Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Our Souvenir Collection

Personally, I'm not a big fan of souvenirs.  My idea of a souvenir from Europe is original artwork that ends up on my wall.  My children, on the other hand, love souvenirs.  Every year as summer draws near, I start piling up items to give away.  (The process actually starts earlier in the year, when I start storing things that I think will make for good souvenirs.)  Check it out.

 This tub is full of 50 classroom books that we've made.  They're all going home as souvenirs.  Each child will get at least two.  (I've posted about some of my classroom books here.)

This is a pile of posters, charts, and graphs we've made over the year, as well as other miscellaneous souvenirs (ie. letters or cards we've received) that get to go home.

These little guys will come in handy.  They help me figure out who gets what.  The only problem is fitting all these souvenirs into backpacks. 

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Big Foot Meets 1st Grade (freebie)

My mathematicians spent time this year measuring up one side of my classroom and down the other...literally.  I love the following idea that I borrowed from Van de Walle.  The kids used large footprints to measure my class from one wall to the other.  It's a great way to work on no gaps and overlaps while using units, as well as the importance of choosing the right unit for the job.  

The kids also used the following sheet for the task.  The first group of students wrote their measurement in the top box.  All other groups after them would measure the room and then either sign their names in the agree column or sign the disagree column along with the measurement they got.

(Click the picture for your own copy.)

I borrowed this sheet from Math Their Way and spruced it up a bit.  I've used it for all types of math activities, from place value to counting to measurement to addition or subtraction (and much much more).  Feel free to get yourself a copy and let me know how you end up using it too!

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Students Who Do

Heading into summer, I question whether I created first graders who can read or first graders who do read.  During the school year, for the most part they seem like students who do read.  They can sit by themselves with amazing stamina and read for over 30 minutes.  They choose to read to others when given the chance.  They automatically grab books when finished with something early.  They know how often readers read - every day they need to breathe.  But what happens when they're not within my grasp?  

How many will willingly read this summer on their own?
How many will read only because someone tells them to?
How many won't even think to pick up a book?

Of course, with first graders, some of what takes place over the summer is dependent on the resources in their house and the adults they live with.  Yet, I think I can always do a better job of selling books and the rewards of being a reader so that I create more students who read into the summer and beyond than students who can but don't.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Poetry Cafe

I love admiring this picture.  For me, there's something so very peaceful about it.  It represents nine months of blossoming for 24 young little thinkers.  I took this on the day of our Poetry Cafe (inspired by Marie, my teammate, who found an amazing post about a teacher who knew how to put on a great Poetry Cafe - look here and you'll be impressed).  Each of my poets got to sit in the limelight and read one of their published poems while the other poets sat on the floor quietly awaiting their turn and teaching the adults who came to join us how to be poetically cool and snap after each reading.  (The black curtain is a Dollar Store tablecloth.  I love how simple and perfect and cheap it is.)

As our guests arrived, two of my kids stood at the door and welcomed them with their greetings, as well as a program.  We had lots of guests too.  Only five of my kids weren't represented by an adult.


They were encouraged to wear jeans and black t-shirts.  Berets were also mentioned as an option, and a handful took me up on that.  They were pretty cute and very poetic looking.

Each poet got to read their poem into our new sound system.  You can see this little poet holding onto the microphone that fits around the neck.  It definitely came in handy for some of our quiet readers and noisier guests.

I also read a poem of mine.  I read my Where I am From poem, which my kids also wrote during our unit.  In fact, a few chose to read theirs at our Poetry Cafe.  I recently posted about them.  (Look here.  You'll find a template.)  Anyway, I didn't plan on crying, but the minute I sat down, I knew I was in trouble.  I cried through the whole thing and could tell the tears were a bit contagious for the adults in the room too.  Poetry and a blessed life and a year spent with little people who have grown so much can do that to a person.

Every year my poets celebrate the end of our unit by publishing their poetry in a poetry anthology.  This year was no different, except that I decided to pass them out at the end of our Poetry Cafe as a perfect way to end a perfect moment.  The cookies were an added bonus.

I'm very grateful that Marie suggested we give this Poetry Cafe idea a shot.  I knew it was going to be worth it.  I just didn't know how much.  (The parents raved about it, by the way.)  I've definitely found a new tradition.  

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Where I'm From (freebie)

I'm a big fan of discovering the magic in the words of a young poet.  I think it's harder to find that magic when kids think poetry has to rhyme or when there are lots of rules involved.  There's something rather powerful about free verse poetry.  It makes for clever poems like these.

Having said that, amidst a poetry unit full of free verse, I tried something new this year recommended by a fellow writing teacher, Marie, who loves teaching free verse poetry as well.  Have you heard the poem "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon?  It's a heart-felt and unique poem that lends itself to imitation even for first graders.  Here are a few first grade examples.

