Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Writing Mini-Lessons

When beginning the year, writing is the who's who of first grade.  I mean really!  Paper, supplies, and creativity!  I love the freedom and versatility, but those same two attributes come to be the things that overwhelm me about teaching writing!  After a certain amount of time passes, students can lose focus and motivation when our teaching remains the same day after day.

To tackle this issue, amp up the variety and novelty!  Here are some first month writing ideas that I have found successful.

This one below is my mini-lesson on how writers get their ideas.  First, we talk about how we each have different lives and experiences.  Then I share about a card and what it means to me.  I ask if anyone else thought of a different idea when they saw the same card that I saw.  Continue to explore the idea of gathering ideas by picture cards for a couple days.  Once the students seem ready,  put the lesson at the writing center and allow the students to take ownership of the concept! 

The day this lands in the writing center there is a buzz and an anticipation about having a turn!


 This process continues all year long!  I don't do these mini lessons every single day because as a writer I like to explore many different methods of writing just like an artist explores different mediums.   When it comes to being creative and letting loose we need that sprinkle of novelty!

Because we are only in school one week in August and we are budding young little writers,  keep it simple!    We begin with an All About Me Flip Up Book.

This is a great way to lower the anxiety level, provide a truckload of scaffolding, and get to know students.



Later, when we explore small moments, we can take each page of this book and expand it to a writing piece leaving students with a 5 page book about themselves for their portfolios!

Another favorite beginning of the year lesson is on the book,  Swimmy by Leo Leoni

 After reading the book and celebrating all that we can within it's pages,  we first make a writing web about the character Swimmy.  This story is also PERFECT for teaching about being there for others even when it gets hard.
 Then we make sentences together on a chart tablet using the words on this interactive web.  I didn't snap a picture last year, but keep it simple and students share the pen with me as we write things such as Swimmy is a hero.  Swimmy helps others. 

Once we have finished all we can with Swimmy, we think about our own personal experiences with fish.  We make this writing web of our own words about fish.

From there we do a directed draw of a fish together on large paper.  Then, we sharpie our directed draw.

The next day, on each table I have one color of paint.  5 color tables.  Students must go to a table and paint the main part of the fish the color they have chosen.
blue table
green table

Painting Tip:  Have students switch tables one time to fill in the fins with a second choice color.  I have always kept it to 2 colors and had success with managing the crazy.

We stretch our words to write about our fish! 

The next day when our fish are dry we go back over them with a sharpie to define the fins and body again. (If you are particularly neurotic as I can be from time to time, you can even back them with black construction paper)  "Ofishally first graders"  "School of Fish"  "insert your own bunny title here" 

Another lesson is make sense of what we read and write.  We can do this by breaking apart sentences into WHO, DID WHAT, WHERE.

We work our way back to a scaffolded mini-lesson teaching about sentence structure which we can work on at the writing center after we have mastered how it works!
 Students can choose one complete sentence to write and illustrate, or build more than one with the pocket chart pieces. 

Of course we MUST write about ourselves during the first month! 

Another go to item at the writing center is our story starters!  These are new each month so they hold attention and inspire new ideas!

I'll keep sharing more writing lessons as the weeks go by!

Although it can be overwhelming to know what to do with such a broad area like writing, it can also be the most rewarding!  When students open up their thoughts and push hard to sound each word it is such a special marker of their development.  I just loved those little moments with them!

To learn more about anything in this blog post, but click the pictures.
Happy Writing!!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Colorize Your Classroom Challenge 4!

As you know, the Astro Bright Minds are issuing four different challenges that tackle problems teachers face when creating the right environment for their students: classroom décor, organization, differentiated learning, and memory.

This is the fourth Colorize Your Classroom challenge!
This challenge is all about how you use color to help students with memorization!  Studies show that color can increase memory by up to 50 percent and help students remain engaged!  Here is one way to use color to help students retain new information in each subject area they are learning!

Create a color experience for your students! We all have daily/weekly/monthly learning goals for our students in the subject areas that we teach.  A great way to imprint that new learning is to color code it!

Make a learning passport.  Does your school have smart goals? Weekly goals?  This is the perfect solution! #goals 

I am going to show you how to create an experience, enhance memorization with color, and have students practice writing their learning goals all in one!

