August 29, 2015

GETTIN' BACK INTO THE GROOVE - A LOOK AT WEEK TWO

Well, well, well . . . HELLO SATURDAY.  I know all you alls out there who are back in saddle are probably experiencing a very similar feeling now that the weekend has arrived.  Mine is a cross between relief and an absolute love affair. Thank you sweet, weekend.  I needed you :)

Despite the pooped feeling we are all experiencing, I hope that your week was just as nice as mine (sans the one major meltdown).  For only the second week back at it, I was pleasantly surprised with my crew's ability to fall into line. On that note, here's a little look-see at what transpired during this "round."

ONE - BRINGIN' BACK SNACK MATH
We jumped into our math program this week.  It's the same series that my other campus used.  I'll be honest . . . it's not my favorite (I'll say that in a whisper). However, if you think out of the box you can so spice it up and teach the concepts in ways that are STILL CORE FRIENDLY and meaningful for kids. With this said, I brought back good 'ol snack math this week.  We rocked out number bonds with tasty honey nut cereal pieces.  The kids were all about it and they didn't even know there were really doing math. 


Erica Bohrer has some wonderful program resources that supplement the program ever so nicely.  The best part is that they are free.  That handy-dandy number bond template up top is from her collection.  Do yourself a favor.  Hop on over there and snag these goodies and be sure to follow Erica while you are at it - just click the image below.


TWO - LATE NIGHTS
If you have been reading my posts lately, you know that I moved schools this year.  I absolutely LOVE my new campus and my team/colleagues, but the new systems have me running right now.  I just can't seem to catch up and I haven't quite found my groove yet.  It will come. However, until then I will continue work weekends and pull extra L-O-N-G weekdays.

On Monday night I went back to school to work in my jammers.
The sign does say to be a problem solver :)
#ohtheirony

THREE - A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
As I worked my way through the week, I noticed lots of resources from friends popping up in our rotations. 
The one and only Annie Moffatt helped me see who could rhyme.
And, she helped me differentiate for my "hot shot."
(Yep . . . my little guy rocked ABC order on Day 5 of 1st Grade)
Thanks Moffatt Girls :)
Kim Sutton's Math Drills that Thrill
Such a great way to work on number sense and listening skills.
The kids beg to do this one.
 
Miss Kindergarten Love popped up in my room this week as well.
Now I Know My ABCs was just what the doc ordered for independent work!
Thanks, Hadar!

FOUR - ABC CENTRAL
I quickly realized that we have some alphabet holes. Gotta fix this  . . . STAT! So, out came all the ABC activities I could throw their way.  In addition to working on a letter a day (handwriting, sound, and spelling), we also tossed in oodles of games, tunes, and other alphabet fun.  

The kids not only loved this game, but they were able to do it independently.
Hooray . . . focused at an unmanned station!
They rolled an ABC die and traced the letter that was rolled.
Next week they will play the same game and will WRITE the letter :)
The kids were introduced to Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes this week.
We learned the Alien Alphabet.
This was followed up with a fun art activity.
The kids picked a letter of the alphabet to turn into an alien.
On Monday we will write about our aliens!
Here is that song in action.
The kids were given their song binders for the year too.
Read up on this AMAZING fluency tool HERE.  It's a freebie.
The kids got to use the fun fingers . . . you could hear a pin drop!
We have been using the Alphabet Moves tunes all week as well.
These fun little tunes work on letter sound recognition, while getting kiddos active.
They have proved to be the PERFECT brain breaks for us.
Best part . . . they don't even realize that they are learning while doing these. 

To look into my ABC resources a bit more, click on the images below.  Both of these packets include oodles of professionally recorded MP3s.  