Below is a template that you're welcome to use.  Marie gave me a great one, and I modified it ever so slightly.  You'll also find many varieties on the internet.

(Click on the picture for your own copy.)

I still love free verse the most, but I'm glad that Marie shared this with me.  I think these poems will be special treasures for not only the poets but their families as well. 

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday Sayings: A School Thing

The voice of Regie Routman is one that has repeatedly played over and over in my head throughout my career.  She's taught me a lot, but the thought above is one of the most foundational principals that has influenced my pedagogy.  Regie preaches authenticity, and she sees a difference between what typically takes place in schools and what takes place in the real world.  She wants to bridge the gap by making classroom instruction mirror the world that kids live in when they're not in our classrooms.  Yep, Regie's all about things I'd like to be all about.  I can't say I'm altogether there.  There are things that happen in my classroom that are more school-ish than I'd like, and I struggle to find ways to make them more like the real world.  I guess that's what Regie wants of me though - to reflect and ask the hard questions about school things.  I so want to be like her.

This past week I read a blog post from Regie via Facebook and left her a message. 

Can I be me and her at the same time?

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Forehead Compensation (freebie)

My mathematicians are pretty good at making ten.  We recently practiced with this little activity.

I put equations on their foreheads and gave them a Making Ten recording sheet.  (By the way, there's something special and motivating about a first grader and their forehead.)  They visited heads, wrote down the person's equation, compensated on their sheet by making ten, and wrote the new equation before solving.

You can see above how they compensated with an arrow and the amount that must be given to the number to make it into a ten.

Here's the recording sheet if you're interested.

Happy making ten!

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Dandelions, Where They Belong

Our final art project of the year turned out pretty well, I'd say. I found this painting of a dandelion on Pinterest.  It became our inspiration, as well as the many dandelions that are sprinkled throughout our playground.  

Since I didn't really know what I was doing, I kept it simple.  We used color crayons for the stem and attempted to do a bit of shading.  Then we used regular old white chalk for the seeds.  Like I said, it's simple but I'm very happy with the outcome.

They are much more welcome here on the wall than in my lawn!

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

When I Grow Up

I'm linking up today and answering a few questions about myself.  (Warning:  It's nothing too exciting.)

1.  What made you decide to be a teacher?
I'm not sure I can remember a day when I officially made the choice to teach.  I think it was always part of my plan and in my blood. I was one of those little people who said I was going to be a teacher when I grew up and meant it.  I loved my elementary teachers though, so I know they played a huge role.

2.  What has been the most rewarding experience as a teacher?
I can't really narrow it down to one experience, but welcoming non-writers and non-readers into the literacy club is part of what guarantees that I'll be forever in first.  It's a challenge but a rewarding one.

3.  If you were not a teacher, what would you be?
There was a time when swimming with the whales sounded like fun, but I got over that about 35 years ago.  I guess if I weren't a teacher, I'd probably be working with teachers.  Truthfully, I wouldn't mind becoming Regie Routman when I grow up.

If you're in the mood for a linky, go visit Latoya and let us in on your own answers.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Play the Hand You're Dealt

In no way am I trying to trivialize my profession, but I've often thought that being a teacher is similar to playing a game of cards.  I play the hand I'm dealt.  I've no control over which cards I get at the beginning of the year, but I do control how I play the game.  Now that the game is almost over, I look at my cards and ask myself, "How'd I do?"  It's tempting to look at certain cards and list off excuses as to why that particular one didn't do as well in the game as I would have liked.  I've been there many times when someone asks "How's so and so doing?" and I start listing off home, social, or motivation problems that get in the way.  Although valid, those excuses are things I had no control over.  I can only worry about how I strategically used that card to its best advantage.  My goal is to find a way to sharpen my card playing skills in a way that ensures the success of each one in spite of the external factors that I have absolutely no control over.  Pie in the sky?  Maybe.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gifts Worth Holding Onto

For many years I've given end-of-the-year gifts to my kids that were sweet and given with love but not long-lasting.  I've been wanting to make an upgrade to something more sentimental and worthy of keeping for years and years to come.  I think I found it.  I merged two great ideas from fellow bloggers to create these.

I found 4 1/4" x 4 1/4" tiles at Home Depot for 16 cents a piece.  (Um, wow!)  I used profile pictures, scrapbook paper, Mod Podge, and a Sharpie marker.  There you have it.  Simple, cheap, cute, and sentimental.

Like I said, I merged two ideas from blogland.  K. Mo makes profile pictures for Mother's Day, and Natalie gives picture tiles to her kids at the end of the year.  Thanks gals for inspiring me!

Natalia at Teachery Tidbits

I hope my little ones hold onto these little gifts for a long time.

Thanks Tara!  Lovin' your linky as always.
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