Begin by choosing an Astrobrights color for each subject area you teach.

 Cut your paper in half

 Fold each grouping and staple two times in the seam.

Add a label of your choice to the front.  I chose to make it a learning passport, however you may have a school theme that would be a better fit for you!

Now you are ready to begin your color coded learning adventure! 

 Yellow is for behavior goals of the week.  Take time to have your class reflect on their learning goals and get a passport stamp (sticker)  for their reflection. 

 For math students focus on vocabulary and an example problem.

For science, students reflect on their learning/experiments from the week

 Keep these color coded books as a record of learning for the year!

Now it's YOUR TURN!

Simply upload an image showing how you use color to enhance memorization to ColorizeYourClassroom.com and you will be entered to win a yearlong sponsorship from Astrobrights worth $5,000.

Astrobrights may even feature your photo as the pick of the week on Facebook to help other teachers colorize their learning.

Enter up to four times, once for each challenge.

Visit ColorizeYourClassroom.com for details, official rules for entry and hundreds of ideas on how to Colorize Your Classroom.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Astrobrights' Papers Colorize Your Classroom Contest Is Back!

Are you ready to be a part of the most exciting collection of classroom projects to hit the internet?  Talk about endless inspiration!  The time has come to show how you colorize your classroom! I don't know about you, but I can't pass up a post about a classroom space!  Now we have one incredible location to geek out on classroom projects!

ColorizeYourClassroom.com gives teachers a go-to source for inspiration and ideas on how color can transform their classrooms. Of course as teachers we love a great learning environment, but we also love a space where students are inspired, engaged, and prepared to meet their highest learning potential!  Astrobrights can help!  Studies show that color can increase memory by up to 50 percent and help students remain engaged! 

The Astro Bright Minds will issue four different challenges that tackle problems teachers face when creating the right environment for their students: classroom décor, organization, differentiated learning and memorization.

This is your first challenge!  Are you ready?

Show us your HERO colors!

Last Year's Winning Classroom

My classroom's HERO colors (above) are Fireball Fuschsia, Solar Yellow, and Lunar Blue

I loved the pop of bright color against the black and white background and how it immediately organized our space.  Bringing organization in through color is a great way to have style and increase learning at the same time.  Choosing the right color palette can help organize your classroom.

I want to show you some other "winning" color combinations of hero colors that you can tuck away for future inspiration! Each color combination has a personality of its own!

Now it's YOUR TURN!

Simply upload an image of your own classroom Hero Colors on ColorizeYourClassroom.com and enter to win a yearlong sponsorship from Astrobrights worth $5,000.   While you are there get totally inspired in the picture gallery!  The contest officially begins on Monday so be ready to submit your favorite classroom photo!

Astrobrights may feature your photo as the pick of the week on Facebook to help other teachers colorize their learning.

Enter up to four times, once for each challenge.

Last year after sharing my classroom photos on facebook, a reader commented that I should share my photos on colorize your classroom!  It took less than a minute and I had no idea of the HUGE reward I would receive just a couples months later!  I am so thankful for that little nudge!

Now I am nudging you to enter a photo beginning on Monday!

To read about my winning experience click the photo below.


Visit ColorizeYourClassroom.com for details, official rules for entry and hundreds of ideas on how to Colorize Your Classroom. You can even sign up to be alerted when the contest officially begins!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Successful School Beginnings!

On the brink of a new school year I really wanted to update my School Beginnings Packet!  The activities are the same however the text, layout, and clipart have been overhauled!  If you own this packet please head to your purchases page and download it again for free!   



If you are looking for more ideas for back to school check out my Back To School pinterest board.  From decor, schedules and starting guided math guided reading and writer's workshop, I hope it helps you find the info you really want/need with the least amount of searching!

Follow Reagan Bartelli Tunstall's board Back To School on Pinterest.

Also for those of you that were asking me about how to organize the guided math lessons, I made this video to help explain! You can click the image below to view it on Facebook!  (click HD and full screen if your eyes are over 40 like mine!)  <----sadness 

Have a terrific week!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Astrobrights Summit: Behind the Scenes!

 A little over a year ago, I became personally acquainted with the Astrobrights team in real life.  I had no idea of the dynamic impact this company would have in my life.  You can read about my Astrobrights story here if you missed it before. 
After winning the Colorize Your Classroom Grand Prize in October, I was contacted by Astrobrights Papers to become a member of the Astro Bright Minds team.

