Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Round up that Bossy R!

We have begun working on r-controlled syllables in our class. We have already discussed r-controlled syllables to some extent as we encountered them in reading, but now our work with this skill is growing more precise. We will continue to revisit and review this skill throughout the remainder of the school year.

After reviewing r-controlled syllables, with a specific focus on -ir, -er, and -ur (these are the most challenging), we created our own circle maps. We usually just draw circle maps, but today we actually traced, cut, and glued the parts. The students really loved picking their colors and constructing the circle maps. Imagine that... kids, enjoying drawing, cutting, and glueing as opposed to just drawing a circle! It's really a shame, on my part, that it has taken me all year to incorporate such simple-but-fun details into this particular thinking map. I'll have to remember this a bit earlier in the school year next year...

I provided die-cut R's for the students to glue in the center of their circle maps. They added their own "bossy" above the R as well. Most of them chose to surround their "Bossy R" with the r-controlled syllables as well.

With their circle maps ready, then the students began a scavenger hunt for r-controlled words. They started with the AR books they are currently reading. Then, I let them "read the room" to find any additional r-controlled syllables. Overall, the activity was really simple in design, but it included a good variety of elements for the students to enjoy: basic art, reading, movement, etc. I also liked the fact that they had the chance to make most of the decisions about the final outcome for this little activity: they chose their own colors for the circle map, created their own design, decided which words belonged in the map, etc. 

The end results were pretty neat. It was interesting to see the different ways the students chose to organize their writing, even within circle maps.  

He said: "Mrs. Tally, will you send my picture to my mom? You can show the rest of the world after that."
Mom first. Then the world. You got it.  :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Get it Now: Free Common Core Ap!

It's true; Common Core is taking over teachers' lives everywhere. When you think about it that way, it only makes sense that we should all have immediate, finger-tip access to Common Core Standards at all times... agreed?

Okay, maybe not, but I am always a fan of a free ap, especially one that provides as much relevant information as this one! This ap organizes all standards according to grade level and content area. It's organized (thank goodness) and it's concise.

If you want to read more about it, simply click here: Free Common Core Ap. Otherwise, head on over to the ap store and download your free on-the-go Common Core standards database.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Trailers

So lately, I have become pretty obsessed with book trailers. Have book trailers been a common "thing" for a while now? Am I really that behind on the "cool stuff?" Regardless of their origin/popularity, I am just now beginning to follow and appreciate these book previews.

If you haven't experienced book trailers yet, this one will definitely jump-start your obsession:

Twitter is a GREAT source for accessing new book trailers, particularly if you follow HarperChildrens and Random House Kids .  Both of these consistently provide book trailers to preview their upcoming releases. I may just be a nerd, but I think these video snippets are phenomenal.

I think it would be awesome to incorporate book trailers, like these, into my classroom instruction. I think it would be easier to do in an upper elementary classroom since many of the trailers I see (or maybe just my favorite ones) would be more appropriate for older readers. Regardless, these would be great tools for reading motivation.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When you can't find what you need... Make it!

We are currently in the process of adopting a new common-core aligned math curriculum at our school.  This curriculum should be available for use next year. In the meantime, I am pulling math activities and tools from a variety of resources. However, this skill of decomposing numbers has frustrated me a bit. I couldn't decide which approach to use for teaching it, nor did I just run across any tools that I thought would really suit my instructional methods. So... I made my own. I am using this page as I begin my instruction on decomposing numbers.

Since we use thinking maps a lot at our school, I decided to base my instruction about decomposing numbers on a brace map model. In addition to this, the students use place value mats and base-ten blocks for a more hands-on approach with this skill.

First, we build the number with base ten blocks.

Then, we break the number down into tens and ones. The students document this on their "Decomposing Numbers" page as well. (This part is nothing new; we have been using base ten blocks and reviewing place value all year long.)

The students remove the tens as their first step in decomposing. Using the remaining amount of ones, we break this number down into a familiar addition fact. Again, the students document this on their "Decomposing Numbers" page.

