Monday, December 5

Christmas Math Centers

I (the kids in my class) have found a small mistake on one of the math centers I sold in my Christmas Cheer Math Pack.  I fixed the mistake and downloaded the new pack to TPT.  You can also click here to download the corrected set of cards.  I created a card with the time 12:30, but really it should have been 1:30 to match with the clock.  These cards belong to the "It's Almost Christmas Time" game.    I'm sorry for the mistake!

Monday, November 21

From Turkeys to Reindeer

This will be a smorgasbord of ideas all rolled into one post. 

First up... Turkey Word Work
Yes, I know, it's almost Thanksgiving now... and there's no way you could possibly use this idea this year...but I thought I'd share because I really liked it.  Maybe you can tuck it away for next year.  I found some word family turkeys last year on a blog.  I loved them, but they were designed to practice long vowels.  Since we're just now wrapping up short vowels I created some new turkeys to use as a short vowel review.  My kids loved them.  This project was one of their reading tubs a few weeks ago.  Each child chose one turkey (each with a different word family) and six feathers.  They wrote words for their word family on the feathers, colored, cut, glued, and voila...word family turkeys.

Click here to download the turkey bodies
Click here to download the feathers

Moving on to Reindeer... because Christmas is right around the corner.  Now, I'm not one of those Christmas fanatics who puts up Christmas decorations the second week of November.  But-- I do like to do these reindeer during the first few days of December so we can use them all month.  I call them Reindeer Mail.  I send home a letter to the parents requesting that they send in a small item (candy, Christmas pencil, small notebook, other junk from the Dollar Store) for the reindeer pockets.  The children also spend a little time each day writing a note to each child in the class.  For the notes, or Reindeer Mail, I tell the children who we are going to write a note to for that particular day.  Within 17 days we have a note for each child.  When I pick your name, you get to write a note to me :)  By the time our Christmas party rolls around each child has a reindeer pocket full of little treats and special notes.  We open them on the day of our party.  Each first grade teacher does this and we all use our bulletin board outside the room to hang the reindeer.  The kids are so excited to see what's inside.

To make the reindeer pockets: fold a 12 X 18" piece of brown construction paper twice- until you have a V shape.  Staple a few times on the back.  I use the large circle di-cut for the eye balls and nose.  We have a smaller circle di-cut that I use for the eyes.  I always give them a choice of blue, brown or green for the middle of the eyes.  I use a 4" di-cut 0, cut in half for the bridle.  I like the look of glitter on the noses, but I do that part myself-- for obvious reasons :)

Since I'm obviously not good at blogging each day-- or each week-- I'll share another idea.  This is one of my favorites!  Each year my kids make Christmas books for their parents. 

These are similar to the Mother's Day books I wrote about in May.  I order little blank books from a company called Bare Books.  The kids create a Christmas book, called "Christmas Is..."  We read Gail Gibbons' book, "Christmas Is..." first and start a discussion about Christmas.  Then the children map out their book (click here for a copy).  Each page starts out "Christmas is____"  They fill in the blank with an -ing word and a noun.  Some examples:
baking cookies
sitting in Santa's lap
celebrating Jesus' birthday
listening for reindeer
decorating gingerbread houses
singing Christmas carols
hanging stockings
decorating the Christmas tree
opening presents
giving to others

After doing the planning page, they write the words in their book.  I type out the sentence frame,  copy onto 3.5 X 5" labels, and stick in their books ahead of time.
Then for the next 10 days, the kids illustrate one page a day.  I buy them the 64 count box of crayons to use for the second semester of school (because the 24 count is all yucky by this point).  They LOVE all the color choices and always do a really nice job illustrating.  We also decorate the cover and dedication page.  Lastly, I have each child sit with me and I type the About the Author info (I've found this is so much faster than having each child write it themselves, bring it to me, and then try to decipher their writing).  I also take a picture of them with a Santa hat to put on the About the Author page. 
We spend a little time wrapping them in class (which is a hoot, because none know how to wrap).  Then they go home as a present for their families.


