Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Yesterday was our last day before Christmas Break. I have to say I was relieved. Both my 2 year old and myself came down with walking pneumonia, so I'm quite ready for a break. Looks like we may have been trading it back and forth since Thanksgiving. I'm just glad for modern medicine and that my baby is starting to act like his crazy self again.

Anyway, feeling better and ready to bake cookies, wrap presents, and enjoy a bit of holiday fun. I won't be able to go 90 to nothing like I sometimes do, but I will be able to savor and enjoy. I think it will be a nice change of pace.

I did spread a bit of holiday spirit with my little firsties before getting sick. I thought I might share some of what we were able to get done.

Every year the first grade does Holidays Around the World as a way to combine Social Studies and Christmas fun. This year we revamped our unit with a little help from Rachelle Smith from What the Teacher Wants and Traci Clausen from Dragonflies in First. I purchased their holiday packets and really enjoyed how easy it made everything. I was able to streamline the unit, add a bit of assessment, and move in a few new craft ideas and projects. The students really enjoyed learning about how Christmas and other holidays were celebrated on other continents. Click below to check these packets out for yourself.

Along with studying about winter holidays, we also did a bit of writing. We took this book:

and a bit of inspiration from Nancy VandenBerge at First Grade Wow and practiced our narrative writing skills by writing about what would happen "If you take me to the movies...".

They also practiced their math skills by using geometry to show the symmetry of a Christmas tree and to make some very cute reindeer. I had them take their reindeer creation one step further by writing about the shapes they used to build it.

Of course, our holiday unit isn't complete without Reindeer Food. The students love this extra touch. We start out by talking about how most of us live out in the country and how there are not many street lights to shine on our front lawns. Then I tell them at my house we have a tradition of making Reindeer Food to solve that problem. The glitter in the food lights up the lawn for Santa, and the reindeer get to have a little treat while they wait for the big guy. It's a win all the way around. They have such a great time making the special food for Santa's reindeer and they are very serious about it. This is important stuff and don't want to mess it up!

Click the picture below to grab your own.

Now, off to enjoy quality time with my favorite bunch of people. Have a wonderful holiday!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy (achoo!, cough!, cough!, ugh!) Thanksgiving!

Before I lost the chance I wanted to link up to A Year of May First: Stuffed with Thankful Thought Linky Party.
But first a little tale...Our family started Thanksgiving with a round of colds that started last weekend with me and a 101 fever that ended up triggering my asthma and knocked me on my proverbial you know what! Then just when I thought I couldn't get feel worse, my oldest daughter wakes ups Tuesday morning with the same symptoms and my youngest son was sounding congested too. Thankfully the middle girl was still good, so she had to hold the fort down at school alone on the last day. Let me add that Daddy was only half off the hook. He was taking meds to fight off pneumonia...yes coughing and stuffy. Finally Wednesday, oldest is feeling better, youngest is getting there, and daddy's medicine is kicking in nicely, but I was much worse. It took another call to the doctor and some more meds to get me feeling like I was headed on the road to better.

I know, I know you are saying this is a HAPPY Thanksgiving linky party. This doesn't sound happy!!

Don't despair. Here it comes...

  1. I'm soooo thankful for modern medicine. My family always jokes around about living during the pioneer days. Would we be the first ones thrown off the wagon train? Modern medicine is a true blessing and if you have children that blessing just grows.
  2. I'm thankful that this is Thanksgiving Break and that my family has the week to  rest and get better. It is so hard making sub plans when you are sick. I'm so thankful I didn't have to or had to choose between kids and work.
  3. I'm thankful that my husband is a dairy farmer and his work is at his home so he could help me out, especially when I couldn't get out of bed.
  4. I'm thankful for girls who are old enough and willing to help out with Little Man when they know mommy needs it. I'm so proud of them.
  5. Which leaves me with my last thankful thought, I'm so very thankful for my wonderful family. I truly have been blessed by them and am thankful everyday for them.
Now it is your turn. Link before the holidays are over!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reading Street Pumpkin Contraction Sort

Our school year is rolling right along with the seasons. As I was planning for "The Big Circle", our next story in our Reading Street Series, I thought....

"Hmmm, wouldn't it be nice if I had something fallish to do with this story."

So, I decided to whip something up.

We are covering contractions with not, am, and will. Contractions are tough at first, so I thought a sort would be perfect. Thanks to some great FREE clipart from Sear Bear's Kindergarten, A Turn to Learn, and Tales from Outside the Classroom it was a breeze to create. Click here or the picture to grab yours. I hope you enjoy it too!

