers Pay Teachers. Click on the picture to go directly to the page.
Just in time for Valentine's Day, I also shared my "famous" matter and measurement introduction with my class: I bake a cake every year, mixing the ingredients from scratch right in the classroom, and then taking the pans to our cafeteria to bake. The kids LOVE it, and I think they remember more about matter from that one activity than from weeks of studying it. We talk about each ingredient and identify each as a solid, liquid, or gas. We measure everything very accurately, and talk about how important that is in baking. We talk about mixtures and solutions, as we combine the ingredients, and we talk about physical and chemical changes in matter throughout the entire process. Best of all, after lunch, we dig in! This year, I made Thundercake, from Patricia Polacco's book of the same title. We were using it as a mentor text for describing senses in our personal narratives. No matter what book I've used, the cake lesson is always a hit. Kids from years and years ago come to see me and ask if I remember baking that cake that one time...
We sort the ingredients into solids and liquids. The gas forms
during the mixing (addition of air) and beating the eggs.
 


 
This year, kids said this was the best cake they'd ever eaten - WOW! Even with tomatoes in the recipe, the best they'd ever had? Maybe it's the first home-made cake they've ever eaten.
 


Happy Everything February!
XOXO,
Brooke

Monday, January 19, 2015

Peek at My Week

Peek at My Week: MLK, Jr. and How to Make a Snowman



Oh my! It's been ages since I linked up with Mrs. Wills Kindergarten for a Peek at My Week...
This week, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a state holiday in his honor today, and I'll be using a few of my favorites to be sure my babies know who he was and why they were out of school.

First, my all time fave book about MLK is Martin's Big Words, and I always show it being read aloud on this link to youtube. The voice-over is amazing, and the video zooms in and out of the pages. It's absolutely captivating. Now, I've learned to put all my youtube videos in safesharetv. If you don't know about that, let me tell you...it's the BEST! Just go to your youtube video and copy the address. Then go to www.safeshare.tv and paste the link in the box. Click Generate and the website edits out all the commercials, sidebar junk, and everything else but the content of your video. Good-bye inappropriate pictures on my PolyVision board!

As you can see, from my schedule, Tuesday is a really light teaching day. My kiddos are gone to all sorts of special activities, and I have them all to myself for only a couple of hours, so, after watching Martin's Big Words, we'll talk about who he was, what he stood for, and what happened to him. Then it's off to the library and STEM lab. When I get my babies back, we'll make an MLK anchor chart together and brainstorm some ideas for how we can make the world more peaceful. I'll end the lesson with having the kids write about their dreams for a better world.

Later in the week, we'll continue using these great resources from Amy Lemons and Jessica Hursh during stations, while I meet with my Leveled Literacy Intervention reading groups:

This unit from Amy Lemons is amazing, and is perfect for keeping my little ones' minds focused on basic addition and subtraction with and without regrouping.










I'll also introduce my newest project, which I'm so excited about! I learned to make a Jeopardy-like game in PowerPoint this past week and can't wait to play it with my kiddos!

 Another great resource from Amy Lemons, this set of station activities focuses on everything from synonyms to compound words, and all sorts of goodies in between. My kids love doing stations, and they learn so much, both independently and with partners, while working on them. I have to thank my friend JWoo for introducing me to what stations even were! They have literally changed the way I teach.






I'm mixing Amy's Polar Pals with Jessica Hursh's Winter Literacy Stations for the third week this week. These activities are so similar to the ones from Polar Pals that it's perfect for reinforcement of the skills my kiddos have practiced in one or the other to mix the two, repeating the same skills!
With all these wintry stations, our read-alouds last week were all about snowmen, and we even made snowmen from, of all things, Dunkin' Donut Munchkins! 