Most years I have one child who doesn't celebrate Christmas.  They will do a book called "My Family."  Their sentence frame says "My family _______."  This book is much harder for the kids to write, but it still works fairly well.

Last on the blogging agenda...
I've created some Christmas Math Centers

You can find them in my TPT store for just $5.  These activities were made to cover Core Curriculum content for "real classrooms."  My kids will be using them the next three weeks in their math tubs.  If you check them out, or purchase them, I'd love to know what you think.

Sunday, October 30

Reading Tubs Update

After trying reading tubs for a week, I know this is the direction I want to go with my class this year.  It has been a natural fit, most likely because it's so closely structured to math tubs.  The children had no trouble at all adjusting to this new change.  And, an added bonus-- I "found" a little more time in the day for writing!  Here's how my reading block looks now:

9:30-10:00- Whole group- phonemic awareness, phonics, grammar lessons
10:00-10:45- Writing
10:45-12:20- PE, Lunch, Recess
12:25-1:05- Reading Tubs (pretty much Word Work and "Listening" choices)
1:05-1:25- Read to Self
1:25-1:40- Comprehension Lesson

The only change I decided to make was to Tub 4.  I started Reading Tubs thinking that Tub 4 would be computer.  But, it turned out to be too much computer time.  So now my kids will listen to a book (using BookFlix, TumbleBooks, or Storyline Online), then have some sort of writing response.  After they are finished, they can go back to the computer until the time is up.

Here's a peek into Reading Tubs for this week.
Tub A- Fall ABC Order.  This is an activity I purchased from the ladies at Made for 1st Grade.  If you haven't checked out their units, you should.  I bought the Fall pack and loved it so much that I bought the Scarecrow unit, Thanksgiving unit, and Indian unit.  After finishing the tub, the children will play Roll, Say, Keep with sight word cards.
Tub B- This past week my kids learned about nocturnal animals.  They made a cute owl/bat that a co-worker created.  We ran out of time to add facts to the bat and the owl.  So, this week my kids will use nonfiction books to write bat and owl facts on their owl/bat.  After finishing this tub, the children will listen to books on the iPod.

Tub C- Scarecrow Scrambled Sentences- This is another activity created by Made for 1st Grade.  After finishing this tub the children will "Read to Someone."
 Tub D- After listening to a book online, the children will write a response- "What is your favorite part and why?"

Tuesday, October 25

Parent Conferences

Yesterday was a long, but productive, day as I met with almost all of my parents.  I wanted to share the conference form I use that is pretty quick and easy to write.

Several years ago, I used to write a paragraph about each child.  It took so long to look at all of their assessments, then try to word a sweet, but direct, synopsis 18 different times.  I decided there must be a quicker way.  So, I created a checklist-style conference form.  The skills closely relate to our lengthy report card.  All of the "positives" are listed on one side and the "let's work on these" skills are listed on the other.  Sometimes, I will put a checkmark on both sides (ex. If a child can count by 1s and 5s but not 10s, I will just circle the 1s and 5s on the "positive side" and then circle the 10s on the "negative side." )  I feel like it's a quick way for parents to see areas of praise and areas of concern. 

Here's a look at my checklist.  I have downloaded it as a Word document, in hopes that you could change it to meet your needs.  Click on the picture to download.

Monday, October 24

Trying out Reading Tubs

Although I have supported Daily Five for the past couple of years, there has always been something(s) about it I didn't like.  I've changed it so many times that it hardly even resembles Daily Five anymore.  Last week, the girls on my team got the wild idea to try Reading Tubs instead of Daily Five.  I was so interested and excited that I stayed late on Friday afternoon trying to get it all set up for this week.  Here's a first peek at Reading Tubs...

Reading Tubs are structured just like Math Tubs.  The children are grouped into four groups (for now by reading ability, but they could definitely be mixed ability).  I decided to label my reading tubs A, B, C, and D so I don't confuse the kids.  Each child will go to one reading tub a day, for four days.  Three of the tubs have a Word Work activity.  The fourth tub with be computer (Starfall, BookFlix, Storyline Online, or Tumble Books). 