At this point, we stop and focus on the way our brace map helps to break the numbers down. The students focus on the outermost numbers on their braces, and use those numbers to build the final addition sentence.

Again, this is just the beginning of my instruction with decomposing numbers. I thought it would be a good place to start since this process is the most logical in my mind. However, logic within my brain does not always mean it is the best way, so if you have any ideas, PLEASE feel free to share those with me! I would love to see any approaches other teachers have used to teach this skill.

If you think you could use method, I will gladly share my "Decomposing Numbers" page with you! Please feel free to e-mail me with a request for the file, and I will email it back to you as soon as possible. However, I will recommend that you use a MacBook for downloading/editing. The font type I used to create the page may not be compatible with Microsoft programs.

Hope this is helpful! :)


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An "Egg-cellent" Idea

I know, I know: that is quite a cheesy title there. I just couldn't resist... ;)

I stumbled upon this idea in the April/May edition of The Mailbox, and I instantly flagged it as an idea to use for a math station that focuses on missing addends. It's extremely easy to create, and it's a great seasonal activity to use up until Easter.

What you'll need... 
egg carton, plastic eggs, permanent marker.

What you'll do... 
Write a different addition problem on each of the 12 eggs. Then, write the answers in separate cups of the empty egg carton.

And, voila! You are finished! To use this station, students will put each egg in the correct cup of the carton. Then, students will write the full corresponding equation, with the missing addends included in their number sentences.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Teacher's Spring Break

The real glitz and glamor of spring break pretty much ends with the college years. For most of the working world, "spring break" is but a memory. For teachers, it is a much-needed milestone that enables us to take a few deep breaths and recharge for the last nine weeks of the school year.

I wish I could say that I missed my students dreadfully and thought about them constantly throughout the week. I think that's what a really amazing teacher would say. However, I know my kiddos. I know they are well-cared for and probably having a blast during their break. So I've cleared my mind of school-related agendas, and I've taken the opportunity to so all the things I never have time to do during a normal week.

Here are just a couple of my at-home projects this week. I have had way too much fun! (Such a nerd, I know.)

I have always loved the fabric letters at Anthropologie. Check them out here: Anthropologie Pinwale Alphabet. I admit that mine are not as impressive as the originals, but I thought they turned out pretty well for a do-it-yourself craft.

Another little project was a new wreath for our front door. I'm very excited about spring and summer, and I can't wait to decorate our front porch. I just couldn't resist beginning with this little detail. Not only that, but I had so much fun making this! (Again, nerd, I know.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Just for Humor

One of the most amazing parts of teaching is that children have such creative, fresh ideas and thoughts. One of the most challenging parts of teaching is that children have such creative, fresh ideas and thoughts. It's quite true that we, as adults, often have a way of saying things that holds meaning for us, but in the most basic terms, really does defy logic. No one is more qualified to bring this to our attention than a child. I wish I had a dime for every time I have asked a question and received an answer that, according to the way I phrased the question, is not entirely wrong. It's not the answer I wanted; but it is an answer to my question, nonetheless. When I came across this image, I could not help but appreciate the accuracy of these teacher-and-student exchanges.

Do you remember being a child and thinking that, sometimes, adults just didn't make sense? I remember thinking that. Sadly, I've crossed over to the side of life in which there's too much to understand to really make sense of the simple things anymore. Here enter the challenges of teaching first grade: understanding like an adult, but thinking like a child.

Hope you enjoy...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Recommended Reading

I just received the most recent Publisher's Weekly newsletter, and it features a preview for a book that I'm a little excited about. To be released April 23, House of Secrets appears to be a story worth considering. I realize that I'm a complete nerd, but I do enjoy middle-grade literature (I recently learned that this genre is beginning to pull away from the "young adult" label; did you know that?). Most of you readers, if you are honest, enjoy reading these "kid books" as well... But I won't begin that debate now.   ;)

If interested, you can read a free excerpt from House of Secrets online. Simply "like" their Facebook page, and a lengthy excerpt of the first thirteen chapters will be available to you for free. I just skimmed the first couple of chapters, and I think it's worth a deeper read. My initial impression is that the text revolves around a trio of comrades and an element of suspense similar to that of Harry Potter. The settings and background, however, make me think more along the lines of Bridge to Terabithia. Again, I could be completely mistaken -this is just a first glimpse, and I will definitely need to read more. Check it out yourself if any of that interests you!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Recipe for Success! (If you use your imagination...)

