Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Field Day

I have so much to post, but there never seems to be any time! Today was field day and needless to say, I'm exhausted! Luckily for us, it was overcast the whole day and stayed very cool. There's nothing worse than a scorching hot field day and overheated kids. Yuck!

Right now I'm working on a manipulative math center to teach >, < and =. We're going to be trying it out next week and I'll let you know how it works. For me, this has always been one of the hardest topics to teach. Either they get it, or they don't and for the ones who don't it is so hard to help them! I can get them to the place where they answer correctly but I'm never sure that they understand the concept. I was playing around with different ways to teach it when it occurred to me that Popsicle sticks would be perfect! I showed the students that >, < and = are really just two lines that we move to show which side is bigger.

Wow! What a difference! After just a few tries with it I saw some real understanding from a group of kids who were lost before. I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier! I'll definitely take some pictures next week and write a longer post about it. Right now, I'm going to bed!!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Play Dough!

I spent some time this morning making play dough for my class. It turned out great! I've had varying degrees of success with this but I really think this time was the best!

It's very soft and pliable but not at all sticky! (The play dough is for first graders but the snail is compliments of my resident fifth grader who did a lot of the work!)

I think the big difference this time was I didn't freak out when it looked too runny and just kept cooking it. In the space of just a few minutes it went from a runny pancake batter to a slightly sticky play dough. I kept cooking and it really firmed up. Then I cooked about two minutes more--after I  thought it was done.

The other difference was that didn't use my usual liquid food coloring. I had recently bought some gel coloring from Michael's and it worked great! It didn't add any water to the play dough so the consistency stayed nice and firm!

So, here's the recipe I used
I mixed together in a pot:
2 cups of flour
2 cups of warm water
1 cup of salt
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of cream of tartar

Turn the heat on and stir! Stir continuously until it comes away from the pot and has a play dough consistency. Stir for two more minutes! Remove the dough from the pot and let it cool for about ten minutes before adding the food coloring.

I wanted a lot of colors so I divided mine first. 

We use play dough almost every day in my classroom. Usually it's for word work. The students roll it out and write sentences or words in it. They poke the letters in using dots made with the tip of a pencil. We do have a bunch of play dough tools but those are for Friday! Dough extruders are such great tools for strengthening fine motor skills. 

Throughout the week my kids have the chance to earn tickets and on Fridays we trade them in for coupons. One of the coupons is play dough! They get to keep a tray with play dough and tools near their desk and whenever they are finished with their work they can play. I suspect that with all these new colors, there will be a run on the play dough coupons!

Word Walls!

Wow, this isn't my post but over at Dragonflies in First there is a fantastic piece on using interactive word walls. I have a word wall and I use it but it's not nearly as effective as I think it could be. I'm so excited to try these ideas. Check it out!

Dragonflies in First
You can find it here:


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March and St. Patrick's Day Linkup!

Spring seems to be finally here and I'm celebrating by participating in a March and St. Patrick's Day product linkup over at 1st Grade Salt Life. I've added my March Morning Work for First Grade. There are lots of great spring products to take a look at and a ton of St. Patrick's Day resources! Head over and take a look!!

Enjoy and happy (almost!) spring!

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's All About the Money!

This year we started a new program. When the students go above and beyond or finish an extra project they get tickets. I've given out tickets before but we always turned them in for treasure box items and after a while I just got so tired of buying and sorting out what really were junky toys that sometimes just stayed in their book bags! This year, we changed it up. Instead of buying toys, they bought coupons for things like chewing gum, wearing a hat, bringing in a stuffed animal to sit on your desk, using a pen or better yet, smelly markers! It was an amazing hit!!! The kids were unbelievably motivated and the tickets were the talk of the class! I can't take credit for the program--I was blog hopping and I found MelD's amazing blog. Tons--TONS--of great ideas.

Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations

Pretty soon I noticed that just giving out one ticket at a time wasn't enough and I started giving out tickets that were worth five and ten, too.

So, what does all this have to do with money? This week we started counting money. I usually dread this unit. It seems like no matter how many times we count by fives and tens this just really trips them up, especially when we count mixed coins...ugh!

Today we counted with dimes, nickels and pennies. EVERY CHILD sat down, counted the money and was RIGHT!! No problems at all! What made the difference? It was the tickets!!

Every Friday before we go to the coupon store, everyone counts their tickets. They were counting mixed tickets, 10s, 5s and 1s. Sound familiar? I really think that what made it work was that it was meaningful to them. They weren't just counting coins on a paper to see if there are enough for a picture of a toy. They were saving and counting their tickets for things they really wanted. Right now extra recess is a hot coupon!

It didn't happen overnight and up until about a month ago I was still helping a few of my students with counting their tickets but they all got it eventually because they NEEDED to know how many tickets they had! Before long I was hearing "30, 40, 45, 50, 51, 51...I have 52 tickets!"

We have savers and spenders. It was so funny in the beginning of the year to hear "I have 26 tickets but nothing costs 26 tickets!" It was a good lesson in greater than and less than--as long as it costs less than 26 tickets you're good to go!

If you count them out you'll see they're in groups of 100!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sight Word Sampler!

So, I decided to create a sampler of the activities in my Super Sight Word Packet and offer the sampler as a freebie. This way teachers can get a feel for the packet and see if it works for them before buying the whole packet. You can get your copy of the sampler here:

I have to admit, I LOVE sight words! At the beginning of the year we have a literacy night with the parents of the kindergartners and first graders. I know I always go overboard when we talk about sight words but I feel like if I can get across to the parents the importance of learning these words the rest of the year is soooo much easier! As a parent (and, yes, sometimes as a teacher!) the first thing we tend to say when a new reader is struggling is "sound it out". There's nothing wrong with sounding a word out but I tell the parents that it's such a labor intensive strategy that we try to save it for when it's really needed.

One of the ways I show them is I put up on the board a page of a book we read in November. It has about 25 words on the page and it looks pretty overwhelming. We go over how hard it would be to sound out every word on that page and how little you would remember by the end of each sentence, never mind the whole page!

The next slide I show is the same page but this time all the sight words we've already learned have been whited out. There are now only two words on the page and one is easily figured out with a picture cue. Every year the parents say "Ohhhhh"! It really brings to the forefront the importance of learning high frequency words!

We use Houghton Mifflin reading and I really do like it. It introduces 6-9 new sight words every week. Each week builds on the week before and the learning is very incremental. We use the Sight Word Packet activities as centers or homework throughout the week and it really helps reinforce these words. In the packet I've labeled each page with what theme/week it corresponds to in Houghton Mifflin so T8W1 is theme 8, week 1. Having said that, you don't need to use Houghton Mifflin to use the sheets! These sight words are all on the Dolch and Fry lists and are words every reader needs to know!


Saturday, March 8, 2014

If You Give a First Grader a Pancake...

...they'll be hyper for the rest of the day! Every year around this time we read If You Give a Pig a Pancake. It's one of the first books in our reading series that they recognize as something they've seen before and a book you can really get at the bookstore or library. Of course, after we read the book, we HAVE to make pancakes! I've always just had pancakes and syrup but this year first grade has an amazing TA and she was having none of it! Soooo... we ended up with blueberries, chocolate chips, vanilla chips, peanut butter chips, sprinkles and whipped cream. Well, did you know that sprinkles make pancakes AMAZING?!? I had no idea! They really were fantastic. As for making the kids hyper, well, I already knew about that so we did the pancakes at the end of the day on Friday. Teacher payback for giving them doughnuts for breakfast!

Oh, our forever boxes were a great success. Here's a finished one:

Have a great weekend! It's in the 60s here today after a rainy, freezing week and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it!