Now, I need to get back to work and stop procrastinating. It is rainy, and nasty outside. I WANT to curl up and veg but I NEED to get some planning done. It is so hard being responsible. Oh well, let me grab a cup of coffee and get to work! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I've Been Booed!

Oh my! Busy, like crazy busy year! Can anyone else relate? I feel like teaching is jazzed up on too much caffeine, spinning out of control, and I'm holding on for dear life!! You know maybe I should just let go and watch it spin. I could take a breather and wait for it to slow down.

Hmmm...Thank goodness for this little fellow who should up with perfect timing from Owl Things First! I needed a little reminder of the fun of the season. Thank you!

Here are the rules:

1. Fall is election season and we have been talking about government leaders which of course led to a discussion about Duck, as in Duck for President.

My students loved reading about Duck and his adventurous journey to the White House, which we learned has 35 bathrooms and an indoor bowling alley. They loved it when he kissed the babies. I don't know why, they just thought it was funny.

I have to give a shout out to my husband and fellow blogger at The Udder Side. My husband spotted Duck on the farm one day, but thought nothing about it.

Click to go to the post about Duck on my husband's farm.

He had no idea that Duck had ulterior motives until he spotted this little treasure.

Click to go to the posts about Shirley Cow and read about her campaign race.
That's right...Shirley Cow is making a bid for President. My husband is writing a whole series of blogs about his cow Shirley running for President. I see some election fun and writing opportunities here. You have to check it out!

2. It's Fall and that means Halloween which means bats, spiders, pumpkins, and owls. We are going to read this book by Gail Gibbons. Then the kiddos are going to record one fact they learned on their own owl and put it on a display. Click below to grab one for yourself.


3. My next little gem is another book by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort that my teaching partner stumbled upon and has become my absolute favorite. You must get this book and the little freebie that goes with it (click on the pictures below) from Missy Gibbs. She also has an activity pack as well if you are interested. I know I am. My students LOVED the underpants and laughed every time I said the word.  

                           Dinosaurs Love Underpants "Underpants Writing Activity"  

4. Last but not least, I know its Halloween when Dunkin Doughnuts starts offering their Pumpkin cappuccinos and pumpkin doughnuts. This year they have Pumpkin Mocha and Pumpkin White Chocolate coffee flavors. I'm in heaven! You must try them.


Now to Boo! me some bloggers:


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where Is Your Habitat?

We have been studying animal habitats for the past 3 weeks and having a blast. There is something about children and animals. They love talking about them. A few items in our Science and Social Studies curriculum make me tilt my head in wonder, but studying animals in first grade is not one of them. This standard is a natural.

We started out by comparing and contrasting forest habitats and grassland habitats. There is a great site called Africam that lets students view animals live! They love it. I used it one year and had to leave it on all day for them. Something might never know. You can get to it by clicking on the picture below.

After that we had some fun creating forest habitats using the resources from Mrs. Wheat's Forest and Habitat unit. You can click the picture to go check it out.

 After studying about the different animals and their adaptations, we created a forest habitat on one of the boards in my room.

Forest Habitat

 I loved the results so much, that I just had to first thank my teaching partner for the great find, and then used her desert habitat unit when we studied the arctic and desert habitats. Click on the picture to check this one out.

After visiting Brainpop Jr. to explore the arctic habitat, we used Mrs. Wheat's unit to study desert animals and their adaptations. Then we created cactus with the help of toothpicks and tissue paper and labeled them.

They even told me that cacti have glochids that protect them from enemies and their roots spread to soak up more water when it rains. Awesome! I had to put their thoughts above the board. We also did a little desert writing.

I was so impressed with their writing and the facts they remembered! Now we are studying ocean habitats. We started by reading A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. This book is a classic and a must! Using the activity suggestions from Erin Sample's Ocean Habitat-An Arts Integrated Science and Literacy Unit, we discussed the story and created our own little hermit crabs. You can go to Erin's unit by clicking on the picture below.

I thought the hermit crabs turned out great! I literally raided my big black cabinet and pulled out whatever looked like ocean material. Floral grass became seaweed, pink pom-poms became sea urchins, macaroni shells became snails, and glitter became lantern fish. The glitter was a big hit! Then we went over the adaptations for hermit crabs and they told me all about the shell, the pinchers and the protruding eyes (their favorite part).

Now we are ready to study whales using the story Amazing Whales! a common core text exemplar. If you click below you can go to Watch Know Learn to have the story read to the students. I love this site. Many of the text exemplars are available here.

