Monday, October 31, 2016

Pumpkin Stories

Hi All!

Some of my favorite fall read-alouds are about pumpkins. There are some really cute ones out there, too. It just makes me feel so happy and in the fall spirit to pull these out and put them on a shelf to read to my students.

Here are my most loved pumpkin stories, in no particular order.

 How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?
Every year, no matter what grade I have taught, my students have dug the seeds and guts out of pumpkins and counted the seeds. It's always the best (and messiest) day! How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin by Margaret McNamara is a wonderful book to read beforehand. It introduces the students to the idea of estimating and grouping the seeds by tens to count them. 

Here are my first graders making groups of ten to count their seeds.      
Just a tip: Always put down some type of paper so that you can just roll up the mess when you're finished. Makes clean up a jillion times easier. I promise!
 Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins
Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins by Dianne Ochiltree is a quick, fun read. Whenever I read this one, I always stop and allow the students to make predictions. They're usually right about what will happen, but they get so excited when I turn the page and they realize they were correct. Sometimes I copy pictures from the book (a scanner and color printer are great for this) and leave the pictures at a fall writing center. The students can choose a picture to write about. Some choices for writing prompts are:
  • write descriptively about what is happening in the picture
  • tell what will happen next
  • make up your own story about what is happening in the picture
  • write questions about the picture
 How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow?
As long as we're talking about writing, How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? by Wendell Minor is a fabulous read aloud to discuss vocabulary such as immense, stupendous, and astronomical. It also encourages students to think creatively and imagine the possibilities of having an enormous pumpkin. I even have the CD version so that students can listen again at a listening center.
 How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? Writing Activity
This writing activity can be found on my TpT store, HERE, or by clicking the picture above. It includes:
  • primary lined paper with space for drawing
  • straight lined paper with space for drawing
  • straight lined paper
  • three sentence starters
  • story vocabulary cards
I like to put the sentence starters and vocabulary in a pocket chart to keep displayed while students are writing.
Chumpkin by Lisa Funari Willever is one of my all time favorite pumpkin stories. I like it because it rhymes and the illustrations are bright and colorful. Poor Chumpkin is so sad that none of the children at the pumpkin patch are picking him and he thinks its because he is too big. In this story, students need to have an understanding of picture clues and be able to interpret the text to figure out how Chumpkin is feeling. Because of this, I like to give my students a story map to complete after we read the story. It's a great way to practice retelling and to assess whether or not everyone followed along with the story.
 Pumpkin Story Map
This story map can really be used with any pumpkin story. You can find it in my TpT store by clicking the picture above, or HERE.
And finally, The Littlest Pumpkin by R.A. Herman.
I always read this story after Chumpkin because it is so similar. The difference is that it is about the smallest pumpkin in the patch instead of the biggest. This lends itself to a compare/contrast discussion. If you're feeling up to it, you can even whip out a Venn diagram and go at it. I'm sure you have one of those somewhere.

I really love pumpkin season! What are some of your favorite pumpkin stories?

Best Wishes!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Love the Earth

Celebrate Earth Day
April 22nd
Teaching little ones about the Earth is very important to me.  I want my students to understand that there are ways to take care of the Earth to make sure it is always here for us. Every year I make sure to do something for Earth Day. This year I was also looking for my class to create something so that I could take down the penguins that were still hanging in the back of the room.

On day one of our craftivity, we met at the carpet and read Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel.

I like it because it rhymes, while also telling ways to take care of the Earth. The description from the IDW Publishing website is: Michael Recycle tells the adventures of a young superhero whose power allows him to teach people about recycling. After cleaning up a town, the people declare: ‘To Michael Recycle! The green-caped crusader, our super-green hero, the planet’s new saviour!’

After the read-aloud, kiddos went back to their seats and began ripping paper to glue onto an image of the Earth in front of a heart.
I just love ripped paper activities! It take such concentration to rip the paper just right and it builds fine motor skills.

The next day, we met at the carpet again in front of the white board. We brainstormed all the ways we knew to love the Earth.
Then, everyone went back to their seats and began writing about one way to love the Earth.

Here are just a few samples:
 I will love the Earth by cleaning up after myself. That will keep the Earth clean. And animals will not get sick. And not get stuck in junk.