After students are finished with their tub, they will have a second choice available.  The four choices are a reading game, listening to books on the iPod, read to someone, and computer (Tub D will stay at the computer the whole time- no second choice). 

Here's my Reading Tubs chart

Here's my Math Tub chart
 Here are the materials for reading and math:

- shorter time spent- I plan to give the kids 35 minutes to work on Reading Tubs, instead of the 45-50 minutes we are currently spending with Word Work/Listening choices of Daily Five.

- less transition- Transitions are a struggle for my class this year.  Instead of the whole class moving at once to a new choice, each child will move when he/she finishes the work.

- fewer materials needed- Currently I need at least 5 sets of a Word Work activity, and even with that my children have to work with a partner.  When one group doesn't finish Word Work on time it messes up the next group of children who should be using those materials.  With Reading Tubs, I can create 4 sets and all children can work alone and not have to worry about someone else needing their materials.

- less time for listening choices- With this system the children will only go to a listening choice if they are finished with their Word Work.  Hopefully this will be motivation for them to finish early, but if not they will miss about 10 minutes of listening time.

I had parent/teacher conferences all day today, so I haven't actually tried out Reading Tubs yet.  I can't wait to get started with them tomorrow.  I'll let you know how they go.

Wednesday, October 19

Free Halloween Math Games

My kids (and I) are loving all of the fun Halloween-themed things going on right now.  We've learned about pumpkins, scarecrows, bats and spiders.  And coming up soon-- owls.  I created a few Halloween games to spice up math tubs.  They have been a big hit.

Spook-tacular Tens
One of the Common Core standards in first grade is to determine the meaning of the equals sign and have children tell if equations are true or false.  I created this little game to begin teaching the concept of equal and not equal-- plus it fits in nicely with our addition strategy of the week-- tens partners.  The children sort the addition fact cards into "Equals 10" or "Doesn't Equal 10".  Then they record their answers on the recording sheet.  Click on the picture to download a copy.

Spooky Coin Count
The next game focuses on counting like coins-- pennies, nickels, and dimes.  The children sort the cards by the coin type.  They count their money and record on the sheet by skip counting.  Click on the picture below to download.

Double Double, Toil and Trouble
My kids are loving this game this week!  The directions say to use 7 pennies in the middle of the witches pot.  Instead, I've let them use candy.  They aren't even eating it-- just using it in the game.  It's the little things, I guess!  Anyway, a partner teacher said she was making her kids use 13 objects if they are playing with three in a group.  That extends the length of the game a little.  Good thinking, Jan :)
Click on the picture to download.

Wednesday, October 12

Pumpkin Parade

Last year, all of the first grade teachers had a pumpkin parade on Halloween.  The children decorated a pumpkin to look like a book character.  They brought the book to school to sit out with their pumpkin.   Each class rotated to the other classrooms to see all the pumpkins.  I was blown away by their creativity! Later, we put the pumpkins in the hallway for other classes to see.  Click here to download the parent letter I sent home.
Here are some pictures from last year

Tuesday, October 11

Daily Five...Well Really Just Four

Is it just me, or do all the rest of you have a hard time getting in the Daily Five every day?  I love the Daily Five routine, but after trying it out last year I had to tweak it to fit my teaching style and time constraints.

I didn't like the jumpiness (is that a word?) of teaching a mini lesson, breaking for choices, mini lesson, choices... so I combined several mini lessons into one.  I spend 30 minutes teaching the Harcourt lesson for the day.  We do the question of the day, phonemic awareness warm-up, a phonics lesson, and a quick grammar lesson.  I'm also trying out the Phonics Dance this year.  So far I like it :)  I try to include a word family several days a week too (on the posters in the picture below-- I just use Vis-a-Vis markers to erase at the end of the year)

Then it's on to Read to Self.  We started school way at the beginning of August, so my kiddos are pretty good at it now.  My goal is 20 minutes, but sometimes it goes a little long if my intervention groups run over.  I'm a control freak.  So, my kids all Read to Self at the same time.  I love this time every day.  It is my intervention time, and the room is oh so quiet :)  Even though it's really no choice, I still refer to Read to Self as Choice #1.
Here are a few pictures from Read to Self after the first month of school.

