Adventures in First Grade

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sneaky Silent Letters - FREEBIE

My kiddos have been working on their sneaky, silent letters. 

We started by reading the book Silent Letters Loud and Clear by Robin Pulver.

It is a really cute book where the students don't understand why they have to use the silent letters when they don't hear them. So they wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper stating their case.  Well, the silent letters disappear and the letter makes absolutely no sense.  Moral to the story:  We NEED those sneaky silent letters!

To practice recognizing some of our words that have silent letters, I created a Sneaky Silent Letter Sort.

If you are interested in this freebie, CLICK HERE!!

The fun fonts are from Kevin and Amanda.


Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tagged and a Math FREEBIE!

I have not played tag since last summer with my boys, so it is neat to play a bloggy version of tag in the middle of winter!  I have been tagged by Holly over at Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade.

Here are the rules of Bloggy Tag:
1.  Post the rules
2.  Post 12 fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
3.  Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create 12 new questions for the people you tagged.
4.  Tag 12 people and link them in your post.
5.  Let them know that they have been tagged.

My 12 Fun Facts:
1.  I am a creature of habit....
2.  Unless it is in the classroom - if something isn't working, I'll change it!
3.  I once went parasailing...I was terrified the whole time.
4.  I love popcorn.
5.  I love storage containers....probably from my need to be organized!
6.  I met my husband on a blind date.
7.  He fell asleep in the movie on this blind date.
8.  On the same date, after he dropped me off, he almost ran over me.
9.  I haven't let him forget it.
10.  This July, we will be our eight year anniversary.
11.  We are lucky parents to two sweet boys.
12.  My sons are named Luke and Parker.

These are the questions that Holly has asked the people she tagged to answer:
1.  What is your favorite kind of candy?  Hot Tamales or anything chocolate.
2.  What is something that you are really uptight about?  Being late!!
3.  Is your car clean at this very minute?  Ummm....Not so much!
4.  What is your "favorite" household chore?  That's tough...I guess laundry.  I don't mind the washing or the folding, it is the putting away that I get tired of doing.
5.  Do you miss Oprah?  I was never home in time to watch Oprah, so no, not really.
6.  Do you play an instrument?  I used to play the guitar, but it has been years.
7.  What is your favorite piece of technology?  At school it is my document camera.  At home it is my Nook Color.
8.  Do you have a social life?'s hard with young children and school!
9.  Are you a phone talker?  Yes...I live four hours away from my family, and we talk about everyday.
10.  Do you text?  No, I would much rather hear the person that I am speaking with.
11.  What is your favorite piece of furniture in your house?  Oh that is easy.  My pineapple chair.  I love it, but my husband can't stand it.  I think it is one of those things where you either love it, or hate it.  Here is a picture so you can judge for yourself:

12.  Does anything make you squeamish?  Spiders, blood....hold on, I've got to put my head between my knees to stop the clanking in my ears.

Okay.  I'm better now.'re it!

Edana - Color Me Kinder
Michelle - Fabulous in First
Jenn - Finally in First
DeAnne - First Grade and Fabulous
Tammy - First Grade at Klinger Cafe
LaughinBrunette (Jennifer) - First Grade Blue Skies
Johanna - First Grade Fanatic
Kimberley - First in Maine
Haley - Following Optimism
Barbara - Grade ONEderful
Miss DeCarbo - Second Grade Sugar and Spice
Amy - The Resource(ful) Room

Okay ladies, here are your questions:
1.  Do you have a pet?
2.  What is your favorite type of food?
3.  Do you have a phobia of anything?
4.  If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
5.  Do you prefer salty or sweet snacks?
6.  What did you want to be when you grew up?
7.  Where did you go to college?
8.  When did you realize that you wanted to be a teacher?
9.  What is your favorite grade level to teach?
10.  What subject do you like teaching the most?
11.  What is one thing in your classroom that you feel like you can't live without?
12.  What is your favorite part about blogging?

Shewww.  That was a LONG post.  To reward you for getting to the end, I have a math freebie for you!  It is a Valentine's Day themed math game.  It is to help children with adding three digits.  They take turns rolling three dice and then moving the same number of spaces as the sum.  I have only pictured two of the three slides.  The third slide has the game pieces.

