Monday, August 31, 2015

Meet the Teacher (5 Fun Facts)

Hey y'all!  I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' for the first day of Teacher Week 2015! I've been blogging for a long time so you probably know everything there is to know. I'm not all that exciting but I love Teacher Week, so here it goes! 

I've been married to this guy for 11 years, but we've been dating for almost 20 years. Yep, I've been with him, longer than I've been without him. Kind of crazy but he's my high school sweetheart.  

After dating, college, a wedding and two houses, came these two boys.  I'm a super girly girl, so no one expected me to be a boy mom, but I couldn't imagine life any other way. I'm often out numbered and I spend lots of time on baseball and football fields.  Landon is a Kindergartener and Drew is now in 3rd grade.
I'm also a mommy to this guy. His name is Gus and as much as I love him, I could do without the slobber. 

We just moved into our new house and it's my dream house! I've always wanted a Fixer Upper, Farm House.  So we built a new home and I'm so excited about decorating.  Here are a few pics! 
 I'm in love with my kitchen! 

I love country music! Nashville is one of my favorite places to go.  Last week my sweet friend Becky and I got to see Jason Aldean and even got a little VIP concert before the big show.  

Some of my best friends in the world, I made after starting this blog.  In fact, my sweet friend Abby and I became friends shortly after the very first teacher week.  

Don't forget to link up with Blog Hoppin' for teacher week.  I can't wait to read all the posts. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Back to School with Bic: GIVEAWAY!

Hi all!
   I'm back! We finally have internet at our new house.  2 weeks with no internet was a little more than this blogging, teaching, mommy could handle! Whew...thank goodness I'm able to use my little MacBook again and better yet, blog about some really cool new writing tools for school.  I'm joining Bic and their Fight for Your Write campaign again this year.  I love how Bic never stops inventing writing tools that excite young learners.

This year Bic sent me some of their favorites for this school year.  And let me tell you, I was pretty darn excited to open the box full of goodies.  Any teacher knows, that office supplies, especially pens, pencils and markers make our little hearts skip a beat.  So check out some of the great items Bic has available now.
BIC Xtra-Fun is the only #2 pencil with two-toned color barrels.  The product features ultra-solid, break resistant lead, and is easy to erase. As a reading specialist, I teach many reluctant readers and writers.  These pencils are so fun to look at, and for students they are fun to use. I also love that we've not had any broken lead.  These pencils are amazing!

I don't know about you but I'm a mechanical pencil girl, myself.  I love the fun new designs and strong led in Bic's X-tra Craze mechanical pencils.  I'm all about pretty things, so these pencils are right up my alley.
I'm also so happy that there are finally erasable high lighters.  My kids use highlighters ALL the time! We often find sight words in books, or important information during close reading, but what happens when a kiddos high lights the wrong information or words? These are the solution to that problem! 
 This next item made me so happy! Finding a good stylus is not easy! The fact that I've finally found a stylus that feels like a pen is so nice.  They are always really thin, or short of just not right. I love to use a stylus for creating fonts and now I have one that is actually comfortable and natural to use.  These are also great for students who are using their iPad .  With it's dual use, they can easily switch between the stylus and the pen to perform whatever task you throw at them.  
 And last is this super comfy pen. I love how squishy this pen is! When I have a comfy pen, my handwriting is so much prettier.  But the great thing is, your students will find this pen really great as well. If you are working on grip, this is the perfect pen to have them use. 
Do you want to try these cool tools in your classroom? One lucky winner will win all of these writing tools. To win, just enter below.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Parent/Teacher Communication

Building relationships with the parents in your classroom is one of the most important things you can do as teacher.  Each day parents leave the most important people in their lives at our doors and we have a responsibility to let parents know their children are in good hands, and that we are partners in this journey.  This has always been important to me as teacher. In fact, I have parents whose children I taught years ago, that still volunteer in my classroom even though their children are now in middle school and high school. Getting to know parents, inviting them into the room and great communication are all ways to foster relationships that can last even past a school year.

Some ways I communicate with parents:

It's so simple, yet many teachers never use the email addresses they collect at the beginning of the year.  I make a Parent Group in my address book and email reminders all the time.  On Monday, I remind them of the goings on throughout the week, I'll email the night before library books are due and remind of bake sales, etc.  I also email parent's individually with little notes of positivity about their child or cute photos I take in class.  Email is such a quick way to remind parents of things and it's convenient for them as well. 

I know many children grades 2-8 use planners or agendas to write down their homework for the day or week.  In our little people's case, writing these things down, may take forever. So each Monday, I send home our homework for the week ahead on a nice little sheet that can be referenced throughout the week.  This way parent know what to expect and students know what their job is each night.  I must preface this by saying that I don't give much homework. I know how real the homework struggle can be. I'm a mom. So my kiddos really just have to read and study their sight and spelling words.

Each Friday my parents receive a newsletter that gives important information, as well as a review of what was learned during the week and a peek at what will be covered the next week.  Here is a sample of my newsletter.
I have these templates in my store as well.  There is a different template for each month.  

In addition to the communication above,  I also maintained a classroom blog that was updated weekly, giving my parents a glimpse into their child's week at school.  I had so many kind comments and thank you's for sharing their child's learning.

