Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We've Got their Whole World In Our Hands

 This week we have been writing about the Earth in the afternoons.  It's been our writing focus and I have to tell you the class is really excited about their work!  There's something so sweet about writing about water, land, plants, and animals.  It just makes the students so tenderhearted. 
I caught this moment watching a great little writer reread her work.  #happyteacher

 After completing the pages we cut them all at once since they are already stapled in order. I told them it was only a job for a big kid.  They bought it hook line and sinker and I didn't have to sort 346 Earth papers after school because of this genius moment.
 The big finale was getting to color the cover of the book.  My students erupted in cheer over it. 
 Look at these happy kids! 
 This little Earth book comes out of my Seed to Plant Pack.

 This week I added a new set of morning work pages to our Rise and Shine Binders.  It was like Christmas.  I tell you it doesn't take much to excite these little learners. 

 The daily language and daily math packets I added have an Earth theme so you can imagine the excitement.  Absolutely EARTH shattering thrills. ;)

My dogs, Lucy and Shiloh got "summer" (a girl can dream) hair cuts and boy do they look better!  Lucy is not a lab, she is a retriever mix and you would not imagine the difference.  She looks about half her size in this picture without all that hair!!!  And Shiloh, well she's just letting me know that she did not approve of my betrayal leaving her in the hands of the groomers for the day.  Or maybe it was the blue bandana she didn't approve of?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Camp Number Sense!

Before I get to the camping in the title, I want to share a special teacher moment I had this weekend.  I was honored to represent my school district to receive the distinguished educator title this year.   Yesterday was the reception and my family was there to support me as well as my principal and deputy superintendent.  It was such a special evening!!!!  Hubs took this picture and I have to say that you can tell I had been through a full day of teaching here!  #scaryhair

I have been working hard on a new unit for a couple weeks and I am thrilled to say it is finally finished!

One of the best if not THE best thing we primary teachers can do is provide the opportunity for our students to have a solid foundation in number sense.  We kicked off first grade with number sense and have spent most of our time exploring number relationships along the way.  I still want to be sure that my students are solid with the "high numbers" to 120 {and on easier concepts a little beyond 120}

In order to make this last push fun, I decided to go with a camping theme! 

This new unit is packed with anchor charts, mini-lesson ideas, printables, and centers! It's on sale today!

If you haven't been able to see my facebook page updates, {please click get notifications on that little round gear on facebook}I shared that I have added three new phonics packets.

If you bought the big phonics bundle you can just download it from your purchases file to get the three new ones already added for you.  If you like to pick and choose what works for you week to week, I have the links below!



Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Keeping the Joy in Teaching

This is my seventeenth year of teaching primary age children.  I have seen education fads come and go.  Some have impacted my teaching greatly and some have not.  It's easy to get caught up in the flashy fads but as days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months, what sticks in the rigorous classroom is what truly works for both teacher and student.

Due to the demands of teaching, teachers have learned to "show off" what others want to see.  The true art of teaching happens when no one is watching.

Walk into a classroom unexpectedly on day 148.  What you will see is the true teach.   New teachers crave to understand it and experienced teachers refine and reflect on it daily.

We begin with the optimistic joy of teaching.  It is the twinkle you see in a brand new teacher's eye when she learns she has the first class of her career.  It's the experienced teacher's bag bursting with a new week's lessons.   We take our joy and love for teaching combined with the true teacher that we are when no one is looking and the result is our classroom life.  

There is also an art to teaching.  What do the most effective classrooms do?  We can change how we teach based on what we learn along the way.

These qualities sum up what I have found in my teaching experience to be effective classroom happenings:
  •  There is a risk free relationship from teacher to student and peer to peer
  • The teacher maintains a simple predictable structure/routine to the day.  
  • The student's work changes to meet the needs of the student from simple to complex in every subject.
  • Students can sustain the work they are given because the teacher has given them an instructional level of work.
  • The teacher makes the best use of  time with individuals, small groups, and whole class teaching time.
  • The student knows what they are learning,  why they are learning it,  and how they can learn it
  • The students take part in goal setting and reflection
  • The teacher uses his/her strengths but also attempts to engage areas of weakness for growth
  • The students work from his/her strengths but also attempt to develop areas of weakness for growth.
  • Lessons do not always succeed
  • Trials and challenges are fuel for learning and not to be avoided but rather put into the spotlight for growth potential
  • No year looks exactly the same because the teacher creates the classroom climate and culture based on the students present this year.
  •  You can change how you are teaching if it isn't working and your students will move right along with your change. 
  • Students use each other as a resource as well as the teacher
  • There is undeniable joy for learning
Many times teachers give up the joy of teaching due to all the demands that are pushed down upon us.  We walk into our classrooms and can't see our students through the same eyes any more.  We stress out when they need our help.  We fuss when they need a loving explanation.  The classroom joy turns to stress and resentment.  We rock out an amazing learning week then realize our planning for the next week will consume our weekend.  This is a reality for every teacher I have ever worked with or come into contact with through my career.

I am humbled when I receive letters from teachers.  These letters ask how to stay motivated.  They ask how to stay positive.  This is a real issue.  New teachers, teachers raising families, veteran teachers: We all struggle with the time and demands.   Sometimes I feel like I can answer the letters and other times I am clouded with stress and work and can not read them without tearing up.

The demands on teachers can steal the art of teaching.  Our work day is for students.