If you are interested in this freebie, CLICK HERE!!

Happy Sunday!!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crash, Thump

That is the sound of me falling out of my chair.  I was blog stalking yesterday morning and I headed over to Dragonflies in First.  She always has some neat ideas or a funny story.  Anyway, as I was reading her blog, I noticed the random generator and saw that I had won!  Hence the falling out of the chair.  I never win ANYTHING!

Let me tell you a story about how I never win anything.  One of the other first grade teachers is the luckiest person I know.  Whenever we go somewhere and there is a door prize drawing involved, she ALWAYS wins.

Some of you may remember me talking about the football pool we had going on at school back in the fall.  My friend was in it too.  My strategy for picking who would win each game was to look at the stats of the teams, look at injury lists, etc.  My friend's method?  I kid you not, she would pick the team that she had heard of or which one was geographically closest.  We had lots of giggles as I sat with her and watched her choose her teams.  It would take her about 45 could take me an hour.

Well the laugh is on me because she ended up winning!!  This little story just goes to show how LUCKY she is!

But I'm not bitter.


I'm not.


But, I guarantee if she had entered the giveaway, I would not have fallen out of my chair yesterday morning!

To get the awesome unit that I won, CLICK HERE.  It is titled Fabulous February Word Work, and it has great activities.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Words Their Way My Way

Like any program out there, most teachers that I know take it and make it work for their specific classroom needs.  That is what I have done with Words Their Way.

I have gotten several questions about word study, so I thought that I would share a little more in depth of what it looks like in my classroom.

I have three groups of kids who are on different reading and spelling levels.  The Red Group, Green Group, and Blue Group.  Each group has their own reading selection for the week and spelling list.

I get my lists from the Words Their Way books.  All of my groups are in the Letter Name book:

One of my groups will be going into the Within Word Pattern book next week:

(These books are relatively inexpensive:  under $20 each.  The books have many, many word lists with features that build on one another.)

Okay, back to my week with Words Their Way.

On Monday each group will get their list of words, cut them out, put their initials on the back of each word, and put them in the baggie in the back of their word study notebook.  During group time on Monday we color the header words red, green, or blue depending on the group.  We go over the features for the week, sort, and talk about our sorts.  The kiddos also write the sorts in their notebooks.

For the rest of the week we will sort and write our words daily.  We also will look for words that follow our feature patterns in what we are reading. 

Each group has their own homework packet where they practice spelling their words and sorting some of their words at home.

The assessments are a little different than what one might traditionally think of as a spelling test. 
     1.  Each child sorts their words on their desk.  I walk around and check off that they were able to correctly complete their sort. 

     2.  The actual written part of the test is different too.  Not only do they have to spell the word correctly, they also have to put it under the correct feature header. 

I hope that this helps bring a greater understanding of how Words Their Way looks in my classroom.

I hope to be able to post some pictures of the children sorting and the assessments in action soon.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Word Study and an Award

Last Friday, my principal asked if I would like to attend a conference on word study, knowing how much I like Words Their Way.  Not knowing much about the conference, I said sure.  So yesterday at 5:00, I walked into the Executive Auditorium at the Higher Ed center and I was schooled on word study. 

By Shane Templeton. 

One of THE authors of Words Their Way.

Jaw drop. 

Holy Cow.

He was an excellent speaker.  Here are some of the highlights of his talk:

1.  How kids spell words tells us what they know about words and what they know about reading.

2.  Look at what they are using, but confusing.

3.  Three layers of vocabulary:
    -Immersion in rich oral language, wide spread reading, and writing for a purpose.
    -Explicitly teaching and talking about word structure
    -Deep intense study of specific words:  general academic vocabulary as well as content specific.

4.  Activate a background knowledge of vocabulary.

I know that this is what we do, but it is just nice to be reaffirmed in our teaching actions.

Along the lines of word study, I wanted to share how it works in my classroom.