Just a week ago, the Astro Bright Minds team met in Atlanta for a 3-Day Summit.  I was excited about the trip, because for a year leading up to this moment all of my emails, phone conferences, and packages with the A Team had been very positive experiences.

Repeatedly, Astrobrights has shown that they are truly concerned with what challenges and triumphs teachers face both from a design perspective as well as curriculum, demands, and everyday life.  Besides being brilliant, supportive, and encouraging, this team is also 100% passionate about making teachers' lives better through a kaleidoscope of exciting products!

I was also very excited to spend time with two brilliant bloggers, Maria and Marsha

 There were colorful surprises with personal and thoughty notes left in my room at Hotel Indigo each day.  It was evident every single moment we were there that this was a partnership where were were honored and appreciated.

We were gifted and uplifted every moment of the trip!

 After our day of travel, Maria, Marsha and I met up with the Astrobrights team. We walked over to Livingston restaurant, which is located in the Georgian Terrace Hotel. Lauren (not pictured) mentioned that this hotel was special for many reasons and one of them was that the cast from Gone with the Wind would hang out in this hotel! 
Blair, Maria, me, Jeremy, and Marsha

Day 2 was spectacular from morning until night.  Talk about maximizing every second of the day!  This day was dubbed, creativity day.  Maria, Marsha, and I were instructed to wear our flower crowns.  We were very happy to oblige! 

We began our day with a breakfast at a gorgeous hipster venue in ATL and met more of the Astrobrights team as well as another fabulous blogger, Joni, from Lay Baby Lay.

During breakfast, we learned a little bit more about Astrobrights and their parent company, Neenah Paper.  The Astrobrights team had questions about our lives and struggles as educators. It was evident that they want to make our jobs easier and it was refreshing to hear so much sincere appreciation for the teaching community.

Next, we had a creativity session with Joni, where we got to get our hands on our favorite paper!  Geek out day for sure!  We started by making beautiful color wheels displayed on gorgeous stardust paper using dowels as our display easels.  What an inexpensive and creative way to display work for our students!

Next, Joni walked us through making these exquisite flowers.

Jeremy (teacher's pet) and the Brightminds Team!

 After another noteworthy lunch (sans pictures because my hands were full of the best tuna sandwich in the south) we headed to the Georgia Aquarium where we got a VIP behind the scenes aquarium tour, a penguin encounter, and some time to just have fun enjoying the awe-inspiring facility. 

After our time at the aquarium, we rested and then headed out to another terrific meal with the team!  We had southern cuisine at JCT where we inhaled truffle oil fries and chicken gnocchi. 

At this point in the trip I am sure things can't get any better.  I mean seriously.  What teacher gets chauffeured across country with two friends from different regions, catered to, and then spoiled at every turn?!?  I thought we were here for them...

The last day was unforgettable.  We spent the day at Lionstar Films. When we walked in to see this, I had an internal explosion in my heart and head.
AstroBrightMinds Summit
Seeing these work spaces with these 6 letters, which spell my absolute passion,  I couldn't speak...my head was spinning.  How did I end up here?  Amidst a brilliant team of witty, trending, and savvy colleagues by my side where I am being told to push myself in this area of creativity that I live for.   This inspirational moment that I had internally was just first of a few in this day that would change my blog lovin' teacher heart.

We had a PD session with the Astrobrights team.  It was the most invigorating session of how our blogs look from a branding perspective with all kinds of insights that I am still reflecting on daily.  Of course the experts were so helpful and insightful, but I also loved hearing from Marsha and Maria too.  It's so great to have your peers in a situation like this!
 Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

From there we went into hair and make up with the gorgeous and talented Zoe.  We had two sessions.  Head shots and videos.   At this point, I was numb.  I truly can't describe the thrill of this moment.  I am a little older and my body isn't exactly perfect, but I felt so beautiful and special on this day.

Soon we will be able to share more about this part of our experience! 
 I am thrilled to be a part of this year's Colorize Your Classroom Campaign! Be sure you are following Astrobrights on facebook and check in with us on August 24th!
Colorize Your Classroom

See ya later friends!!!