We are going to wrap up our study of habitats with a visit to the aquarium. The students are super excited about this trip because it is our very first field trip of the year. We can't take very many anymore because of budget cut backs, so we appreciate every trip we get.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Am I Doing It Wrong?

As I celebrated Labor Day working on lesson plans and grading papers a question kept popping into my head: 

Am I doing it wrong???

When I say wrong, I mean planning, structuring, organizing, common core - time management. Let me explain with a sample of my "planning schedule" from last week.

During the Week
 Work Day is usually 7:30 - 5:00 so 9.5 hours
After school I plan after the kids go to bed so 1.5 - 2 hours
Friday, regular work day plus 4 hours

Saturday I visited family - an indulgence I know - so 4 hours
Sunday after church I put in 9 hours
Monday (Labor Day) I worked for 16 hours 
(I paid for the Saturday indulgence - usually I put in those hours on Saturday)

So to break it down - I spend 88.5 hours planning/teaching. If I assume 8 hours of sleep a night (ahhhh, a woman can dream) then that is 56 hours sleeping. That leaves me 23.5 hours a week to spend with my family and to eat.

So one day. Oh yeah, so that is why I don't sleep. I knew there was a good reason. My groggy mind just couldn't figure it out. Ha, ha!

This is why I asked my husband last night, "Am I doing it wrong?" (Whoa, ladies, out of the gutter, this is an educational blog!)

His advice was to ask the blogging community. Pretty good advice. So I'm asking you.

What is your time break down?
Am I doing it wrong?
Does your  planning time look similar?
Thematic planning? Does anyone do this? Does it help? How do you structure it? Does it change the way you plan to make it better or worse?
Can I get my time back OR do I need to put on my big girl panties and deal with it?

I would love to hear your thoughts because I fear I'm burning out and we're only 3 weeks in. Yikes! As a 12 year veteran I know the danger of that. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on this. Stress and time management are huge for teachers. I would love your advice.

Just to thank you for letting me pick your brain, here is something I made during that 88.5 hours. It is a Reading Response sheet for main idea. Thanks to Tracee Orman for the great frame! I hope you find it useful!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

School Days, School Days...

School days, school days,
Dear old golden rule days
Meetings, and messes, and lack of sleep,
So much to do it'll make you weep!

And so it begins. The pictures above are the horror I created as I tried to clean/set up my classroom between many meetings. As I was putting them together for the blog, I noticed my daughter - teeny, tiny in the background. I had to laugh. Like many of you I'm sure, I bring my children with me to work and throughout the day they get buried in the mess. Looks like she found a good spot to bury herself! She would never get away with that much computer time at home. She's a crafty one.

Well while the youngest daughter was locked in the computer corner, my oldest daughter decided to organize my BIG BLACK CABINET. It is the cabinet that houses everything that has no home, that is out of place, and that needs to belong. I wish I had a before picture of the cabinet and one of my daughter's face as she pulled Cheerios (for counting activities), scraps of paper (you never know), pretzels (hello...log cabins!), macaroni (I had to keep those; dried macaroni is so useful), goldfish (oceans, I don't need to explain), and other sundries from its depths. In the end, I thought she did a nice job. She works for Sonic Blasts if anyone is interested!

The rest of the room came together as well...eventually. It was a hard pull at the end. I was done around 8:00pm the night before school started. I heaved a sigh of relief as I snapped these pictures on the way out the door.

My AR board - compliments of The Teachers Cauldron
Sailing Through A.R. Pirate Theme
Part of my A.R. Library. There is a shelf like this on either side of my Promethean Board with  a display shelf in the middle for the books we are studying right now. I'm fairly proud of the shelves. They were ancient throw aways that I put contact paper and polka dot ribbon on to dress up. Turned out rather nice and saved me a bundle!

My computer center. You can see the Birthday Board back there. That is from the  Pirate-Themed  Classroom and Decor Organizational Pack from Rachel Parlett. I used it to deck out my room in pirates.

My Math Focus/Calendar wall. Again compliments go to  Pirate-Themed  Classroom and Decor Organizational Pack from Rachel Parlett.
My Morning Routine, Clip Chart, Daily Voyage, and Listening Anchors. I can't tell you how many times I have said...Listen like a Pirate. At the beginning of the week it was the happy "Arggh, we listening like pirates?" By the middle the week..."We need to listen like Pirates, please." At the end of the week..."Class, are we listening like pirates? Ears, feet, hands, and eyes, thank you. (In my head I'm thinking, "For crying out loud, sit still and listen! Whose idea was it to start school when it's still summer outside!!")
My room from the door. Not huge, but it works. I love the big window out to the courtyard. It us fun to watch the seasons unfold outside.