Each child gets their own word study notebook.  It is just a simple composition notebook.  On the back inside cover, I tape in an envelope:

I know that it is hard to see, but all I had were white envelopes.  They are like the ones that you put a report card in to send home.  In this envelope is where the kids keep a baggie with their words that they are sorting for the week.

The children sort and write their words every day.  Here are a few examples:

On Friday for the assessment, the students not only have to spell the words correctly, they also have to write them under the correct feature heading.

One of the reasons that I love word study, is that it is differentiated for individual learners.  Our reading series has a spelling component, but it did not meet the spelling needs of most of the students in my class.  I had used Words Their Way when I taught third grade, but have been too worried about learning the first grade curriculum for the last two years.  This is the first year that I have used it with my firsties.  I was super nervous about it at first, but my guys have caught onto the idea of sorts and features very quickly!

Okay, enough rambling on about word study.

The last part of the post title says an award.  I am so thankful to Amy over at The Resource(ful) Room for awarding me with her favorite follower award!

I don't know about you, but when I see that someone has left me a sweet, encouraging comment, it gives me confidence to continue to do what I know is best for my kiddos in my classroom.

There are a lot of kind friends out there in bloggy world that have given me all kinds of encouragement, and it is really hard to narrow it down to two, but here they are.

First, I would like to thank Barbara over at Grade ONEderful.

 She always takes the time to leave a comment, no matter how crazy my ramblings!

My next favorite follower is Jessica over at Apples and Papers.

She is a first grade teacher, and it appears that we are kindred spirits in the organization movement!  Her support has meant a LOT!

Thank you for making it to the end of this VERY long post!  You guys are the best!

Happy Tuesday!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Can't Believe That I Am Going to Share This...

My mom was a second grade teacher for many years.  When she retired, I inherited her "empire."  I carried box after box after box of awesome teaching stuff to the bonus room above our garage.  And that is pretty much where it has stayed.  Until now.  I am in the process of turning the bonus room into my office. 

I would LOVE something like this:

or this:

Here is my reality.  Please don't judge me!

YIKES!!!  I PROMISE the rest of our house does NOT look like this!  I have just been at a loss as to where to start.  I got the bookshelf for free from the secretary at my school, and my husband just bolted it to the wall for me tonight (I've had it for a month and a half.  sigh.)

So you can see that I have made some progress....sorta...kinda...okay not really, I just want to make myself feel better!  Hopefully I can find a happy medium between my two dream rooms and my in real life room!

I hope to be able to post "after" pictures soon!

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wow and a Freebie

You know how you have those days where you would be better off just getting back into bed?  If only I knew then what I know now!

My day started off rough because I was running late.  Not just a little late.  SUPER late.  The kind of late that you get stuck behind every slow car and get stopped by every traffic light. 

So, I have spent most of the day trying to catch up, but never fully succeeding. 

This afternoon, I had just put my seat belt on and started the car, when I saw it.  I took a picture of it at home.  Are you ready for this?

Seriously?!  Do you SEE the foot long crack in the windshield?  I promise that it wasn't there this morning.

So I am driving along getting really annoyed by the stinkin' crack and the way that it is distorting everything and getting really, well, let's say irritated...that's a good description.

I get to my Mother-in-Law's house and tell her all about the windshield and she looks kind of sheepish and says that, on top of everything else, she thinks that my youngest has an ear infection!

One trip to Urgent Care and an hour later we have a diagnosis of a double ear infection. 


Okay, onto happier things!

Yesterday I promised a freebie, and a freebie you shall get!  The adorable clip art is courtesy of The First Grade Diaries.  It is an ABC order activity with response sheet.  I hope that you enjoy!
Hope your Thursday is a happy one!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Season of Winter: Animals

Let's talk about Science!

The unit that we are working on now is about animals and their adaptations to survive during the winter.  My kiddos love anything to do with animals.  They oooh and aaahh whenever we read picture books about animals - especially animal babies.

Knowing this, to introduce the unit, we did a science walk which was inspired by Reagan over at Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits.  I printed off some pictures of animals migrating, hibernating, and staying active to survive the winter.  The students walked around and wrote questions or comments on the papers with the pictures.