What you'll need: 
Peppermints (1 per student)
A dash of imagination

Disperse peppermints among students (one per child). Deny any claims that they are "just peppermints." Explain that these are special "smart pills," to be taken only when a little brain-boost is needed (before a test, before beginning a project, in the morning when you didn't eat enough breakfast, when a sore throat is interfering with your focus, etc.) Assure students that the smart pill will work just long enough for them to complete their "task."  

Realistically speaking, no, these are not actual "pills." You will not need a prescription for them, nor are they FDA-approved. No true medication or magic is involved. They are just peppermints. If you can't get past that reality, then this tactic isn't for you. However, if you feel a need to spice up your assessment procedures and, like me, want to see your students enjoy every aspect of your classroom (even those boring tests), then you might want to give this a try. The more you build it up -the grander your presentation- the more your students will really believe in your "smart pills." The neat thing about this is that some research supports the use of peppermint to enhance concentration and focus. In recent years, many teachers have adopted this peppermint-strategy. (Do a little google search if you don't believe me!)

For me, this was a way to make even a test a little magical for my students. Sure, there were skeptics among them. There always will be. However, even the skeptics took their smart pills. The best part was watching their little faces once those peppermints touched their tongues. One child looked up at me and whispered, "Mrs. Tally, I think it's already working!" Now that's a great confidence booster for that child, isn't it?!?

Question of the Day: "But Mrs. Tally, why does it say 'Mrs. Tally's Smart Pills'? They're for us to take!" Sadly, there was enough logic in that question to make me pause and think, Well, he has a point...

Monday, March 11, 2013

In this week's lesson plans...

It would be pretty hard to determine who was more excited about spring break: me or my students? We'll call it a tie, but I really think I would win. My week is full of kid-free to-do's, some of which pertain to the classroom. I'll definitely share those throughout the week. For anyone else on spring break, I hope your week kicks of with a TERRIFIC Monday!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Seussville Stations (Part 3)

Station 3: Create a Crazy Sock!

Children love artwork too much for me to pass up an opportunity to easily incorporate it into any lesson. So naturally, at this station, the students had the opportunity to create their own crazy socks. We provided colored pencils, stickers, glue, scissors, construction paper, and a sock template. Then, we turned them loose! The only rule was: "The crazier the sock, the better!" I'm sure I don't have to tell you how well they followed that rule! :)

"Let's see... what does this need now?"

Showing off their crazy socks.

The final products displayed on the clothesline! :)

Seussville Stations (Part 2)

Station 2: Create a Tongue Twister!

Our third station involved books, post-it notes, markers, and a huge circle map. I let the students get comfy in our reading corner with all the materials, and they went to work! Their goal was to create their own tongue twister in this station. However, they began by searching for their favorite tongue twister in Fox in Socks. Once they found a tongue twister they particularly loved, they wrote it on a post-it note and added it to the circle map. Then, they began creating their own tongue twisters. I provided word-family booklets for them to use if they got stumped on a word or sound. The booklets were great reference tools for some students, but for the most part, they were eager to create their tongue twisters on their own. I think they are feeling very inspired by Dr. Seuss this week! :)

At the end of this station, each student read his/her tongue twister aloud to the whole class. We all practiced repeating the phrases, which was a lot of fun and even a little challenging at times.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Seussville Stations (Part 1)

I decided to approach our week in Seussville by creating "Seussville Stations" in my classroom. The concept is the same as when using centers; I just changed the name to make it more appealing and "catchy" for the students. I thought it would be neat to create a post for each station so you could have a bit more insight into the activities.

