Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Scoop

I am linking up with Teaching Trio's Sunday Scoop for the first time this month! 
Here is my Sunday Scoop:
3 Things I Have to Do:

1) I put off grading papers every single week...then I somehow end up with a stack that is so overwhelming that I put it off until Sunday night.  Last year I made a New Year's Resolution to not leave school until everything from that day was graded, entered into the gradebook and filed.  It was fabulous - it only took about 15 minutes every day and I regained my Sunday nights.  Yea...I'm not sure what happened to that.  So needless to say, I am staring at the stack of papers that I need to grade and doing everything I can to avoid it.

2)  I started watching the show "How to Get Away With Murder" on ABC.  I'm still not sure how I feel about it.    I really like to story line but it seems to drag on a little bit.  I missed last week's episode so I think I will catch up on that while I grade papers.

3)  October weather in Tennessee is always crazy - we have had the heat on for two weeks and then this morning we wake up to 80 degrees.  The crazy weather must have gotten the ladybugs moving because they are EVERYWHERE.  I don't even know how they get in!  We have been vacuuming them up every chance we get - but more just keep coming!  I am going to head over to Google for a solution :)

2 Things I Hope to Do:

1) I would love to go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight!  For the past few weeks I have either crashed on the couch by 8:00 or been wide awake at 2 a.m.  Tonight I would like to stay up until 10:30, and then head upstairs to bed.  Crazy, right?

2)  Since the weather is so beautiful, I really hope to take the dogs for a nice walk!  We have such a pretty neighborhood that hardly has any traffic - and there is an open field at the end of the cul-de-sac that they can run around in.  They definitely need to run off some energy.

1 Thing I am Happy to Do:

1) Work on the short vowel phonics books so I can have them posted by Friday.  I am so excited to get these finished - my students loved the short a book that I tested out on them!

Well, that is my Sunday Scoop!  I hope you enjoy your week :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

You Oughta Know About Sheet Protectors

As a teacher I use more than my share of sheet protectors.  But today, I am linking up with Mrs. McClain for her "You Oughta Know" blog hop to tell you about a different way to use sheet protectors.
I love the use of whiteboards in the classroom - especially when I can customize them.  And that is exactly what you can do with sheet protectors!  All you need is a pack of sheet protectors and a piece of cardboard to put in each.  You can use them in every subject area and the students love them.  Here are some examples of how we use them:

This week we are working on fact families.  I printed out the a fact family house, put one in each sheet protector and we were able to use them every day for multiple examples. 

Earlier this year we used them for word problems.  I printed out a blank organizer and put one in each sheet protector.  Then, each student got a bag of word problems that we could slide right in.  You can see the bag of word problems in the right hand corner of the first picture.

We also used them for 10 more/10 less and number lines.

The examples that I have pictures of are just in math, but we also use them in reading.  I put a blank retell page in there and give the students a bag of short stories that they can retell.  You could also use a blank Venn Diagram, a blank main idea and details organizer -- the possibilities are endless.  It gives a twist on the traditional whiteboards and provides unlimited possibilities.

I would love to hear about how you would use sheet protectors in your room with your students!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Liebster Award Nomination

I am thrilled to say that my little blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award!  This is an award for new bloggers who have less than 200 followers but who have great content and potential.
I was nominated by two bloggers - Christina at Christina's Kinder Blossoms and Joya at Live.Love.Serve.Teach - thank you both for your nominations!

As part of being nominated I have to answer the following 11 questions and then nominate 11 blogs with less than 200 followers.

1.  Why and how long ago did you start blogging?
I love reading posts on all of the different teaching blogs that are out there and they have helped me gain so many ideas for my classroom that I wanted to do the same for others.  Also, a little selfishly, I wanted to get more traffic to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.   I just started my blog this summer (2014).

2.  What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why?
Reality is the word that I would have to pick...and the word that is the main reason that I have such a hard time finding things to blog about.  When I went into teaching I had so many wonderful ideas about what it would consist of.  Then, reality set in and I realized that there is a lot more that goes in to teaching than I ever thought.  I love reading about the cute centers and units that so many teachers are able to do in their classrooms, but the reality of it all is that I do not have the time nor the ability to do those things in my room.  Also, with Common Core as a new reality in many states, and barely any materials for the lower grades, I wanted to provide a blog that gave other teachers in this same position ideas and resources that have helped me along the way. 

