Wednesday, July 31, 2013


This book has been out since 2007, so maybe you've all read it and I'm late to the party.  Unknowingly, I'd seen its influence on blogs and pinterest for a few years and didn't know where the great ideas originated until reading the book this summer. Here are a few things that look like they could have been inspired by Tanny McGregor's book.  (Click on the pictures to see the original posts.)

Using real, familiar, and concrete objects to introduce a new concept is what this book is all about, specifically in relation to comprehension.  The author talks about how the concrete object creates a link or a bridge for learners.  She shares the objects (like a shoe, a shell, a salad, etc.) and the lessons that she teaches for each of the main categories of comprehension.  I know from my own experience as a learner that those lessons built around a concrete object have a special stickiness to them.  As a teacher, I don't take advantage of that stickiness enough.  I think this book will help me do a better job of that.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

A Singing Contest (Giveaway)

For about 8 years now, I've so wanted to have a class theme song and just haven't been able to pull it off.  I pretty much only listen to contemporary Christian music and don't have a great idea of what's out there.  I hope to change that this year.  My vision is to have two songs ready before school starts.  Then after listening to both for a few weeks, I want the kids to vote on their favorite.  Here's where you come in.  I need some ideas.  This is what I'm looking for:

  • uplifting, encouraging, positive (great message)
  • catchy tune and catchy words
  • fairly easy to sing along with
  • popular and trendy
  • theme ideas - character, friendship, being together, family, being you, determination, etc. (ie. "Don't Stop Believin'" get the idea)

I'll even bribe you to leave me ideas.  I'm desperate.  If you leave me a song, I'll put your name in a drawing for one of these, but custom-made to fit your favorite color scheme.

I'll put your name in the drawing repeatedly for each song you leave, so feel free to give me several ideas.  Thanks for helping me out!  (I'll take ideas through Aug. 4th.)

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Sayings: The Norm

When I read this quotation, it immediately takes me back to intimate moments I've spent with children's writing folders.  (My writers typically produce vast amounts of writing, most of which I don't see unless I look at it outside of the school day.)  I can picture myself with a folder belonging to one of my best writers, reading piece after piece and feeling pretty good about their progress.  In the midst of the treasures though, is that one piece resembling something they probably could have written in kindergarten.  I'm left thinking, "Seriously?!"  Carol Avery reminds me to give the kid a break.  Whether the writer is advanced or emerging, young or old, variation in the quality of writing is to be expected.  

Sometimes the best clues for how to treat young writers come from the ways we adult writers want to be treated.  I took a writing class this summer.  I gave myself a break on a daily basis.  Not everything I wrote turned out to be a work of art.  In fact, there were moments of thinking, "Seriously?!"  It's just the way writing works though.  If I'm not surprised that the level of my writing seems to vary from day to day, then neither should I be surprised when the same thing happens with my young writers.  They're just being normal.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dippity Doo Dah

Last week I shared a few of my favorite things to do during transitions at the very beginning of the year.  Check them out here.  I think it's important to mix up the transitions though and sometimes curriculum can help me decide which ones to use next.  Here are a few that I like to do that build better phonological awareness as we transition out of alphabet review.  I did not make these up and unfortunately can't remember where I found them.  Happy transitioning!

Click here for your own copies.

Thanks Barb for inviting me to link up!

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Sunday, July 21, 2013


I had the same classroom helper chart for years.  It was in such bad shape that I didn't use it last year or even replace it.  Now, all is well.

First I spray painted a cookie sheet.  FYI - cookie sheets don't like to be spray painted or maybe I just don't know how to do it right.  I added a clear coat finish, and the black paint still liked to scrape off way too easily.  After adding all my words and washi tape, I Mod Podged the whole thing.  I think that's fixed the problem.

I made the magnets with the beads from a bracelet.

The plan is to use the magnets to hold either names or pictures of the kids who will be in charge of helping me out.

Thanks again Tara for the linky opportunity!

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Movement to Memory

I am the poster child for this thought.  The way I play the board game Rapid Recall is proof.  The game forces the player to cram as many words into their short-term memory as possible.  My natural instinct is to attach a movement to each word.  My foot taps the floor for "carpet" while I hold my wrist for "bracelet."  My ring finger wiggles in the air for "wedding ring," my eyes blink for "contact lenses," and my lips quiver for "Elvis" etc.  With all my moving parts I'm quite a sight.  When it's finally time to wrench all the words out of my memory, they actually come without too much trouble simply because movement cements memory.

In the classroom, I've seen how attaching movement to memory works wonders.  Every letter of the alphabet has a motion.  Certain tricky words that we spell do as well, like you'll see in a video here.  My goal is to be increasingly mindful of more ways to incorporate movement with new concepts, no matter the subject area.  How can movement improve science, math, social studies, character development, reading, writing, and so on?  I know all the little memories in my room will be better off for it.

I now invite you to head on over to Barb at Grade ONEderful.  She's got a Saturday Sayings of her own to share this morning.  No doubt it's going to be worth a visit!

Grade ONEderful

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Friday, July 19, 2013


Today I'm joining The First Grade Parade to share some of my favorite pins.  I hope you find them worth sharing too.

Celebrating with writers is so very important.  I fell in love with this certificate so much so that I created my own versions for all the other units of study that I do with my writers.  

I could never visualize an easy way to make a pie chart with first graders until I found this pin.  Brilliant!

Listening to the author of Pete the Cat read/sing his story is the icing on the cake.  The kids love this.

Believe it or not, this pin comes right from a math lesson.  It's the kind of math I'd love to do more of - a task that's highly engaging, based on problem solving, teaches various concepts, is easy to differentiate, and can last more than one day.  Inspiring.

I love classroom books.  My kids do too.  This is one I really need to make.  I've a feeling my kids would read it over and over.