Ok! I have no idea why he's upside-down!

or why he's sideways!
Then we began a piece of expository writing about how to build a snowman. Of course, we had fun eating the ones we made in class! This week, we'll take this piece through the writing process, with the tough tasks of revising and editing. This is so hard for my babies, but I made a breakthrough last week! Of course I had modeled what to write and how to use transition words, but I wrote exactly what the kids told me to write (no making sense of it, just taking dictation). The next day, I read each sentence aloud, one by one. After the first one, one of my smarties said, "That's NOT a sentence!" Ding, ding, ding!!! It hit everyone that there was no subject and that the phrase didn't make sense on its own. After so many lessons on rereading your own writing, I don't know what made it hit home, except that maybe, because we wrote it together, and reread it on another day, the kids didn't see it as they meant it, but exactly as they had written it. Awesome! Now we really get the value of rereading.

In math, we're spending the week on analyzing and solving word problems. It's time, now that my littles can read and comprehend on grade level, that we tackle the beast head on! A few years ago, I bought Hope King's PSA Approach to Problem Solving. Later, she and I met and I wrote a teeny-tiny sister product, PSA Froggy Problems, with her permission. I'll be using both this week to show the kids how to get through the words to the math, choose an operation, find the important information, solve the problems, and check for accuracy.















Other than our winter MAP testing, that's our week. Hope yours is wonderful!
XOXO,
Brooke

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Year's Update & FREEBIE!

A few weeks ago, I linked up with Mrs. D's Corner to share my New Year's Resolutions. I thought I'd check in for an update.

On the personal front, I'm trying hard, and I'm finding that it gets a little easier each day. God is right there, at the front of my heart and mind, and He has led me to be able to let so many things go! For the first time in a long time, I'm fully at peace with whatever may come our way. I know His plans are perfect.

Professionally, I'm getting better at planning in advance, buying stations on Teachers Pay Teachers, rather than always trying to produce my own, and being able to use my planning period to make copies, look over student work, and, yes, plan!

On that note, planning has become easier for me because I bought 30 activities before Christmas, made all the copies, and laminated all that needed to be laminated. During the bowl games, I cut everything out and organized it all into Ziplock bags. 
Laminated, and ready to cut...
All the copies, ready to sort out...

Laminated, cut, sorted, boxed, and trash ready to toss!
Y'all, I know there's tons of Pinterest pages devoted to organizing and storing stations, but I gotta tell ya, put the directions and any cards or pieces in a page protector and put that, with the recording sheets in a gallon bag, and it is per-fect! Every kids knows where everything is, how to put it back neatly, and it's ready to go for next year, or reviewing later this year!

Okay, I admit, I haven't started the Organization goal yet, but there's still time - we're only 2 weeks in, and I did just tell how I organize my stations!

Students are always first in my class. Really. I love, love, love them! When they're having a bad day, I have a bad day. If they cry, I almost always do, too. So when work is hard, and I see that look on their little faces - the one right before frustration sets in, I practically RUN across the room to catch them, before they get frustrated. So far, in 2015, they are still fighting to learn, and that's more than most of us can ever wish for!

If you stuck with me this long, you deserve a freebie! We've been working really hard on knowing when to regroup in addition and subtraction. Yes, we have the posters. Yes, we've used base ten blocks, Unifix cubes, and every other manipulative in the universe, but the most effective thing we've started to do is CHAS. Circle the ones place. Highlight it if there's more on the floor. Analyze what we have to do, regroup or not, and Solve. To help us, we've sorted a ton of problems into little booklets. Click on the pic to get your copy of everything, including directions!



XOXO,
Brooke

Friday, December 26, 2014

New Year, New Goals!

Here I am again, a month later, well-rested, and excited about the new year! I'm linking up with Mrs. D's Corner to share my New Year, New Goals:


Personal:
My family and I recently re-joined my former church, the one from before I married, before I moved halfway across the country, before I moved back and joined my husband's childhood church. As new members, we went to a new member class for several weeks, and I had so many Aha! moments, it was ridiculous. If you've been reading my blog for a while, and hung in there with me through the drama of moving, marriage counseling, and disappointments, you may remember that last Valentine's Day was {romantically} spent moving into a little townhouse, from a huge home. A couple of weeks ago in church, the minister was talking about what makes people feel secure, and what we get caught up in...work, kids, voluntarism, and "stuff". BAM! It hit me. Stuff makes me feel safe. Stupid stuff. Stuff I don't need. Stuff I don't have room for. Just stuff. Teary-eyed, I started praying right there that God would speak to me every. single. day. and help me let go. So many times, I've prayed that I'm giving this situation, or that, to Him, but you know what? I never did. I always let worry consume me, and I always had to keep my "stuff" to feel secure. I get it. I HAVE to Let It GO! I know there is a reason and a plan for all that we experience (including the black mold in our current rental townhouse, forcing us to move again!), and that God is using all of these events for His purpose.