I then created mini-unit that is for sale on TPT.  It is a cross curriculum unit so it includes language arts, writing, and math. 

First, I made an "Itty-Bitty" book to introduce the concepts of hibernation, migration, and staying active.  I also made a response sheet to go along with the Itty-Bitty book:

I created word wall cards:

There is a Memory game where the students have to match a picture with the correct vocabulary word:

I have included a four-square graphic organizer and two options of final copy paper (one option shown):

The math aspect consists of story problems with animals migrating, hibernating, or staying active:

Finally, I have included a list of books that I use for read alouds while studying the winter habits of animals:

If this is something that you are interested in, CLICK HERE.

Come back tomorrow for a freebie that goes along with this unit.  I meant to post it tonight, but I forgot my flash drive at school!

Happy Wednesday!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Little of This, A Little of That

So, while most of you were reuniting with your pajamas, I was at school today.  Not that I am jealous, or anything.  Really.  I'm not.  Okay, a little.  PLUS I had bus duty.  This means that I had to be in my spot and ready at 7:25 for that first early bus. 

As I have mentioned before, our school is doing a project where everyone is reading the same book, The Trumpet of the Swan.  I was reading aloud our chapter today, and came to the term of field glasses.  Pausing, I asked the children if they had a guess of what field glasses were.  One of my kiddos raised his hand and said, "They're like binoculars."  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  I was not expecting those words to come out of his mouth! 

During history, we read about Martin Luther King, Jr.  I love the book Martin's Big Words.

Not only are the pictures incredible, buy I think that it tells his story well for little ones.

Lastly, I want to take a poll.  The linky party of walking a day in each other's shoes has caused me to do some serious thinking:  Do you have to eat lunch with your kids, or is it a duty free time?  I really want to know!  I have this sinking feeling that I am one of the few who have to eat lunch with my kids.  Granted, it is at a different table, but still in the loud cafeteria all the same.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Day in My Shoes

I have seen a lot of bloggy friends participating in A Day in My Shoes Linky Party hosted by Katie over at The Adventures of a Sixth Grade Teacher.

I'm going to choose Monday, since that is tomorrow, and unlike EVERYONE else, we will be in school tomorrow!

5:00     My alarm goes off, drag myself out of bed, and head blindly to the shower.

5:30 - 6:00  Breakfast, blog stalk, Bible in no particular order.

6:00 - 7:00     Dress, do the hair thing, say good-bye to my husband, and begin coaxing my boys out of bed.

7:00 - 7:30     Hope that I've made it to the car with everybody and everything.  Five minutes into the drive, I wave to my school as I go cruising past.  Meet Mother-in-Law to get my littlest.

7:30 - 7:50     Drive BACK to school with oldest.

8:10 - 8:30     Kiddos begin arriving.  Morning Activities, AR, etc.

8:30 - 9:15     AR continues, reading conferences, morning work

9:15 - 10:40     Daily Five, groups

10:40 - 11:10     Recess...with the kids.

11:15 - 11:45     Lunch - NOT duty free.  Spills, tattles and hopefully a little lunch is eaten.

11:45 - 12:00     Number Talks, Calendar

12:00 - 12:20     First Grade Meeting:  Phonics songs, etc.

12:20 - 1:20     Math

1:20 - 2:00     Specials (Art)

2:00 - 2:35     Science or Social Studies

2:35 - 2:50    Pack-up, chapter book read aloud

2:50 - 4:30     Teacher stuff, getting ready for the next day, etc.

4:30 - 5:30     Commute to MIL's house to get littlest and drive back home

5:30 - 9:30    Homework (mine and oldest), dinner, play, chores, baths, lunches, clothes ready, stories, greet husband, hugs, laundry..........

9:30 - 10:00     Read for ME!

10:00     In bed so I can be ready to start the new day.

Head on over to Adventures of a Sixth Grade Teacher and link up.  I can't wait to read about your day!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Love to Joplin

Let's go back in time, shall we?