3.  Is there something you learned late in your blog journey you wished you knew before?  Write down every.single.idea.  Yea, it sounds simple and obvious - but I would be driving home from school thinking about this great blog post I could do.  By the time I actually got around to writing it, the idea was long gone.  So now I have note cards everywhere that are covered with ideas to blog about! 

4.  What is your favorite past time other than blogging?    
Reading and running.  I love finding a good book and curling up with it.  I get so caught up in the story and feel that each character is a part of my life.  I also love running.  I am terrible at it.  Probably the slowest runner that has ever actually considered themselves a runner.  I get passed by power walkers...yea, I am that slow.  And I have such a love/hate relationship with running.  I hate it when I am getting ready to go, I hate it when I am running, and I hate it the next day when my muscles ache.  But I love the feeling I get when I run a little farther and a little faster.  And I love the feeling of exhaustion afterwards - no room for worrying about lesson plans, what my observation scores were, how much I still need to do to prep for the next day - room to worry about anything.  

5.  How many hours per week do you dedicate to your blog?
Not enough.  I have a very hard time finding things to write about that other bloggers want to read about (in my mind).  That is one of my goals - to dedicate more time to my blog and to get better at actually posting!  

6.  What category of blog posts do you enjoy the most? 
I love teaching phonics, creating resources for phonics and posting about phonics.  I also love reading about what other teachers do with phonics.  One of my current obsessions is interactive notebooks!  I also enjoy posting about organization in the classroom.  I love finding new ways to organize the countless materials that we have as teachers.

7.  Where does your blog inspiration come from?
 My classroom and my students.  I love what I do and I love the students that I work with.  They are the ones that keep me inspired (and give me things to write about) .

8.  Which post that you've written are you most proud of?
One of my favorite posts (because of how much it has helped me this year) is about how I organized my unit materials {here}.  I love this method so much that I am currently in the process of storing my reading, math and language materials the same way.

9.  Is there any post you've been planning to do but have been postponing it for awhile now?
 Well, if you looked at my note cards full of ideas there are a million different ones!  I had been postponing posting about the phonics books that I have been working on but finally got around to it in my Five for Friday post {here} - it is number 5! 

10.  What is your favorite aspect of blogging?
Being able to document everything happening in my classroom.  I like being able to go back and look at my earlier posts.  I can't wait until a few years go by and I am able to look back at some of my first couple of posts!  It is almost like a diary of everything that happens in my classroom and I love that it is all written down.

11.  Which recipe, project, or idea on my blog would you be most likely to try yourself? Considering that I was nominated by two fabulous bloggers here are the two ideas from their blogs that I would like to try:

From Live.Love.Serve.Teach I can't wait to try the Splat game for rhyming.  I have a few students this year who struggle with motivation - and any type of game I can find helps with this.  I know that they would absolutely love this game!!
From Christina's Kinder Blossoms I am loving the Pinch Cards idea and can't wait to try this with my students!  We use dry erase boards so much that they start to lose their luster.  I think that these pinch cards would be a great way to throw in something new and exciting. 

Now it's time for the nominations!

 1.  Zoe at Oh the Little Wonders
 2.  Paige at Paiges of Learning
 3.  Kristin & Lindsey at 2 Literacy Teachers 
 4.  Whitney at First Grade Round-up
 5.  Kelly at Lattes and Lunchrooms
 6.  Allie at The Positive Teacher
 7.  Abbie at Steppin' up the First Grade
 8.  Allyson at Going Strong in Second Grade
 9.  Jasmine at The Dots of Teaching
10.  Ana at Mrs. Bentin's Blackboard
11.  Ashley and Jana at We Heart 1st 

I hope the nomination brings you more followers and readers (and I hope I only nominated blogs that qualify - I checked and triple checked!).  I enjoy reading your blogs and connecting with you!

Now that you've been nominated here are the official "rules" for accepting:
1. In your post link back to the blogger who nominated you as a thank you and "shout out".
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you (the ones I answered above).
3. Nominate 11 blogs that have less than 200 followers each.  Provide them with 11 questions or have them answer the questions above.
4. Let your nominees know they've been nominated and provide them with a link back to your post so that they can accept.
5. Send your nominator a link to your post so s/he can learn more about you as well.  (You can just put your post link in the comments below).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Five for Friday {Linky Party}
I am so excited to be linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!  I always love reading these posts on everyone's blogs and now it is my turn to get in on the action.

