Thursday, January 22, 2015

Five for Friday! My First One!

Just a little note, I seem to be having technical difficulties.  I sure hope all of this isn't jumbled together!  Haha

Because of our daily Team Time and Rock Your Fluency from The First Grade Parade, my kiddos are rocking fluency, now if only the comprehension would come!

It's "all about the bass, no treble!"

I can't believe I forgot about these. It was the perfect time to use them since we are introducing ten more, ten less and double digit addition.

And this is seriously driving me crazy this week!

And I know this post seems to be a mess!  If anyone has any tips let me know.  I've been blogging on my personal blog for a few years and don't seem to have issues.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Building a Snowman With AR

I have to admit that I have always been on the fence about using AR with my first graders. I know that research from years ago suggests it is better used with older students, but there are many "tests" that go along with reading on our level. In the past I have made it a competition to see who could get the most points during the course of the school year. I've also done prizes for reaching goals each six weeks. Inevitably many of my students got tired and bored after a short amount of time and I just don't feel like I saw much growth in comprehension. This year I feel like my students are really struggling in reading comprehension and I am trying anything and everything to help them, including introducing AR. I must pause here and tell you that most of the following was actually my assistant's idea, she has been using AR in other classes she's been in for years. We wanted the students to own the whole thing, from beginning to end. We wanted to get them excited about reading and taking the tests. First, we built a snowman. We didn't tell the kids why we were building him or what we would be doing.
After we hung him on the wall the kids were given construction paper and each group made a scarf, hat, and boots, or the nose, eyes, and mouth. One group made buttons. Some of the kids decided he needed a broom. We let them have creative freedom. We explained what AR is, what they will be doing, and how we will track their progress, both individually and as a class.
As a class we are marking each test taken and passed with an 80% or higher on a ten frame chart.
Students also add a snowflake to the snowman for each test taken and passed, again at 80% or higher, so we can see our work in progress. We keep track of each child's progress in their fluency folders (I'll post about this later, it goes with our Team Time.) We are using leveled readers from a previous reading series and divided them up into levels. Students can't go on to the next level until they have taken and passed all tests in the one before. Students also take AR tests on our weekly reading story from the series we use now. They have done so great that I take a grade on the test.
They even came up with the title themselves.
That is not the greatest of pics, but we hung the sign high, and I am short!!! To add in a little more math, we had students estimate how many books they thought we would have to read to fill the snowman and wrote their predictions.
And this is how far we've come so far!
When we filled the first snowball we added the buttons the students had made. We didn't tell them we would have a party or anything when we filled the snowman. We wanted the excitement for reading to be the true reward. And they are excited. We only have Ms. Debbie in our class two days a week, and the kids get so excited when she comes in because they know that we will be able to do AR. We try on the other days, but there's just not always enough time to get everyone through in one day with one working computer. When she is with us she can take a group to the computer lab. The kids have become very capable of logging in on their own. I really think that between AR and our daily Team Time I am seeing some great results this year. The kids are so excited and they have already come up with a title for our next reading adventure!

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Years Goals

So I'm going to attempt to link up with Erica's Edventures and post about my New Year's Goals. I'm not much of a resolution person, but goals are good.
I'm terrible at keeping resolutions and to be honest I haven't set any resolutions in years. I have however thought about some goals I have for this year. So here goes!
One goal here is to make my kids happy little learners. I'm so tired of all the drill and practice. I want to encourage creativity in learning. I have been perusing the web for more ideas and I've been going back to my first years of teaching and trying to reinvent some of the things I did to fit our standards today. I plan to communicate better with my parents as well. Sure, I send newsletters, emails, progress reports, and I answer any questions they have, but I need to take the time to really communicate with them. I also want to do a better job of really helping and listening to other teachers in my school. Sure I share everything I make with them, but sometimes I think I am so busy trying to do ten different things that I don't really listen and really help.
Personal goals include spending quality time with my husband and kids. When my husband graduated from college last spring and went back to work, it seems that our family time really suffered. We love to go to the mountains, window shop at the mall, and go to parks. It seems that the second half of this year really flew by! We did go to a pumpkin farm and a few other places, but it seemed like it was a rushed day. I want to really be there for them. Another personal goal is to do much better with time management. I tend to spend way too much time on games and Facebook. I know that time can be better spent with my family or creating for TPT.
This is really a huge topic in our house right now. My husband and I agree that we need to make some major changes for ourselves and our kids. We don't have goals such as "lose x number of pounds" but to eat healthier in general. We already don't go out to eat a lot, I cook at least five nights a week, but since finding out our son is gluten and dairy intolerant, our meals (and grocery budget!) have changed dramatically. A big challenge in cooking gluten and dairy free is not relying on the commercially made items in the grocery store. Many are full of oils and fats that are unnecessary.
We have discussed our financial goals for this year and have put ourselves back on a budget via The Dave Ramsey plan. We were very successful using this years ago and are going back to it. We have big plans to take the family to Disney this year and hopefully to Europe in a few years. I know that my little Teachers Pay Teachers Store is going to help here. So I guess my personal goal of creating for TPT will bleed over to our financial goals. So there they are. Some of my goals for this year. Of course the list isn't inclusive, but it's a start.

Frozen Friday and other Christmas fun

So my New Year's Resolution includes something about waking up this little ol' blog of mine. So here goes. I think about posting all the time and I wonder why anyone would be interested in anything I have to say or anything I've done in my classroom. I'm going to start with a couple of things we did on the last couple of days before Winter Break (oh glorious winter break that is going by waaaay too fast!) We made ornaments from chenille stems and beads.
The kids loved it. We made wreaths and candy canes. My former para-professional cleaned out her garage one year and brough me a TON of beads. I'm still using them years later! We also made Santas.
I love giving the kids paper and a few other miscellaneous items and letting them have full creative freedom. I usually have them do a little writing activity with these, but time got away from me this year and we didn't get to the writing.
They all turn out so unique! I love them! Instead of a traditional Christmas or Holiday party, my team always puts together a day full of activities. In the past we've done a Polar Express Day, a Grinch Day, and even A Little House Christmas. This year we decided to revolve our day around Frozen. And we called it Frozen Friday!
We searched the internet and found Frozen Bingo, bookmarks, door knob holders, and so many other ideas. We made melting Olafs from marshmallows and had hot chocolate. We ended the day with a "snowball" fight using wadded up paper from the recycling bin. The kids had a ball! Unfortunately I can't find the pic from the fight, but imagine 14 first graders being told they can throw paper wads at their friends and teacher! It was awesome! I don't feel like this was much of a post, but at least it's a start. I've also found in writing this post that blogger has changed a little since I last blogged on my personal blog, so I guess I'm going to have to get used to the new format. Until next time.....