Last April, there was a tornado that went through our county, destroying an area called Glade Spring, Virginia and damaging many homes and businesses in Abingdon, Virginia.  It was super scary and the landscape of the areas damaged has been forever altered.

Flash forward a bit to Joplin, Missouri.  An F5 tornado swept through their city causing major, extensive damage. 

Let's come back to the present.  Having seen the damage to Glade Spring, I know that it is just a small glimpse of what the residents of Joplin have dealt with on a daily basis since May 22.

DeeDee over at Mrs. Wills Kindergarten is having a linky party to show Joplin some love!

We are sending TPT units or gift certificates to help raise the morale of teachers and students alike.  I sent The Snowy Days of January Language Arts and Math Centers pack.

Head on over and join this linky party to aid our fellow teachers!

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

So THAT is What it Looks Like

Today our county had a teacher workday.  I am pretty sure that this is the first time in all of my years teaching here that we have had a workday in January.  It is always scheduled, but usually it is either used to make up a snow day, or it is supposed to be a make up day but it snows.

I was inspired by The Clutter-Free Classroom and Jessica over at Apples and Papers to work on organizing my classroom.  My problem is this.  We do so much during the day that by the end of school, I am too tired to clean up my mess. 

I have decided that I am sick of coming into my classroom and feeling defeated first thing when I look at my guided reading and SMARTBoard tables.  If you click The Clutter-Free Classroom link above, you will find a freebie poster with decluttering tips. 

I had another weapon in my decluttering arsenal that I was excited to use.  I have been reading The Happiness Project By Gretchen Rubin

One tip that she gives is the one minute rule.  Any task that takes under a minute to complete, do it NOW.  I am pretty famous for working in one area of my room and making piles of things in other areas where I want them to go.  Today as I was decluttering and organizing, I found myself using the one minute rule.  Instead of putting a book on the counter beside the cabinet that I wanted to put it in, I went ahead and put the book in the cabinet.  Simple, I know.

I forgot my camera, but I wouldn't have taken any before pictures...I was too embarrassed.  However, I am pleased to announce that I know what the top of my tables look like!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I was thinking back on some of the things that my kiddos did at the beginning of the school year, and I couldn't figure out why I hadn't shared them.  Then I remembered.  I was SO new at blogging that I didn't know HOW to share!  I can laugh and admit it now, but it sure made me mad and frustrated in August!  And September.  And I believe most, if not all, of October. 

Like I said, I can laugh about it don't poke too much fun!

Anyway, what I want to share with you is called STAR:  Stop. Think. Act. Review.  I introduce it at the beginning of the year to help the children think about making good choices.  Each child has a laminated star on the corner of his/her desk.  If someone is misbehaving, or off task, I just tap the star for a nonverbal cue for them to get back on track. 

CLICK HERE if you would like to get this freebie for your classroom!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Teacher Down: A Random Hodgepodge of Information

I thought I had beaten it.  I thought I was in the clear.  I figured that there was no WAY I could get the yucky stomach bug that the rest of my family had....four days later.  Totally wrong!

I was fine.  Until after lunch yesterday.  We had a small assembly to kick off our "One School, One Book" program.  Every child in the school is getting a copy of The Trumpet of the Swan.

Long story short, I had to leave school early. 

It was really inconvenient too.  My husband is out of town...on a fishing trip.  So I had to leave my youngest son at his grandmother's because there was no WAY I would be able to take care of him and be sick.  My oldest was a real sweetheart.  He kept saying, "Mommy, if you need anything, just tell me.  I'll get it for you." Ahhh..sweet boys.

Thankfully, I was able to return to the world of the living today.

This week we are giving the PALS assessment.  I was SO proud of one of my little guys.  He is an ELL student, and he got up to the fourth grade level word list!!  He KNEW that he had done a great job and was so excited!

On the topic of giving mid-year assessments, I need advice.  When you are testing one child, what are your other children working on?  The lack of a regular schedule during these days throws my classroom off - me included!  I never had to give the PALS in third grade, and I'm not sure the best way to manage it.  Any ideas that you have will be appreciated!

I guess that is enough randomness for one evening.  Thanks to all of you who stuck it through till the end of this post!