Every minute of our day is spent teaching/interacting/facilitating/disciplining/loving those amazing students.  That's our joy!  But what comes at the end of those days requires another full work day without students.  We don't have that time.   It becomes our evenings and our weekends.  This reality leads to teacher burn out.

In order to keep the joy alive here's what I have found that helps keep me motivated.
  •  Close your door, look at your students, breathe deeply, and teach from your heart like no one is watching. 
  • Slow down and listen - Focus on the little hearts and minds in front of you.  Does anything else really matter right this second?
  • Pray for your students, school, and administration every day
  • Be honest without being negative
  • Focus on small things to make big changes over time.
  • Let go of what is out of your hands.  
  • Be the point of positive impact for that student or that team teacher
  • Find something that brings you joy with your students and be sure it happens often.  
  • Find one area you feel lacking in {we all have those areas} and google it. Research and read all you can until you feel like you have a plan to change one part of what you are doing to make it better.  You may even find that what you are doing is actually right on track! 
  • Prioritize and let the rest go
  • Be yourself  because you are amazing...you are a TEACHER!
Have a fantastic week!  We are in this together! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

All in a Day's Work...

It's been a little while since I shared some day to day activities happening in our classroom.  Although I don't have them all tied perfectly together in a tidy little theme, this is the real deal of what we are learning! It's a bit all over the place at times, but it's standards based baby!

Let's start with math shall we?  Our math journals are "hoppin" and we are keeping our spiraled concepts fresh during this independent time.  We are working out of my April Math Journal Pack

For math center time I put out my Spring Math Centers
 I can't stress enough on the importance of  giving students the time and opportunity to explore and understand how numbers relate to each other.  Not just how to solve a math problem, but what is actually happening to the numbers involved.   Here this student is using bunny tens to figure out double digit addition and subtraction.  The act of counting the tens and adding more or taking some away makes the light bulb go on!  Even my little strugglers can do this with ease and success. 

Here we are taking on the more difficult concept of counting by tens starting on a different number!  This can be a hard concept at first--- 4, 14, 24, 34, 44, 54...  I give them a hundred chart, but soon they are good to go without one! 

 At small group this week we are working out of my Spring Printable Math Skills Packet.  It's been a great way to see how my students build, organize, and think mathematically!

 Our spelling rule this week is IE and IGH -{long I}  We are working out of my Phonics interactive printables.  Each week I stock our 5 drawers with 5 purposeful activities and my students get after it! 

In science we are studying animal groups so I brought our plastic friends out and hid them under "rocks".  The kids made inferences about what could be under the "rocks" snakes had the most guesses, but frogs and gorillas were thrown around a little too.

One brave soul was chosen to pull off a rock.  Just look at the reaction...

 Once the snakes were revealed, we carefully lifted each snake to reveal a vocabulary word.

We discussed what the vocabulary word was and how it related to reptiles or other animal groups.
 I had 14 snakes so this took some time but we also clapped the syllables and discussed synonyms for the words when possible.  {Covering my standards in every way possible}
 Since the snake introduction, I have been pulling out literacy activities to work on with my reading groups as well as math centers to put out during math stations.   These all come from my Snake Safari Unit which truly does not need to correlate to a science study on snakes.  The activities are fun no matter what and follow common core standards. 

The game below is a sight word game you play against friends.

We discussed fact and opinions and I put this activity in the writing center during guided reading!

We had to tie in S blends since our subject was SNakes :)

Pretty much anything that requires you to prolong the ssssssssss  sound makes for fun during a snake safari, so we also clapped ssssssyllables.


So what did I do with the plastic snakes?  They became writing and work buddies.  So if I saw that my kids were being calm and working hard I would say they could have a snake buddy.  I explained that snakes will spook and bite if they talked or were up and out of their seat...  They worked so hard to have a snake buddy!!!!

The great part is that they named them whatever vocabulary word was on their bellies.  So they would say, Shhhh slither is sleeping.  SO precious! 

This was seriously happening over at table 3.   I grabbed my camera as fast as possible to get it.   Then we giggled.  :)

So I haven't gone into writer's workshop much this year on the blog.  We have been plugging along all year in our  workshop and I am pleased with the progress we are making, but I almost forgot all about
Editing Eddie and his Conventions Convention! 

We began this today and after I showed the class Eddie's first poster about when to use a capital letter, we all practiced being editing Eddie. I projected the pdf as we went through the posters with Eddie as our guide.  Then I drew sticks and had students come up to show us what Eddie had taught us at the conventions convention.  We all practiced together making sure to reinforce handwriting as well as when to capitalize.

 Finally we ended our day with writer's workshop and author's chair.  My new favorite discovery is to take popular songs from the radio that my students LOVE and download the Karaoke versions.  Then I create a playlist and play it during writer's workshop.  My students LOVE it but they can't sing along and they just get big smiles while they write.  It makes for such a happy atmosphere during writer's workshop!  Here's a screen shot of what we had playing today.   There's no words so you don't have to worry about language!  My class has yet to sing one word.  They just say OH I LOVE THIS SONG and then they hum a little and pretty soon they are writing up a storm. 

 Author's Share

Whew!  I didn't realize how  much I had to share in this post!

But just one more little happy spot this week!

Cara left little notes around my room when she visited this weekend!  Could she be more amazing?  THANKS CARA!