Hooray for inspiring ideas!

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Alphabetic Transitions

Good transitions are life-savers.  If you're interested in knowing how I keep track of them in my lesson plans, look here.  I have a few favorites that I use at the beginning of the year when reviewing the alphabet.  The kids enjoy them too, especially when it comes to Batman.  By the way, I did not make any of these up and unfortunately don't remember where I found them all.  Regardless, enjoy.

For your own copies, go here.

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Got Me Thinking

Once again I'm joining Kimberley from First in Maine to talk about Catching Readers Before They Fall.  I wonder if we've convinced anyone yet to read this book?  You can visit Kimberley's convincing thoughts by clicking on the above graphic.

Chapter 7:  I Thought I Knew How to Teach Reading, but Whoa!

What got me thinking...

"When working with students in beginning-level texts, you may think there are not many things to discuss.  However, we encourage teachers to have conversations with children around these simple patterned texts."

I am guilty of simplifying my conversations with groups of students who are reading beginning level simple patterned texts.  "I am laughing.  I am running.  I am crying.  I am..."  You know the kinds of texts I'm talking about.  The above statement sure left me feeling convicted about my watered-down conversations.  I am doing children a great disservice by not inviting them into deeper levels of thinking and comprehending regardless of the simplicity of text that they need.  Mental note:  fix that.

"By the beginning of first grade, phonemic awareness instruction should only be targeting those children who still need it." 

This thought has me thinking too.  I like to naturally imbed phonemic awareness into reading and writing, but for the first month of school, I also spend ten to fifteen minutes almost every day practicing phonemic awareness skills in hands-on, fun ways.  Do all the kids need this?  It depends on the class, but the answer is typically no.  Mental note: think about this. 

Thanks Kimberley for letting me share how this book is making me think outside of my comfortable box.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Practicing Mediocrity

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I'm mediocre at boiling eggs.  Every time I need hardboiled eggs, I google the directions, ask on Facebook, or text someone.  It's so simple.  Yet it's something my brain refuses to retain.  Even though it's a silly example, I understand mediocrity.  We all do in one way or another.  My young struggling readers do as well.  They might not know the word mediocrity or are able to verbalize their specific reading struggles, but surely they can tell that some classmates have a much easier time with words on a page than they do.  What would it feel like to go from one mediocre reading to another?  It must be a lot worse than going from one boiling egg moment to another, and because I'm so terrible at boiling eggs I try to avoid the act altogether.  We've all seen struggling readers do the same with books.

Rasinski talks a lot about repeated readings, and I believe in their power as well.  My struggling readers don't just need to reread, it's necessary.  Like the quotation says, their first readings are typically not good or at least not fluent.  When given the opportunity to reread, they actually begin to experience the benefits of what reading has to offer as far as strategy usage, word recognition, fluency, and comprehension, not to mention the fact that the process is much more enjoyable at that point as well.  I want to be certain that my readers experience all the benefits of reading instead of the disadvantages of practicing mediocrity.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Share and Compare

I'd like to recommend my latest summer read to any math teachers out there.  I first spotted it on my newest favorite math blog, The Elementary Math Maniac.  (She does some wonderfully amazing things in math.  You should check out her blog.)  The book looked like something I needed to read, and I was right.  I suppose one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much is because it validated some math shifts I've made in the past few years, specifically with problem solving.  

In a nutshell, kids solve problems in their own ways, a handful of them are asked to display their strategies for all to see, then each of them explains their work to the rest of the class.  Click on the picture below of one child's work to see the post where I described the process in more detail.

The book explains this process and the reasons why it works so well.  The author also gave me several tips for how to improve what I'm already doing.  I'm excited to make some changes when the little problem solvers arrive in August.  

Here are a few foundational ideas from the book.  Believe me, it's full of plenty more!

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Experts in Smartness

I found a little something at IKEA this last week that will come in so very handy in my classroom.  Check these out.

A few times last year I tried turning charts into small table versions that could sit at each group of desks.  It's a great strategy for getting essential ideas practically right into their hands.  It's kind of hard to ignore when it's sitting right in front of their noses.  (Interested in the idea and the book that gave it to me? Go here.)  Unfortunately, I struggled with execution.  My stands were a little too wobbly.  That's why IKEA's little frames are going to save the day.  

At the beginning of the year I won't have any charts to shrink, so I'm going to start the year off by making sure one of these is at each group.  As the year goes on, I'm looking forward to changing them out with those ideas from charts that really need to stick.    

Thanks to for the dot paper.

Even though this might only be useful for someone who owns the IKEA frames and does blue in their classroom, click on the graphic for your own copy.  

By the way, you might want to know

  • the words can be seen on both sides of the frame
  • they're only 99 cents
  • they come in a variety of colors
  • if I'm not mistaken, they're soon to be discontinued
  • better get yours now

Thanks Tara for letting me join you again for some Monday Made-It!
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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Saturday Sayings: It Makes Sense

First graders don't dabble too much in algorithms.  I suppose the double digit addition algorithm might be taught in some first grade classrooms towards the end of the year, but I've never been one to teach it that way.  In the past few years though, I've found that the quote above is true.  I don't have to teach to specific problem solving strategies or even algorithms for that matter.  When given the chance, kids can and do solve problems in ways that make sense to them.  They surprise me with the solutions they come up with, but most importantly, they understand what they're doing and can teach each other as well.  If math is supposed to make sense,  then allowing each individual to solve challenging problems in a way that makes sense to them, well, kind of makes sense.  

(By no means am I an expert, but I hear there's a place for algorithms in the upper elementary grades but only after the kids have first been allowed to explore and invent their own strategies.  Once they have done so, the algorithms are more likely to make sense.)

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