Next it's writing time.  I so wish I had multiple times in my day for the kids to write.  I would love a Writing Workshop time and a Work on Writing time--- but in the real world that just isn't happening.  So, Work on Writing is also done whole group.  I usually have 30 minutes or so for a quick mini lesson and quiet writing time.  I keep one day a week for journal writing; the other days focus on our writing unit.  My kids think Writing is Choice #2 (again though it's not really a choice).

I have a nice break in the day for PE, lunch, and then recess.  Once we get settled back in, I have a little over an hour before Specials.  I start with a comprehension lesson.  I use Harcourt one or two days a week, then throw in a little Reading with Meaning later in the week.

The last part of my Daily Four are Word Work and Listening.  I have 17 children in my class and only four computers.  That is a little bit of a dilemma if I need half of the kids "listening to reading."  So, I break up my class into half.  Nine kids do Word Work (alone or with a partner- it's their choice).  The other half are divided up among three Listening choices- computer, iPod, and Read to Someone.  On the computer they have limited choice- BookFlix, TumbleBooks, Storyline Online, or Starfall.  This is probably their favorite Listening choice.  I purchased the Scholastic books on CD and downloaded them to my iPod.  The children have a tub of books to choose from when they go to the iPod choice.  Read to Someone is pretty explanatory if you're already familiar with Daily Five.  The kids keep the same listening choice for one week, then swap to a new one.  The Listening/Word Work time is when I meet with students for reading conferences, small groups, and DIBELS progress monitoring (and lately for assessments-- hopefully those will be wrapping up soon, since report cards are almost finished).   

This system has worked pretty well this year.  My class hasn't seemed to notice that choices are omitted from the Daily 4.  They really seem to like all of the activities, although Read to Self isn't their favorite.

I'm curious... How do you fit it all in?  I'd love for you to share.

Tuesday, October 4

Directed Drawing -- Spider Webs

Each October I love to have my kids draw spider webs.  It is a great activity to practice listening skills (they all need more help with that!) and to learn how to use a ruler as a straight edge.  It's also a great way to teach math vocabulary like vertical, horizontal, diagonal, half, fourths, eighths, middle, equal, and so on.

Start by giving each child an 8 X 8 piece of black construction paper.  Have them find the center of the paper and put a dot.  I walk around and see if they put their dot close to the center.  It doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be close.

Then they will use a ruler to draw a vertical line down the middle and a horizontal line across the middle.  As they are drawing at their desk, I create one with them step by step on the Promethean Board.

Next, they will need to draw the diagonal lines.  I have them start at the center and draw towards the corner, four times (instead of making two longer lines).  This helps those who didn't get their dot exactly in the center of the paper.
After all the lines are drawn they will make four dots on each line.  This is the part you will need to model explicitly.  Many will want to draw their dots super close together, or draw more than four.  (I drew mine more as lines, instead of dots, so they would show up in the picture.  I don't have the kids make them that big).
After all the dots are drawn, they will connect the dots.  This part can be a little tricky.  So you'll need to model it a couple of times before they do their own.  I show them two different ways.  One way is to draw straight lines to connect the dots.  The other way is to draw swooped lines.  I show them both and let them decide.  Most know their own artistic (and spatial) abilities and choose appropriately :) 
In my example, I used silver Sharpie (which turned out looking pretty good).  I usually have the kids draw with pencil.  Then a parent volunteer or I go back and trace over the lines with silver glitter glue.  They turn out so cute (even those children that don't follow your directions at all still end up drawing a spider web-- it looks more like a web you've just walked through instead of one a spider just built, but no the less it's still a web!)

I'm planning to do this activity next week with my firsties.  I'll post pictures after they make theirs.