      

FIVE - GOTTA GO BIGGER
I have used The Teacher Wife's Plan Book for the past 3 years and have absolutely loved it.  If you have been at your school for a couple of years, this is such a great way to plan.  However, this year I have so many pull outs and push ins at my new school that I have to GO BIGGER.  Yep . . . I need more space to write. With this said, I went back to the legal-sized hard good planner that I used my first 4 years of teaching.  Being in a new place, I have to write every little thing down or I forget what's going on from one minute to the next. ((Sigh)) I am getting old.  I KNOW that will eventually return to my beloved online planner from Lindsey, but this year I had to SUPER SIZE it to survive all the new things rattling around in my brain.

This was last week's outline . . . it was so crowded.
I hate having to write it all down.  It's SO not my style.
But, I just have to these days.
 
Here is my new book.  I even broke out the highlighters to show breaks.
I am so out of sorts on my timing . . . it will come, but not yet.
As and added bonus, Henry likes to sit on the dang thing.
Thanks a bunch, Kitty.
Alright . . . there you have it.  My week in a nutshell.  It was a great one - packed with excitement and fun.  It definitely kept me running, but what teacher isn't sprinting to save his/her life this time of year?  Big hugs to all of you.  Hang on tight.  We will get there.  I'll see you all again soon :)


August 22, 2015

USING A CRICUT TO CREATE COOL CLASSROOM DECOR

I am not a crafty person by nature.  Painting and I don't really get along. Scrapbooking just ain't my thing.  I cannot draw to save my life. And, let's be honest . . . I can't visualize which colors and fonts will look good together until I actually see it.  Let's just say that it is good that I teach first grade . . . that's about the level of my artistic ability.    

Well, despite all of this . . . I went out of my comfort zone a bit and got myself a Cricut Explore One a few weeks ago.  I have multiple friends who rave about their machines and I decided to try one.  Well, I am so glad that I jumped on this one.  The Cricut does SO MANY COOL things.  

Here's an example of something really basic and cool that the Cricut can accomplish.  For those of you who follow me, you know that I moved schools this year.  I spent ALL summer setting up my classroom.  Part of setting up included painting my new mailboxes (scratched up white just wasn't my style). To finish up the project, I needed to label these little cubbies with numbers. After multiple attempts, I couldn't get anything to stick to the freshly painted and spray coated surface.  Well, that is, until I pulled the vinyl out of my Cricut order.  Check this out . . . 



Again, this isn't anything super fancy.  However, it solved a huge problem and it looks great.  I used my Cricut to cut basic numbers in a font that I used for everything else in my classroom.  Yep . . . the machine software allows you to access all of your fonts. The best part is that they actually stick! Thank you, sweet Cricut!

After I completed the easy task of cutting numbers, I was ready to push myself a bit more in the craft department.  When I learned that my new school runs with something called Greatness Words, an idea popped into my head --- what about making a growing bunting with these awesome words??!!  Every month our school embraces 2-3 new words that get the kiddos thinking about making good choices, being helpful, and the best they can be. September marks the first set of words.  So, I whipped up some bunting flags on my Cricut.  


I cut the letters out and this was left over.
I dig the way these look, but I wanted the words to pop a bit more.  
I cut out a new flag/bunting background.
Those letters that came from the cut outs above were glued onto the new background.
I am in the process of doing this will all of the flags this weekend.
These will be hung across the top of my white board.
I will continue to add to this bunting as additional Greatness Words come into play!

Alright, so there you have it.  Dolling was actually able to be crafty in her classroom thanks to her handy-dandy Cricut.  I can't wait to keep playing with it as I know this is only the tip of the ice burg when it comes to what this machine can actually do.  

Did you know that you could win BIG with Cricut during this back to school season?  They are giving away 70 prizes over the next 7 weeks.  Yes, you read that right.  SEVEN - ZERO . . . 70 Cricut goodies.  Go to their Facebook page and get yourself entered to win!  