Station 1: The race is on!

The concept for this station is simple: you start with a basket full of mismatched socks. The students take turns racing to see how many matches they can make in one minute. However, each student in the group has a role.

Student 1: Match-maker
Student 2: Score-keeper
Student 3: Timer
Student 4: "Judge" (This student checks to make sure all the pairs do indeed match and mixes them all up in the basket again after they have been counted.)

While at this station, the students take turns so that each child gets to fulfill each role at some point before they move on to another station. For groups that had 5 students, we simply had two judges for each round.

Pictures like this are priceless. Love. 
"These are clean socks, right?"

They really liked using the timers. It was neat to hear them start a countdown when the timer hit ten seconds remaining. I didn't tell them to do that, but they got really into the whole activity. Their excitement was contagious; they couldn't wait to get to this station.

As a teacher, my favorite part of this exercise was the fact that the students were actively collecting and documenting their own data (MD4). During the station rotations, they used magnets to record the highest number of pairs matched by a student in their group. Then, at the end of the day, we replaced their magnets with bars to finish our whole-class bar graph. They were so proud of the final product. We have created whole-class graphs before, based on voting results for favorite colors, desserts, etc. The "work" part for this, however, was simply so much fun. Next year, when we really begin looking at graphs and data, I will have to remember to incorporate something like this on the front-end of that instruction as well.

Monday, March 4, 2013

So it Begins with Hats and Socks

Well, we have officially begun our week in Seussville! Our day kicked off with a somewhat shaky introduction to the text Fox in Socks. I absolutely love this tale, but I have to admit that I was a little nervous about reading it in front of the students. Those tongue twisters are no joke! I found a great video to coincide with our text, and I was just slightly tempted to let that do the work for me. I have a little too much pride for that, though. So I mustered up my nerve, gave a rousing introduction to the text and the term alliteration (try having your seven-year-old say that!), and we pressed on.

If you are wondering, alliteration is the repetition of a sound at the beginning of two or more neighboring words (as in "wild and wooly" or "babbling brook"). When a writer uses an excessive amount of alliteration, he/she creates a tongue twister. To say the least, Fox in Socks definitely contains an "excessive" amount of alliteration. I am proud relieved to say that I didn't butcher Dr. Seuss's work too much; it was a close call, though!

If Fox in Socks is new to you, this fun video tells the story:

My students really enjoyed watching this, and they were quick to tell me that my "Mr. Knox" voice wasn't as good as the one in the video. They were absolutely correct. ;)

We also have Dr. Seuss hats and crazy socks to coincide with our week in "Seussville."

All in all, our week is off to a great start. I will try to share other snippets of Fox in Socks adventures with you each day this week. 

I'll leave you with a few of my favorite comments/questions from today:

"Mrs. Tally, do we have math this afternoon? If we do, you know it can really only be Seussville math. I just can't do anything else today."

 "That crazy fox better learn to be nice, or he'll never get to second grade."

"Mrs. Tally, I don't think I should say those tongue-twisters. I have a loose tooth."

"Since we're talking about socks today, don't you think we should leave our shoes off all day?"

The Makings of Seussville...

We are going all out for our week in Seussville. We have planned the week according to a rotation system; each first-grade classroom will feature a different Dr. Seuss text, and the students will visit each class throughout the week. We followed the same process for our "Christmas Around the World" unit in December, and the students really loved it then.

Our classroom will focus on the Dr. Seuss text Fox in Socks. We modeled our door after the design of the text itself. I cannot take credit for the actual images; I have an INCREDIBLE assistant who made the large-sized characters and images to decorate our door and hallway outside our classroom! See the images below for a sneak preview of the outside of the classroom.

I love, love, LOVE the use of a clothesline in hallways or on bulletin boards. My class will create their own crazy socks to hang on this clothesline.

Also, we found the perfect spot to display our large "pair" of synonyms and antonyms feet!

More to come from the our work inside the classroom... ;)