I will love the Earth by picking up garbage to keep the Earth clean.

 I will love the Earth by cleaning up beaches. Cleaning up beaches will help the animals that live on the beaches.

 I will love the Earth by planting trees. This is good because the trees clean the air from smoke.

I displayed them on a bulletin board and titled it We Love the Earth. (It's a small board. There are more taped to the side that didn't fit in the photo. The days of 16 students are in my past).
Check out my TpT store {HERE} to find the writing template.

Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fact Fluency Data Collection

Hi All!

I don't know about you, but I have found RTI to be a little overwhelming. I completely see the value in it, and I wholeheartedly believe in working with children at their levels of readiness. This year, however, I am struggling with finding the time for the data collection needed and the amount of paperwork it takes to refer a child to the RTI team. I do think it's because I am in a new school, so everything I'm doing is all new to me. That learning curve is a struggle all on it's own.

So, what am I doing to get the information I need on the kiddos in my class and to show their progress (or lack of)?

Well, for starters, I have been tracking their addition fact fluency. Burns (2005), states from his findings that, "In order to be fluent, a child should be able to automatically compute mathematical facts" (p. 238). This means being able to solve math problems quickly. The ability to quickly recall basic math facts will tremendously help young learners as they progress through the upper grades. "Students who can respond to basic math facts accurately, rapidly, and with little effort (sometimes referred to as fluency and/or automaticity) may be more likely to have success developing advanced math skills" (Miller, Skinner, Gibby, Gaylon, & Meadows-Allen, 2011, p. 203).
One way I assess my students' fact fluency is through individual timed tests. 

Right now we are still working on addition fluency. I printed out cards for 0 facts - 9 facts and sorted them into baggies. There are 19 facts per baggie. I started all of my students on 0 facts. As they master a set, they will move to the next set until they master all 9 facts. Afterwards, they will move to subtraction and work from there.

Here is how it works: I set all 19 cards on my table for whichever fact a student is working on mastering, side-by-side, face up. I call one student over to the table. I set a timer for 1 minute (that's just about 3 seconds per fact). Students push the facts they know and say the answer aloud. If they answer incorrectly, I just push the card back into the set of the facts they are still answering so that they can try again.
At the end of  a minute, students count how many they answered correctly. The goal is to beat the amount they got correct the last time. At this young age, it also helps to build on and master one-to-one correspondence.

Then, they graph the amount. Since they are the ones doing the graphing, they are seeing just how much they are progressing each time. It is such a great motivator for them and helps them to set their own goals, making them more aware of their own learning (a big deal on the teacher evaluation side of things).

I love this because it really only takes a minute to do this assessment and I have math data for RTI. I fit it in whenever I can.

You can download the graph by clicking {HERE}.

What are some things you do in your class to build fact fluency?

Best Wishes!
Burns, M.K. (2005). Using incremental rehearsal to increase fluency of single-digit multiplication facts with children identified as learning disabled in mathematics computation. Education & Treatment of Children, 28(3), 237-249

Miller, K.C, Skinner, C.H., Gibby, L., Gaylon, C.H., Meadows-Allen, S. (2011). Evaluating generalization of addition-fact fluency using the taped-problems procedure in a second grade classroom. Journal of Behavioral Education, 20(3), 203-220

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Year 2016

Well, hello everyone! Since my last post, I have been super busy. Life can really be crazy sometimes... in a good way.

I finally landed a first grade position at an elementary school a few towns over. My drive is about 15-20 minutes and I don't have to go on any highways. Oh yeah! If you've ever traveled through Connecticut than you know this is a blessing. Traffic can be horrendous around here.

Even though I taught first grade before, learning a new school and how things go is tricky. It takes A LOT of time. Luckily my grade level partners are fabulous and very understanding of my not-knowing of things. I recently found out that I am not even on one of the email lists.

I know, right?

After not knowing what one of my partners was talking about (for about the hundredth time), she pulled up the email and searched the contact list. Yup, I was not on it. No wonder I never knew anything when people would talk.