Alright my friends, I am out of here.  Check back tomorrow as I am in the middle of finishing up a helpful post for primary.  Big hugs and merry weekend :)

August 9, 2015

TIPS TO INCREASE STUDENT BUY-IN + DRIVE LONG-TERM LEARNING

I am coming at you today with a post about increasing student buy-in and driving long-term learning in the classroom.  Here are 5 quick tips that have worked for me over the years.  We all have different styles (mine is a little wilder than most), but I believe that these categories can be molded to fit just about any classroom.  



THINK LIKE A KID
When creating lessons, I always start with my teacher hat.  After a little backward planning on a subject, I switch gears and put my on my student hat. I have found that putting myself in the shoes of a kid really helps drive engagement and overall buy-in.  If I can find a way to teach the standards and hook kids into what I am dishin', I have earned my pay for the day.  Here are a few examples of how this looks in my room . . . 






Sure, writing a summary can be fun, but why not have kids "call" each other and give one orally . . . just to switch things up? Yeah, talking about spheres and their features can be cool, but why not toss measurement into the mix and race these objects? Okay, memorizing tens facts and playing around the word games are great, but why not mix it up by adding some pom-poms and asking them to cheer fact sets? 

This is how I roll.  I know the standard that I need to hit -- this happens while wearing my "teacher hat." Once the idea is developed, I twist it just a bit to tack on a little extra kid-friendly touch. I have found that when those babies of ours can relate or smile/giggle during a lesson, they pay attention and actually remember what we are teachin'!

STOP. COLLABORATE . . . LISTEN!
I won't spend too much time on this one as we all do it.  However, it is critical to the engagement piece.  Take a moment to chat it up with your teammates and other teacher friends in the biz.  Reach out to teachers outside of your grade level too.  I can't tell you how many ideas have come from a discussion with a 4th or 5th grade teacher.  A few simple tweaks to an upper grade idea and you are rollin' in primary.  In addition to collaborating in person or via email, blogs are a great way to "collaborate" in a different way.  I need to get back on this train as I have been so bad about blog stalking as of late.  It's on my list of things to fix this school year.  

Here are two of my favorite bloggers to follow . . . the ones who really know how to "hook" those kids in and kick the engagement into high gear. There are oodles of other fantastic bloggers out there, but Hope and Elizabeth immediately came to mind.  These two gals are way outside of the box and inspire me to think differently. 




GET TECHY
There are SO many amazing ways to bring technology into the classroom.  From awesome apps to full on software programs, there are people/companies out there who are really dialing it in for teachers.  Kids are so in touch with the tech world now, it only makes sense that we embed it into our lessons. After all, it's all the cool "tech" stuff that keeps them engaged, right??

Here are a couple of my favorite tech resources that are pushing the limits as of late.  Seriously . . . these products and overall ideas will blow your mind :)

Alive Studios is one of the most amazing classroom technology companies I have ever seen.  This group offers up augmented reality for the classroom.  Yes, you read that correctly.  They provide 3D learning for the classroom without the silly glasses.  Alive Studios figured out a way to embed high-tech graphics, sounds, and other highly-engaging elements into amazing software learning kits that provide kids with a different ways to experience and interact with math and reading.  Can you imagine the student engagement on this one?  Uh, I can. (You should have seen my reaction when I first saw this in action . . . my mouth was WIDE open and my eyes were as big as plates). But, don't take my word for it.  Check this out . . . 



I recently switched schools and can't wait to get one of these up and running with my new crew.  I just have to figure out which version I will need (we may be switching from MAC to PC), but I won't know for a week or so.  I hope they hook us up soon, as this is just what I need. Check out Alive Studios in more detail HERE.  Oh, and be sure to look into their new BLOG.  Cynthia and the Alive crew are on the cutting edge of technology in the classroom.  I can't wait to see what else they have hiding up their sleeves.