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Counting the Days of January

One of my favorite bulletin boards of the year is "The Snowy Days of January." By the end of the month, we will have built a snowman.  Each day adds a new piece to the snowman.

This is what we had on Thursday:

Other pieces of the snowman include mittens, a scarf, arms, a carrot nose, and a LOT of coal - eyes, mouth, buttons.

The students are always excited to watch the snowman take shape, and they like to guess (Aha!  Predictions!) what will come next.

What are your favorite bulletin boards?

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

And the awards go to.....

Since my life has been crazyville this week, I haven't had the chance to thank some very lovely people for some awards!

Thank you to Barbara over at Grade ONEderful and Joni at Kinderkids Fun for the Liebster Award!

Also, thank you so much to Holly over at Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade for the Versatile Blogger Award!

Part of the Versatile Blogger Award requires me to share seven things about myself.  Hmm.  Well, here goes...I hope that you aren't too bored!

1.  I LOVE college football.  I am very sad because there are only a few bowl games left.  My favorite team is Virginia Tech...Go Hokies!  My school has a little football pool going on where the winner is free from bus duty for the rest of the year!  My fingers AND toes are crossed that I win.....bus duty stinks on ice is not pleasant.

2.  Another first grade teacher and I are the co-captains of our school's Relay for Life team.  The American Cancer Society is very important to me.

3.  I had a vegetable garden for the first time last summer.  We always had one growing up, but this was the first time where I was in charge.  I overestimated the number of squash and zucchini plants that I needed.  Let's just say we had a LOT of squash and I was giving it away to anyone who would take it.  I still have grated zucchini frozen for bread!

4.  You wouldn't know it now, but I ran cross-country in high school.  I was terrible.

5.  I collect yellow ware pottery.  My favorite piece belonged to my grandmother.

6.  I live five minutes from my school, but I have a daily commute of an hour and forty-five minutes to take my youngest son to his grandmother.  A lot of my ideas come to me during this time.

7.  I have a new fascination with the show Storage Wars.  It is amazing what they find.  My husband, however, says that it is fake because people wouldn't leave such valuable items to be sold.  Ah well, he might be right, but I still like it!

You can wake up now!  I'm finished!

Now to pass on the awards.

And the Liebster and Versatile Blogger awards go to............In no particular order................................

These blogs are really great...go check them out!

Happy Saturday!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bead-Azzling Readers

I am sorry that I haven't been able to post for the last few days.  My oldest had a stomach bug on Wednesday, my two-year-old had it yesterday, and my husband has it now. I am the last one standing....YIKES!  As I have been Cloroxing the house (and myself) I keep repeating, "I will not get sick.  I will NOT get sick."  So far, it seems to be working.

I was only in school for three days this week because of snow on Tuesday and then the beginning of the sickness on Wednesday.  We surprisingly have gotten a lot accomplished.

In my Daily Five journey, we are up to four minutes of Read to Self, and I have been amazed at the outcome!  They are so into it!  In fact, I had several kiddos who were really upset with me when we finished Read to Self!

Hopefully, it will continue to go smoothly.

While on the topic of reading, as some of you may know, our school uses the Accelerated Reader program.  In December we used a reading incentive of adding links to a paper chain on our holiday tree for every 100% earned.

In January, we are having Bead-Azzling Readers.  On a bulletin board, I have pinned a small gift bag for each child (so there is no comparison about how many beads a child has, etc.).  Every time they get a 100% on an AR test, they get to pick a bead from the 100% box.  To encourage my kiddos to read more chapter books and non-fiction, they will get an additional bead for every 100.

At the end of the month, they will make necklaces with the beads they have earned.  I was a little nervous at first about what the boys would say, but they have been just as excited as the girls.

Here are some pictures of the Bead-Azzling Readers board and the bead boxes:

The 100% beads are just regular beads that you get about 1000 in a container.  The non-fiction beads are star shaped.  The chapter book beads look like the 100% beads, just much larger.  I got all of the beads at my new favorite place - Hobby Lobby.

I am curious, do your schools participate in the AR program?

Happy Friday!