Professional:
Same church class, different Aha! Work-a-holic? Right here! Everything I do has to be perfect. I haven't created a new product for TPT in over a year, because I can't think of the perfect unit or set of station work. My lesson plans take hours. My classroom has to be the cutest, my stations, the best, my ideas, the most creative, blah, blah, blah. You know what? The kids I teach are seven. SEVEN! They couldn't care less what my room looks like, how cute my lesson plans are, how perfect the stations are, or how creative my latest bulletin board is. They just want to be loved on and noticed. They don't care, their parents don't care, my co-workers don't care, my boss doesn't care about any of that other junk, so my goal is to get the job done at school, get the stations put together, do my best, most effective and efficient planning and teaching, and then leave school at school...stop bringing it all home to fuss over, fidget with, and perfect! Is professional imperfection a real goal???

Planning:
Ironically, I want to keep up the creativity in my planning, but pick up the pace. My plan is to actually reuse things I've used in the past. Why in the world I think I have to have all new plans every year, in order to teach the same standards in the same grade, is a brainteaser! Of course, I need to tweak my plans to fit my current kiddos, but really, if good practice was good practice last year, it probably will be this year, too!

Organization:
To get better organized, both at work and home, I need to, once again, LET IT GO! I really need to go through one file drawer or notebook at a time and get rid of the millions of papers I've had for fourteen years of teaching. Hey, that could be cathartic! Then, one box at a time, as we prepare to move, I need to get rid of lots of that stuff I've held onto.

Students:
My students are awe-inspiring. They qualify for my class by being in the lower-performing quartiles on standardized testing in first grade, or are identified as at-risk for one reason, or many. When they get to me, they know they are behind. They already don't like to read or do math, because they know they're not necessarily as good at either as their peers. This year, I told my class that there was a reason they were in my little bitty class of 12 kids. I told them that they were the very best second graders, the smartest, the fastest, the best behaved, and that they were there to show all the other second graders "how to do it". I also told them I was the best second grade teacher, the smartest, the one with the most experience, and that that's why we were together. Yes, I got it from this awesome video, but you know what? It WORKS! I remind my kiddos, at least once a week, that they are the best. And they are. They are the best behaved class...in the halls, at related arts, in the cafeteria, on the playground, and in class. They are the fastest learners...every single one began the year at least half-a-year behind in reading, and every single one is on, or above grade level now! So, lots of times, they tell me, "It's hard!" They mean the reading, or the math, or spelling, or writing, or just about anything they've not done before, but by reminding them that they are the best second graders, I've been able to keep them motivated to learn. I can't wait to see where they go in 2015!

Motto:
Isn't it obvious?

Happy New Year, Friends!
XOXO,

Brooke

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Five for Friday


I know, I know. I drop off the planet for months at a time. I'm probably the worst ever blogger at keeping in touch with my friends. I have no idea how those big blog bloggers do it...write a post every night, or even every week, when it's about all I can do to keep my home and class running smoothly. I suppose my "smarter balance" is to let things slide, so that the see-saw stays balanced and I'm not the one sliding off of it!

Anyway, it's been so long, and I've done so much, so I wanted to share a few things with you, and link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday.

