Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Using Hand Signals in the Classroom

Hey everyone!  Happy Hump Day!  This morning I posted all about how I use hand signals to effectively manage my first graders!  Hop on over to A Classy Collaboration to check it out!  You can also snag a freebie while you're there!  Just click the button below!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Writing Bundle Update!

Hi everyone!  Happy weekend!  I'm writing to let you know that I updated my Writing Bundle.  I completely updated the "Holiday How-to Writing."  I also updated some posters in the other units. You'll also find a free writing pack {Seasonal Words} now included!  For those of you that don't have this, you can check it out below by clicking the cover.  It's a year's worth of writing workshop lessons, printables, posters, and paper templates.  This was compiled with my knowledge of writing in the primary grades and 11 years worth of experience tweaking the workshop in my 1st grade classroom.  It's appropriate for grades k-2.  Enjoy!

Below are some previews of a few of the packs included in the bundle:


Monday, October 20, 2014

Simple CvC Activities

I like to always have a CvC center included each week--especially at the beginning of the year.  I created some CvC flash cards to use for centers as well as instruction.  Below are some ideas for how to use these in your room!

Magna Doodle Practice-Put out a stack {or all} of the cards with some magna doodles and let kids practice writing the words!  This has been a fun center in my room!  I have large and small magna doodles.  I like to use the large for this because I ask the students to write each word 4 times.  To check out magna doodles online, click HERE.

Races-I do these in guided reading a lot.  Hold up a card, and the first person to correctly decode it gets to keep it!  Winner has the most cards at the end!  The kids get obsessed with this game!  Great practice!

Spin-a-Vowel-Put a stack of the cards out, face up.  Students take turns spinning a vowel spinner and selecting a card that matches the vowel they spun.  They must read the word and make up a sentence with it.  They can keep the card if they stretch it correctly.  To snag a spinner, just click HERE.

"Secret Password"-Put the cards on a ring and ask each child to read one of the words as they enter the classroom in the morning.  I like to flip to a new word for each child so they aren't just copying what the child in front of them said.

These are just a few ways I use my cards.  I also have sight word and silent e flashcards.  How would you use them?  To snag these cards, click below!  There are 66 pages included, with 4 words to a page!  


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Game Pieces Organization: A Bright Idea

Happppppy Saturday!  It's time, it's time!  Another Bright Idea Blog Hop!  I just love this hop!  So many great and simple ideas!  Today my idea is about organizing game pieces!  We play games constantly in my 1st grade classroom, so I like to keep a lot of different dice and game pawns on hand.  I found some craft boxes and new they'd be the perfect fit for the pawns and dice!  I sorted all of my goodies and put them in the little compartments.  Whenever we play a game, I just break out the box and distribute the materials quickly and efficiently to my kids!  Easy peasy!  *The boxes were found at Hobby Lobby for super cheap PLUS I used a coupon b/c that's how I roll!

If you liked this tip, please consider following me via social media below!


To check out other bright ideas, please look down!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Daily Schedule: The AFTERNOON

Hey ya'll!  Or "hey everyone!"  Not sure why I suddenly felt the urge to talk like I'm from down South.  Because I'm not.  I'm from the Mid-West.  Where we don't say "ya'll."  Anyhow, hi!  I'm back today to share the afternoon portion of my daily schedule!  Our afternoon is short!  So this is going to be a short post.

So we get back from recess around 12:25.  I am lucky to have a sink and drinking fountain IN MY ROOM {holla!} so the kids take a quick drink and then meet me at the rug for...........JUNIE B. JONES!  I am obsessed with Junie B.  My cooperating teacher used to read it every day after recess and I've been doing the same for 11 years!  I think I mostly have all of the books memorized BUT I still crack up with the kids each time I re-read them!  I have multiple copies of all the books.  Usually when second quarter hits, I'll draw names when I introduce a new book.  The student's names that I pick are the ones who get to "hold" and "follow along" {I use that term loosely} with ME while I am reading aloud.  They LOVE this!  They feel very important.  They also get to hold the books up and show the pictures.  So I read 1 chapter a day and we laugh together at Junie B's ridiculousness.  We predict what she'll get into in the next chapter, based on it's title.  Junie B. is one of my favorite parts of the day!  If you've never read/seen the books, you should check them out!  *Junie B. doesn't always speak in proper grammatical form, so there are some haters out there.  Everything in our life doesn't have to be about Common Core, does it?!  Check out all of Junie B.'s books by clicking the pic below!

After Junie B. we move into Math.  I start by reviewing an old skill that we learned the days/week prior.  Sometimes it's a fun game and sometimes it's just some quick and dirty counting/oral activities.  Then I introduce my lesson, do some direct teaching.  We practice in our GO MATH journals and finally plan a game to seal what we've just learned.  You can check out some addition Math lessons I've done recently by clicking HERE and HERE.  I am working on starting Math tubs soon, but we keep getting all kinds of intervention support help, so I am going to have to figure out how to fit them in again this year.

Once Math is over, it's time for silent reading.  Each Friday, the kids go "Book Shopping" in the classroom library.  They select 4 books from the library that they'd like to have for the week.  *To stat the year, I only let them shop from the top shelf of my library.  We recently added the middle shelf and in a few weeks, the bottom shelf will be available, as well.  I do this so that they learn how to put the books back in the correct spots.  I tell them that if the library is not taken care of, I will shut sections of it down.  Seems to help keep them responsible and organized!  They keep their books in gallon ziplock bags with their names on them.  They store the bags in their desks.  Every day at 1:20, they take our their books and find a quiet spot to sit and read.  They are allowed to read with friends as long as they are: looking at books, reading books, or talking about books.  If it gets too loud or they get too silly with their friends, back to the desks they go.  Silent reading is a nice way to end the day.  The kids are pretty calm and have some freedom.  It allows me to run my guided reading groups.  Do I meet with every child every day?  Heck no!  Do the kids meet with someone daily? Yes.  It's also our intervention time, so kids are getting pulled for various groups.  I typically have no more than 15 kids in my room during this time, so it's ideal for guided reading.