I've just discovered a new tool for communication as well.  It's call Simply Circle and you should check it out! Of course this comes about when I no longer have my own class, but my wheels are turning for how I'll use it as the reading specialist as well.
Here are some features of the site.
You can read more about Parent/Teacher relationships on my friend Cara's blog as well.
Happy Teaching Friends!  

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Day in First Grade

A few years ago I wrote this post about our day in first grade. That was back in 2011 and our days have changed a bit, so I thought I'd take you through a typical day and include as many photos as I could, to give you a little peek of a typical day in my room.  Hopefully it helps.   First, here is an overview of what our day looks like, and some resources I use.  You can click any of the pictures below to check them out. 
So lets, begin! Each morning I greet my students at the door and usually I have some music playing.  I recently found a song that is perfect, thanks to ONE FAB TEACHER. The song is Good Morning by Mandisa and I can't wait to play it.  

After students enter they walk over to and find their name on our magnet board and move it to their lunch choice. This is also how we'll know who is absent.  
When students are finished, they check their GO BOOK for important papers and get a new nightly reader and then they get started on a Morning Menu Activity.  I love these activities because they are Common Core aligned and give a quick assessment of each of the standards. I also mix our mornings up with other fun little activities too. Sometimes my students walk in to playdough on their desks for making their weekly sight words, or alphabet cereal to make their spelling words.  
After the announcements have ended and attendance has been recorded, we meet on the carpet to start our morning meeting.  My meeting time each morning lasts about 45 minutes and includes my calendar.  We start with our morning message. We use the same message all week. We change the date, and focus on one skill each day.  On Monday's we often fix mistakes in the message to practice editing, the next day we might circle nouns and discuss the type of noun they are, the next day we might find words with short vowel sounds, etc.  I really try to hit a plethora of skills and work on what's challenging my kids the most.  We use different color markers each day to differentiate the skills throughout the week. 
Next my students turn and read our poem.  We not only use our poem for reading fluency and phonemic awareness activities, but also for language, spelling and phonics skills. 
Here we often use pocket chart highlighters. 

Now it's time to get up and grab our white boards and markers! My kiddos favorite time of the day.
This is the time when we review!! We review everything!!! Remember you are not teaching a skill for it to be forgotten tomorrow.  You have to constantly be cycling through the standards and hitting them over and over.  And this can't be done effectively with worksheets. Make it meaningful!  During our whiteboard time, I play lots of fun math, sight word and literacy games.  We also put those boards down and sing and dance to review skills as well.  And when someone does something amazing (or just does well on something they may have been struggling with), we celebrate. I constantly have my Spotify account ready with "This girl is on Fire!" or "Boom Clap" and just those 5 seconds of song, celebrate my kiddos and they feel so proud.   Here's a sweetie writing her doubles facts after we sang the Doubles Rap by Harry Kindergarten.
In one morning we might play a sight word game on our white boards, practice vowel sounds, solve a few number bonds and play a number game.  
Next we review our day and more skills by checking out our Focus Wall.  You can read a more in depth version of how we review here

Then we do a little bit of calendar. I try to spice calendar time up as well, with songs, dances and games to engage my kids.  I even get them involved with the teaching. 
Here's a little calendar game where groups race to fill their chunk of the hundred's chart first.  It practices +1,-1, +10, -10.  Even though money isn't a first grade standard, I still help our 2nd grade teachers out by playing a little game of feed the piggy after we sing a money song.  
Calendar leads really well into math. We currently use Investigations and have for about 9 years.  I love that my kids are constantly playing games to learn, but often beef things up where I see fit.
 Now it's time for a potty break! My kids know that this is their time to take a break, grab and drink and go so we can come back and focus on Shared Reading.  Here's a post about Shared Reading time.
Basically, each week we choose a piece of literature to read for the entire week.  During the week, not only do my students build fluency, vocabulary and practice decoding skills, but we also hit a ton of Common Core reading standards.  
 We partner read. Work in differentiated groups on retelling/sequencing.
 Identify character traits and give examples from the story to support our answers.
 Hit important vocabulary standards.
 And practice more comprehension through retelling, all with just one book.  
This is absolutely one of my favorite times of day because of the huge gains I see my kids make during this time and their true understanding of the standards they gain, while enjoying quality literature.  
But by now, we've worked up a huge appetite from all the hard work, so it's off to lunch and recess. 
When we return from lunch we chill a little by reading from our book boxes, while I call up my sweet little people individually to work on skills they need. 
And then it's time to write.  We use a workshop model.  I teach a mini-lesson, sometimes modeling or showing mentor texts and then my students return to their desk to write as I conference with individual students on their writing.  This is a little sample of what I get by the end of the year from a typical child.  It's amazing their progress.  
Then we have Science or Social Studies time. While a lot of the content of Science and Social Studies is often covered through a nonfiction text during Shared Reading, we reinforce skills during this time and try to do lots of hands on learning! 
And finally, we end our day with centers and guided reading.  This is another favorite part of my day.  I love teaching kids to read and watching them work independently and together to review skills while I meet with groups makes me so proud of them.
So other than passing out papers at the end of our day and signing behavior charts, that is our day folks. I'll tell you, they are busy days, they are filled with activity and learning and they are fun, and some days they are exhausting, but a day in first grade is so rewarding.  I hope you all have a wonderful year.