Alright . . . tech tip number two coming your way.  I have three words for you. VIRTUAL FIELD TRIPS.  These things absolutely floor me.  Who knew that the World Wide Web could offer up a field trip from the comfort and safety of your own classroom?  My brilliant teaching partner opened my eyes to this one last year. She found an amazing opportunity from the California Academy of Sciences. The kiddos were able to experience their penguin exhibit with a special classroom tour guide via Skype. Everything was live. Our students were able to check out what the penguins where doing at that very moment and ask questions (one of their biologists was on the call with us). This gal even had a little lesson planned. It was awesome. She had our "lively" class eating out of her hand. You could hear a pin drop . . . talk about engagement.    
ABOVE: My awesome co-teacher from last year doing what she does best :)
The kids were full of questions and were so excited.
BELOW: The biologist has them moving like penguins.
She knew just what first graders needed . . . a little wiggle break.
video

So many places offer up forms of virtual field trips.  I quickly found ideas at Scholastic, the Smithsonian, and UPM Forest Life.  However, there are oodles more out there.  I would start with your largest local area museum (our closest is 2 hours away). They might just have something. Also, just Google it. Tons of opportunities come up :)

"TUNE" INTO LEARNING
If you follow me, you know that I am all about music in the classroom.  It's an absolute game changer.  I swear by it.  Tossing a little concept-based tune, chant, or rap into a lesson is right up our students' alleys.  Add some movement and you're totally speaking a whole new kid language that naturally drives student buy-in and long-term learning. There are oodles of awesome music resources out there.  All you have to do is find a songwriter or two that fit your style - Hap Palmer, Heidi Songs, Dr. Jean, Harry Kindergarten . . . the list goes on and on.  




All bias aside (okay, maybe I have a little), I love using Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes in my room.  He was a teacher for 25+ years and gets kids.  Yes, he just so happens to be my father.  However, he taught me everything he knows about teaching.  Thinking like the "little guys" was his specialty and it shows in his music.  

If you are looking for quick and easy ways to get music into your classroom this year, I teamed up with my pop to bring you some fun song packs.  These collections come with a handful of tunes and oodles of related ideas.  It's so much more than just "pushing play" and it's right at your fingertips. Check out all of our new song packets right HERE :)

    


BE SURE TO "PROP" IT UP
Here's my final tip when it comes to driving that student attention, getting buy-in, and making those standards stick. Add props to your lessons when you can. Kids love the theatrics of it all and always seem to pay attention SO MUCH MORE.  Think about spicing up your lesson by acting things out with funny hats or objects. The connections are endless, you just have to think about it in a bit of a different way.  




Those involved with the props and who are acting are engaged.  AND . . . those who are in the audience are hooked right in too.  The expressions on their little faces tell the whole story :)  


I have a prop box that's easy to access.
It's actually my storage cube chair that I sit on during carpet time.
Hiding stuff that I'll need for the day is so convenient!

Alright.  There you have it.  Five fabulous tips to increase student engagement and foster long-term learning. I hope you found something a little useful today. I will be back soon with something fun!  Big hugs to ya!


August 4, 2015

A NEW IDEA FOR LETTER SOUND PRACTICE

Letter sound recognition and practice will never be the same with one simple addition to your routine.  I'm serious. Check out this idea that I pulled out of my fanny about 5 years ago.  Today, it has finally come full circle :)



It seems that I bring up being shoved down to Kinder for a year at least twice a week.  Although it was a VERY painful experience for me (it just ain't my style), I learned so much as a teacher and the ideas that were generated as a means of trying to "stay ahead of them," were/are worth their weight in gold. Well, I am going to bring this whole sob story up again today as it is the whole reason Alphabet Moves came about. 

I remember trying to teach alphabet sound practice and recognition to my crazy crew and I wanted something more . . . something out of the box . . . something that would "HOOK" them right on into my lesson.  It came to me on my commute home one day.  Why not make it a musical game? Well, that's just what I did.  I got on the horn and called dear old dad and asked for some professional help (it's pretty clutch having a songwriter for a pop if you ask me). I remember calling on a Saturday morning and saying . . . "Hey, Dad! It's D Week. Can you make me a new tune . . . by tomorrow?"  I told him exactly what I wanted . . . I even drove over, sat at the kitchen table, and we mapped it out as a WHOLE family.  That's when the first of 26 tunes was drafted. That next week, the tune was played in class and it received glowing marks from the kiddos and from me (we're talking kid tested and teacher approved). The whole Kinder wing tried it out and begged for more. Well, it only took us 4 years to get our act together . . . better late than never, right? 