So here it goes...
 We have been working so hard on informative writing in my classroom and the students have done such a great job!  

We started off by introducing informative writing using the are, can, have layout (the kids LOVE this).  Here is the organizer that we used - click on the picture to download a few different options of the organizer.

We spent a lot of time working on brainstorming.  When the students had that down, we moved on to adding details...which started off like pulling teeth slow.  It took a lot of modeling to help the students understand that the detail had to actually give more information about the sentence it was connected to.  After weeks of modeling and practicing we were finally ready to try it out on our pumpkin writing.  And I am thrilled to say that they did a great job!  Here are a few of the writings:

(I forgot to take a picture of the second page if their writing ran over!  Oops...)

I am so proud of them and how well they did on these!  I can't wait to see how their writing continues to improve throughout the year.

This one goes with the pumpkin writing.  A first grade writing wouldn't be complete without a craft!!

We used small orange paper squares and covered a paper plate to make it look like a pumpkin.  Then, I gave each student a small piece of brown and green paper and they made a stem and leaves.  I love how each one is unique!  It was amazing to watch how carefully they worked on these.  When I modeled it for them, I just glued the orange squares on the paper plate haphazardly...not the students!  They were so meticulous about it - it was cute to watch (:  I think it brightened up our little hallway.

This one is a random 'ah-ha' moment.  

My husband and I love to play games - board games, card games, word games - you name it and we play it.  One of our favorite games is Phase 10.
Something that we always struggled with was keeping track of what phase we were on.  Until now.  Enter the paperclip tracker.  Yep, it is as easy as that!  We put a paperclip on each card and now we can just slide it down to keep track of what phase we are on.  (By the way I won last night!)

I can't believe that it is almost Halloween!

I love decorating for holidays and we started putting up our Halloween decor this weekend.  Our neighbor had a Halloween party last weekend and she had spiderwebs on all of her picture frames.  I loved how it looked (and how easy it was) so I stole the idea for my own house.

We have only lived in our house for three years, so I do not have very many decorations, but it is fun to add a little bit every year (especially when I am able to save so much at the sales afterwards).

This is something new that I have been working on...and I can't wait to share it with you (and get some feedback)!

There are so many great interactive notebooks available.  I use them weekly and my kids love them!  I am even in the process of making some of my own.  But as much as I absolutely love interactive notebooks, sometimes I just need something quick and easy.  So I created a phonics booklet.  Each page is a quick activity that allows the students to work with the phonics skill.  The students could do one page each day or they could complete the booklet it one sitting.  

Here is what it looks like:

There are 10 pages for the students to complete.  Each page has a different activity that corresponds with the phonics skill.  Here are some close ups of a few of the pages:

Here are all of the pages that are included in the book.

I would love to hear your feedback!  My goal is to have all of the short vowel phonics booklets completed by the end of the month. 

There is a peek at all of the random things from the week - enjoy your Friday!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reading Centers

Reading is one of my favorite things to teach in first grade.  I love the 90 minute reading block that we have everyday and I love how independent the students are during this time.  One of the things that helps reading run so smoothly is that the students have a strong understanding of the routine and the centers.  Another thing that I love about the centers that I use is that it takes about 2 minutes to set each one up.  I absolutely adore all of the cute centers that people use in their classrooms, but where do they find the time to prep all of those centers?  I wanted to take the time today to tell you about three of the centers that we use at the beginning of the year that the students are able to complete independently and that are easy for teachers to prepare.

Chalkboard Center
Yep, all of our first grade classrooms have a chalkboard.  We have all the upgrades in our rooms: whiteboards, document cameras, projectors, desktops, wireless internet, laptops for each teacher...and a chalkboard.  For the first two years I was there I never knew what to do with it, so I just covered it with paper and used it as another bulletin board.  Then, I decided to use it as a center - and it has been my students' favorite center every year since!  You would not need a chalkboard to use this center - just any magnetic surface (or even a small pocket chart would work).

I use the chalkboard center as a phonics/spelling center.  If the phonics/spelling skill for the week is short a, that is what the students will work on at the center.  In the demographic that I work with, many of the students do not practice their spelling words at home.  This center gives the students practice reading the words, spelling the words, writing the words and discovering patterns between the words.