So, besides being new and trying my best to keep it cool, I have a new house. Man! Houses are A LOT of work, too. I've always rented previous to this and didn't really know that all my weekends and free time would be spent going to home improvement stores, unpacking endless boxes (Why do I have SO MUCH!?), trying to decide on furniture and curtains (Don't even get me started on the curtains. We are still curtainless.), and being supportive of the never ending list of projects my husband finds to consume his time. There is always something, and money just flies out the windows (all of them because... whoah!)

And of course there's Netflix. I have to admit that I can get drawn in pretty easily. My recent obsessions have been Pretty Little Liars, Heart of Dixie, Once Upon a Time, and Mad Men. I'm still on the Man Men kick.

Between all of this, I am in love with my class. They are the sweetest little kiddos I could ask for. I am so thankful to have such a great group amidst all this newness. They are a little needy, but so much fun. We laugh all the time.  

Now that I've updated you on my life, I'd like to leave you with a little bit of what we've been working on this past week. 

With the new year upon us, I felt it only right to share with my little firsties the importance of setting goals. I only just came across this video from Kid President about resolutions. I very much wish I had seen it BEFORE writing goals with my class. Oh well, there's always next year, right?

He's so great, isn't he? Who doesn't love Kid President?

What I did instead was share with my class what my goals for the new year are. I set a goal for home: to do my laundry and put it away while it is manageable so that I don't waste a whole Saturday on laundry. My goal for school: to be more organized with my lesson planning so that I don't have to stay at school so long after school hours. 

Then, I had them share some goals that they have for home and school. They had wonderful ideas. I wish I could remember some to share with you. I was so proud. Yay! Then, right before they were sent to their seats to get writing, one little guy shared that he wanted to play all the video games in the world. Ok... I think he was trying to be goofy so I just ignored it. Well, don't you know that most of the boys then wrote that their home goal was to play video games. 


As they were writing and I was walking around, I would say something along the line of, "Hmm... is that going to make you a better person at home?"

Of course no one changed it and many of their goals have to do with playing Wii or PlayStation. Lesson learned for sure. Maybe Kid President would've helped them have other ideas.

Here's a little girlie who had the right idea. Her home goal is "cleaning up my bedroom" and her school goal is "getting better at math". She used the template I created to make a mobile with her goals. On one side she wrote the goal and on the other side she drew a picture.
I love the detail she put around the border, too. What a creative soul!

On my end, I think... maybe the circles could have been a little bigger. Yeah, that would be nice. And, I wish I had some pretty string to use instead of old yarn I had laying around. 

No matter, though. The kiddos wrote goals and that's what's important to me. Goal setting is a great motivator and life skill for young children. It encourages them to self assess  :)

You can snag the free download {HERE} for your goal setting template. 


Best Wishes!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Color Words {FREEBIE}

Hey there folks!

I know many of you are either beginning school or getting ready. Good luck to you! I have to say... I'm a little jealous. As much as I am enjoying the time off and the chance to unpack and set up my new house at my leisure, I'm starting to feel the itch to set up a classroom and get ready myself. Unfortunately for me, I haven't yet gotten a job in my new state. My fingers are crossed that something happens for me this month!

Anyway, as I was unpacking clothes and organizing my closet, I was thinking about school. I was remembering how last year at this time I was in a little panic thinking about how I was going to teach 1st grade for the first time ever. I didn't have very much, and there weren't any teacher stores to walk around in and get inspiration. I was super excited but had no idea where to begin. So, I began reading blogs, searching Pinterest, and creating.

One of the first things I made was color word names. Throughout the year I realized this was one of the best resources I had in my classroom. My little kiddos used them A LOT.

Here is kind of what they looked like displayed in my room. It's not the best picture because it wasn't originally intended to be a picture of the color words. You get the idea though, right?
I printed and laminated them, then cut them out individually. These were great to have during reading and writing. I loved them because they were so useful and really helped the kiddos to be independent.

So, with the beginning of the school year here, or around the bend, I wanted to share them with you. I did add words with  black background too. If you download the PDF, both styles are included and you can choose which set to print. The colors included are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, pink, and white.

Color words with white background.
Color words with black background.
Click {HERE} to take you to the Color Words download in my TpT shop. FYI - I also made them with all lowercase letters, too. They are included in the same download so that you can decide which you like best.


Best Wishes!