Here's how Alphabet Moves works.  Each letter of the alphabet gets a short little song (like 1:30 - 1:45).  The kids listen for words that contain the correct letter sound and complete the appropriate movement.  What movement is this you ask? Well, as each tune begins, the movements are given orally to the students. Once the voice finishes and the music starts, kiddos turn on their listening ears and start movin'!

Let me show you . . . sigh . . . I need to have kids so I can make them do this embarrassing stuff.  You have to see this one in action to get the "magic" that will surely happen in your classroom.  It sure did in mine. On that note (haha . . . get it), I bring you FLIP FOR F.    


video

Let me pause for a second to get my pride back in check.  I don't mind acting like a total dork on my blog or in front of most people.  However, I couldn't video this by myself as I was busy flippin'. Do you know where I am going with this little aside?  Um, well, asking my husband to take this little ditty was the hard part.  Sure, we act totally dippy together all the time, but I may never live this one down ;)

Moving on . . . so, my dad (Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes) and I worked together to create 26 tunes for this activity. It was my brain child, but he did all the heavy lifting on this one . . . thanks DADDY :)  We came up with the likes of Dance for D, Grin For G, Itch for I, and Sleep for S.



Here is a look-see at my Kinder kids in action. 
The giggles and smiles were contagious and they actually LISTENED.


These were created for TK/PRE-K and K students.  However, I do toss these in at the beginning of the year in first grade.  We always begin the year with letter sound review and handwriting practice.  The kids and I tackle a letter a day . . . and you can bet that we will be jammin' to one of these while we are at it.  And, I am not just saying that I am going to TRY this . . . I have done this in 1st and they loved it.  You just have to "sell it" to 'em and they will be all about floppin' around on the floor.  
This is what happens when you ask your husband to help you showcase something.
(SLEEP FOR S, ITCH FOR I, GRIN FOR G, AND FLIP FOR F)
But, if you get into it . . . so will your kids.

ALPHABET MOVES OUTTAKES
The things we do in the name of education.
Nice, dear . . . thanks for these stellar pictures.
Lovin' my messy office in the background - that's an added bonus today.

In addition to the 26 audio files (professionally recorded and in MP3 form mind you), this pack also offers up handwriting practice pages for each letter.  Click the cover below to read more and hear additional song samples (audio file in the packet preview). 

Wanna snag a sample before you leave today?  I put one of my favorite tunes (FLIP FOR F) in a little package for you.  



Although I have created this handy dandy pack, you don't need me to rock this idea in your classroom.  All you need is an instrumental, the ability to keep a beat, and a list of words.  If you are a MAC user, Garage Band is your friend.  It is so easy to create quick little jams in this program.  Not a MAC user or don't want to take the time . . . no worries.  Pick yourself an instrumental or a tune without words.  Pick a letter to tackle, show your babes the move, and play this tune while you call out words on the beat.  Same concept . . . just in a little different package. 

Alright, I have yammered on long enough.  I hope you have a wonderful day and a great back to school run (where ever you may be in the process).  I will be back again VERY soon.     


August 3, 2015

BACK TO SCHOOL RESOURCES AND FREEBIES

BACK TO SCHOOL  Yep . . . I just said it out loud. Honestly, I can't believe that I uttered that one without shuddering.  This is a first for me in a LONG TIME. We are only 14 days away from that very first day back in the saddle, but I am all smiles and not filled with angst this year.  Yeah, sure, I do NOT want to deal with the alarm clock or give up my 20 minute naps (who does, right??). However, I am feeling overwhelmingly optimistic and downright excited for this new year.  What a wonderful feeling.