"I Have the Best Handwriting!" Paper:










I made my own handwriting paper this week to help my little fella with a probable L. D. in written expression. Our district has decided that RTI will take the place of our former Student Intervention Team system of referring students with potential special needs. This was all in response to our state's quick decision to change the way we refer students because too many kids are being tested and found to have learning difficulties. Unfortunately, because of the super-sonic speed with which we had to react, we only put reading RTI into place this year. So, if we think a student needs help with math, written expression, emotional, oral language processing, central auditory processing, or any of the other endless possibilities, we teachers are just doing the best we can. That said, we have some fabulous school psychologists, who have been super-supportive and who have excellent ideas and resources to help us "wing it"! But necessity breeds ingenuity, and I looked everywhere for O.T. highlighted handwriting paper only to find that NONE on the market has a line for the letters that hang below the base-line. So, I made it. In fact, I made four kinds...a landscape big one for beginning writers, a portrait one a bit smaller for maybe first graders, another portrait, even smaller, for those who need assistance with spacing, and my final one, which has no dotted mid-line, but still has a top, highlighted middle, and bottom line for each line of handwriting. That one is shown here. This precious boy has struggled for years, and according to his mom "hated school" until now. WOWZIE! That's the best compliment a teacher can ever hear...he's not frustrated or anxious about his ability to succeed anymore! Because of paper??? Maybe.
To get a look at this little miracle, head to my TPT shop, where I've decided to add this sanity-saver to my product list. You can click HERE to go directly to the paper.




Lookie, Lookie What I Got!
Man, oh man, what a deal! I ordered stability balls for my littles to try out. They arrived in just THREE days, and we are lovin' some bouncin'! I researched using stability balls in the classroom for weeks before deciding to get some. I mean, I only have 12 little people, so at $11.64 each, they were very affordable. Then, when I got the approval to order them, the site was having 20% off! Woop, Woop! We've had these gems for about a week, and have gone from about ten minutes of use at a time, to about 25 minutes. My kiddos are more focused and able to pretty much stay in one spot and do their work (!) on their stability balls than lying in the floor, sitting in their chairs, or on the stools you see in the background. They are a little too short for our desks, so when/if we transition to using them full-time, I'll have the desktops lowered. For now, we use them during whole group instruction on the rug and during stations. If you've been thinking about getting a set for your class, I highly recommend ProMedXpress. The ones I chose are the smallest ones, but they come in three sizes. I am NOT being paid for telling you about these, nor am I being compensated in any way...so, no bias!


Voluntarism in Full Swing!
Y'all might remember "Miss Patty" from last year. She is one of my student's (from last year) grandmother, and she is fabuloso! The kids love her, and so do I. Patty's a certified, retired music teacher, who loves kids and wants to still help out in my room. I swoon! She shows up every Wednesday morning and works with one sweetie at a time. She'll review sight words, listen to them read for fluency, teach them learning games to reinforce skills practice, and, best of all, she brings her i pad, which everyone wants to get a turn using! Patty even keeps a tracking folder for each of my students, what words they've mastered, what she's doing with them, and how they're progressing.

Readers' Theater
My whole reading program is based on small group, individualized instruction. We use Fountas and Pinnell's Leveled Literacy Intervention. I'd say, though, that this program is the absolute best reading instruction I've ever used, and could be for any students, not just used as an intervention. It has overlapping sets of leveled readers, in sets of ten lessons before moving up to the next level. The great thing is, if a group's not ready to move up, you can get ten more readers out of an overlapping kit and keep on teachin'! I've never had to do that...everybody succeeds. Yep, I used a period there. As in, everybody, PERIOD! I have never seen anything like it. It's a little "scripty", but you know, I can use my personality to add to that mess, and the script is actually helpful for pre-reading, making sure you've covered every single thing in a guided reading lesson, and I learn more about teaching every day. 
Anyway, these babies are doing a readers' theater production of Jack and the Beanstalk, right from their leveled readers. That's another great thing about LLI. It has a fabulous mix of fiction and non-fiction, in every genre imaginable, on every topic imaginable, and appeals to all sorts of readers because of the variety. And, no, they're not paying me, either.

Our sad, HAPPY Friday:
This is Larz. She's my student teacher. She was...until Friday. We were all so sad to see her finish up, and I kept thinking, "What are we going to do without her?" Well, what started out as a sad morning, ended up as a ecstatic afternoon! She got a job, two doors down - at least for now. She's going to be doing a long-term sub job for a maternity leave in second grade! I was excited. She was excited. My class was excited. Her class was excited. My pregnant co-worker was excited. What a great turn-out for everyone! We had a party to celebrate, complete with cupcakes, cards, and even dancing!


Happy Weekend, Y'all!
XOXO,
Brooke