Silent reading lasts for 20-25 minutes.  After it's over, we pack up and sit quietly at our desks.  I'll usually put on a Scholastic picture book DVD {love these!} for the last 10 minutes of class to keep everyone in their seats and quiet.  We have to do bus and car rider duty and I don't like my kids up and all over the room during dismissal.  The DVD does the trick!  It usually takes us a couple weeks to get through an entire DVD.

So there you have it.  Our afternoon in a nutshell!  What questions do you have?



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Daily Schedule: The MORNING

I've been asked by several people lately what my daily schedule looks like so I thought I'd dedicate two posts to it!  Beware: this is a long one, so grab a cup of coffee and brace yourself for some reading!  Today I'm sharing how my morning goes.  I'll start by saying that my day begins at 8:00 and is ends at 2:00.  The day is short, and I do have to prioritize and keep a tight schedule.  Most of my morning subjects are broken into 30-35 minute blocks.

So every day, the kids come in, get unpacked, take out their data binders for me to check their weekly assignment sheet.  As I'm floating around checking, they are turning in their homework and getting started on their morning work.  For two years now, I've been using Kelley's {Teacher Idea Factory} Good Morning Work.  I love how each day for several days, the pages follow the same format.  I only have to explain the new skills on the first day.  I don't start this right we are currently working out of the August/September packs.  I rotate back and forth between a week of Math morning work and a week of Reading morning work.  The skills she's included are very appropriate for the time of year and are excellent spiral review as the year progresses.


At 8:20, my kids rush off to specials for 30 minutes.  It's pretty insane getting them unpacked and out the door in 20 minutes those first few weeks of school, but now we've got it down pact!  I've had these early specials for a few years now and at first I didn't like it.  I've grown to love it because it allows me to have some wiggle room the night before.  For example, if I have to rush out for an appointment or something, I can count on my specials the next morning to get things ready for the day that I may not have had time for.  I'm also always in a constant rush in the mornings because I go to the gym before school, so I a lot of times will make my breakfast during my specials.

When the kids return from specials, we go over our morning work together on the projector.  Even if they finish early, they have to have their papers out and ready while we are going over the answers.  I invite kids to the board to write the answers with EXPO markers and that seems to hold everyone's attention!

After morning work, we move straight into Writing Workshop.  I like to do it first because the kids are usually ready to learn and very focused right after specials.  I begin with a mini-lesson {about 5-7 minutes}.  Then I allow the kids about 20 minutes of independent writing, where I have a small group at the table for conferencing.  At the end, I select 2-3 students to share what they worked on that day. Writing lasts about 30-35 minutes.

After Writing, we take some sort of a break.  Usually a Just Dance Kids or a silly game that I made
up.  Then, it's time for Phonics!  I typically focus on a few word families or word parts each week. We do activities to go along with them throughout the week.  This includes a poem, many read-alouds, games, and worksheets.  I gather resources from all over but one constant I use each week are my "Word Families" and "Chunking Words" packs.  This block lasts about 30 minutes.


Next up is Reading.  I do not use a Reading series.  I use picture books and develop activities around them to meet the standards.  I love having flexibility to create fun and meaningful lessons around picture books!  I use a lot of my graphic organizers with my read alouds.  Each lesson typically includes a read aloud or re-reading, a discussion/comprehension questions, a Brain Pop video clip, and a project or worksheet.  Last week, we did The Little Green Witch.  Click here to see how I used the book in class.  A few weeks ago we learned about characters and setting and did a fun ending project to go with it.  Click here to see that.  The reading block lasts about 30-35 minutes.  Reading is when I fit in holidays/Social Studies activities.

Now it's time for Literacy centers.  If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I make my literacy centers fun and engaging but also very appropriate for students to work on them independently.  It's a nice break for kids after a jam packed morning!  I have 6 centers.  4 are activity centers, 1 is the computer center, and 1 is the listening center.  I keep my centers organized on the chart shown below.  Kids visit ONE center per day.  Every day after school, I rotate the icon down on the pocket chart.  Every 6 days I switch out my centers.  I use a variety of materials and games for centers, but I mostly use things that I create myself.  Centers lasts for 20-25 minutes.  I float around and monitoring behaviors/assisting kids, etc.  I do not run reading groups during this time.  I've found it's just too noisy {which is great-I want my kids having fun and interacting socially during centers} for me to run groups.

After centers, we move into Handwriting or Fix-it-Ups.  We do a page a day from a Handwriting book I found on TpT.  We also do the letter song by Have Fun Teaching to go with it.  We just started doing Fix-it-Ups.  These are great, daily sentence editing for kids.  We start out by finding the errors together.  Next I model writing the sentence correctly, and finally the kids re-write the sentence correctly and add an illustration to match.  They peer check one another's work.  This lasts about 20-25 minutes.

Now it's time for lunch prep!  So there you have it, our morning schedule.  If you are struggling with your schedule, just think about which areas are most important to you and which areas can be cut.  Do what is best for YOU and YOUR class.  You know what they need.  What questions do you have?  Please leave them below.  OR you can always email me at  I love helping people and answering all of your emails!

Come back tomorrow for a peek at our afternoon!