This excitement has had me working my tail off as of late.  I have created or am busy prepping oodles of back to school resources to use with my NEW crew. Here is a look at just a few.  There are some FREEBIES tucked in there too. I like to make it worth your while (it's a little light reading today, but I know how busy you are at the moment).  

MATH CENTERS
We adopted a math program a few years back that left me yearning for some meaningful practice.  I just couldn't handle the endless stream of practice pages and subpar games.  With this said, I put together monthly sets of math games for first grade.  They are themed, target the CCSS standards, and offer up just the right amount of rigor and fun . . . IMO :)



Want a couple of free math centers while you are here?  See . . . I told you I'd offer up a few things.  I am glad that you are still here :)  If you like the flavor of these two little games, be sure to check out my Monthly Math Center Packs and BIG Bundle.


Number Bond Freebie - CLICK HERE

Commutative Property Freebie - CLICK HERE

SENTENCE WRITING
Writing edged out math as my favorite subject to teach.  It must have something to to with my first college degree . . . journalism.  (A little random tidbit about me.)  Journalism is a pretty serious biz, but if you follow me, you know that I'm a bit more on the wild side.  So, you can bet that I have created a series of writing resources that are a little out of the box.  However, over the years these have proven to be a great way to get kiddos to LOVE writing. What's the secret, you ask??  Make 'em laugh and they will be eating out of the palm of your hand.  Check out my sentence writing stuff HERE.   





GOOD MORNING WORK
I have 1st and 2nd grade resources for Good Morning Work.  Having work waiting for them on their desks as they arrive for the day not only helps them settle in, but it also gives you (the teacher) time to deal with the daily morning chaos.  Whenever I create these packs, my goal is to foster independence.  I train them, provide a consistent format, and chunk my topics (hit the same standards multiple days in a row in different, but similar ways).  By sticking to these "rules," I find that my mornings are much more meaningful.  



Sentence Writing-Warm Ups are quick ditties that can be used in the morning or as a transition.  They will only take about 5 minutes for kiddos to complete. The best part??  They are levelized and are perfect for Kinder, 1st or 2nd grade intervention. Check these out HERE.  

Good Morning Work packs provide a month's worth of learning that directly target the standards.  Both math and language arts sets are available. Take a look-see at the 1st GRADE SETS HERE or the 2nd GRADE SET HERE.

BRIGHT CLASSROOM DECOR
A new school with a new room meant a complete design overhaul this year.  I may or may not have gone a little crazy in the "matchy-matchy" department. What can I say?  I am a visual person and I like what I like :)  If you are looking for some Crayon Pack Colors in your room this year, this could be the collection for you.  Most of the templates come with an editable version - see 'em HERE.




While you are here, would you like some short vowel posters?  I made these and didn't get them into my packet.  Figured I would share :)


CLICK HERE to pick up this free poster set.
CLASSROOM MUSIC
Music is everything.  Seriously, folks.  I believe that it is our secret weapon. Not only does it add an awesome element of fun, but it also drives emotion which leads to LONG TERM learning.  I recently teamed up with Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes to bring you packets of professionally recorded MP3s and ideas. We offer both concept and movement based packets . . . and more are coming. These will take your lesson to the next level and/or offer up a necessary brain break. Take a moment to listen to some of the samples in my shop - you'll be glad you did . . . promise :) CLICK HERE to check out all of our new SONG PACKS!



Alright, I will leave you alone now.  There is a rundown of my favorite back to school resources.  Hopefully, you saw something that looked interesting and picked up a few freebies for your trouble today.  Don't forget that all of these resources and more are on sale today and tomorrow (28% my friends) . . . it's the BIG BACK TO SCHOOL TPT SALE.


We are oh so close to the BIG START (some of you already began the 9-month race) and I'm super excited.  Good luck to all of you . . . don't forget to hold on tight and enjoy the ride!  #bringitbacktoschool







 

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