At the center the students need four things:
1) the pictures
2) the words
3) magnetic letters
4) chalk (or any writing material that would work for the board you are using)

The students put up the pictures, put the matching word next to each picture, spell the word using magnetic letters and then write each word using chalk.  Here is what the finished product looks like:
Isn't it precious?
The students love this center!

I also have an accountability sheet that they complete afterwards.  I put it in a sheet protector and the students use a dry erase marker to fill it out - this just helps me save paper.

Here is what the center looked like when he was all finished:

You can grab this center by clicking on the link at the end of this post.
Right now I only have it made for short vowels and blends, but I will update it as I finish the others!

Writing Center 
At the beginning of the year many of our students struggle with writing a sentence.  Because of that, it makes it hard to have a successful writing center where students can work independently for 20-25 minutes.  So for the first few weeks of writing center I use it as a handwriting practice center.  

 The students love this center and it helps with their handwriting!  They trace the word three times and then write it by themselves in the box.  Then, they trace a sentence that uses the word and write it independently in the box.  The words on these pages are all high frequency words from our reading series.  This center is the same every week, all that changes are the words and the sentences.

I let the students use one marker for this center - it helps them stay interested, it helps them to slow down and it helps them see what they are writing.

You can grab these centers (for free!) by clicking on the link below:

Pocket Chart Center
I love this center!  It really helps the students listen to the patterns in the words.  I use this center as a review center - so if we worked on short a last week, that is what the students will be working with at the pocket chart center this week.  

Here is how it works:
The students put up the header cards.  Then, they sort the pictures under the corresponding header.  For their accountability sheet (which I also put in a sheet protector), they have to use what they know about the patterns to spell the words and use three of the words in a sentence.

Of course I forgot to take a picture of this here it is on my living room floor:

Click on the picture below to grab the pack with the chalkboard center and pocket chart center.
Again, at this point I only have the short vowels and blends made, but I will update it when I finish the others.

What centers do you use in your classroom that your students love?  I would love to hear about them!

Friday, October 3, 2014

October Currently

I feel like I dropped off the face of the Earth!  This is my first year blogging and I didn't realize how hard it actually is.  Whether it is finding a topic to write about or finding the time to actually do it - I just end up putting it here I am a month later with the perfect post to fill you in.

I am linkin' up with Farley over at Oh Boy 4th Grade for her CURRENTLY post.

Here's what's up with me currently in October (where did September go!?!?!)

I am currently listening to Remedy - the newest album by Old Crow Medicine Show.  Ever since moving to Tennessee I have fallen in love with blue grass music and this band is my absolute favorite.

They sing "Wagon Wheel" which was our first dance at my wedding!  And my absolute favorite part about this album is that it is available on vinyl.  So I just put it on the record player and listen to it every chance I get.

I found curtains for my living room - Halleluiah!  It has only been 3 years since I have moved into this house - but I have finally found curtains!  We painted the family room Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore and I found curtains on that match perfectly!  I ordered one just to be sure, loved it, and ordered three more.  Now we are just waiting for them to get here so we can hang them.  Here is the picture from the website (although the wall color is similar to mine!)
As I said in the beginning of my post...this whole blogging thing has been hard for me to get into.  I love the connections I have been making and I really do like posting about what we are doing.  It is just hard to figure out exactly what to post about - and it is also hard to find out how to connect with a lot of people.  I would love suggestions in this area if you have any!!

One of my all-time favorite things about the school district that I work in is fall break.  Yep, that's right - a whole week off in fall!  I have one more week of school and then I am on fall break.  Yay!!!!  We usually go somewhere, but this year we are going to hang curtains, look for a kitchen back splash, build shelves in an unused closet and hang pictures above the couch.  Oh and I forgot to mention...absolutely no thinking about school.  I can't wait!

I guess this could also be more of a "looking forward to" because Monday is our two year anniversary.  This school year has been so busy and my hubby is doing his masters on Saturdays, so I feel like I never see him - this will be a much needed night together.  Plus - I can't wait to give him his gift.  We are doing the traditional anniversary gifts and year two is cotton...I found the gift on and it is so cute (hopefully he thinks so to!).   I will have to share it with you after Monday because I don't want to chance him seeing it (:

Trick or Treat?
Everything in my store is on sale this weekend!!  Enjoy (: