Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Whole Year of Blogging Giveaway: Day 3

Welcome to Day 3 of my giveaway!


I am going to gush about another one of my favorite bloggers today.  :-)  


Lisa Mattes from Growing Firsties is one of the sweetest bloggers out there.  

First of all, have you seen her Mystery Box giveaway?  I love trying to win this awesome giveaway each month!  I mean, who doesn't love getting a package in the mail?  I know I do!  I know she's not the only one who is a part of that giveaway, but she's the one I'm blogging about so she's getting all the credit today. :-)  

Also, she is ALWAYS sharing what other teachers do.  Providing shoutouts on her blog and Facebook page.  She knows how to make other people feel special, that's for sure!  For example, yesterday on her blog, she shared about two of Lyndsey Kuster's products.  She is always linking to other teacher's blog posts, products, and giveaways.

She's also generous!  She, of course, donated an item to my giveaway, and she's always a part of other giveaways.  She has even been known to do flash giveaways on her Facebook page and great sales on her TPT items.  There are tons of awesome freebies on her blog as well.  She's a blogger you can learn a lot from!  

 One of the awesome units of Lisa's that I have is her personal narrative unit.  It was a unit that I received through making a donation to many of the many fundraisers teachers have held over the past year or so.  This just shows how generous Lisa is!  Though some of the things in the unit were things I already did (like the heart map), there were several things in this unit that I hadn't even thought of doing with personal narratives!  For example, there are different webs to help students generate ideas for personal narratives, like different places they think are special that might jog an idea for a personal narrative.   There are also student and teacher samples included!
If you haven't heard of Lisa's Common Core Crunch packs, you must have been living under a rock!  (Ok, maybe not, but sometimes I feel like I am!)  These packs are full of Language Arts and Writing printables.  I have a few of them, and I have used them for word work for fast finishers and homework.  They are full of great activities, and they are appropriate for each point in the year. 


 Lisa also has some other great reading activities in her shop!  For example, her Building STAR Readers pack is awesome!  There are also some other reading packs, such as her "Finding Proof" and "Rave Reviews" that are perfect for teaching reading to first graders!  Her newest two products are Sight Word Math, which integrate sight word practice with math skills!  I don't know about you, but I love it when I can combine two subjects in one!  And my students love activities where they get to do math during their reading time!

And if you win the giveaway, you get to choose one item from her store to use in your own classroom!  I would have a difficult time choosing which awesome item I would want!

If you missed the awesome items you can win, check out my Day 1 post here.  If you haven't entered the giveaway, you can enter here at the Rafflecopter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Today, I have another freebie for you!  It is a simple little activity I made for my first graders to practice counting coins.  The kids can "purchase" items from the store (how much fun would it be to give the students coins in a small bag or an old wallet so they feel like they are really shopping!).  The items are small cards with a coin amount, under 25 cents, on them.  They are expected to count out the coins for each item in the store.  There are 2 recording sheets that do not have all the items on them.  I figure that I will know if my students are able to count coins or not by assessing just a few of the items instead of all of them.  This is a pretty small freebie, and it's entirely blackline, because by the end of the year, there was no color ink left in our printers at school!  I know a lot of you appreciate blackline as much as I do. :-)

Here is the recording sheet and the coin amount cards.  

Please remember to give feedback if you download!  Thank you to all of you who downloaded yesterday's freebie and left such sweet feedback!  Remember to check back tomorrow- I have something special up my sleeve for all of you tomorrow!



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Whole Year of Blogging Giveaway: Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of my giveaway! 


Today, I am going to share with you about one of my favorite bloggers!  Also, check the bottom of this post for a FREEBIE!  
Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite bloggers, Babbling Abby.  I have been reading her blog for a while now, and I am always inspired.  This girl is FULL of great ideas!  I always loved reading all the fun ideas she had when she was a classroom teacher.  Now that she is out of the classroom, I love all the RTI and other assessment activities she has come up with to assist other teachers in their classrooms.  I don't know about you, but I find this whole process overwhelming at times.  Then I read Abby's posts and I think "Why didn't I think of that?!"  She makes it seem so easy!

The very first item I purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers was Abby's "ar" unit when I was teaching first grade for the first time.  My students loved that I dressed up as a pirate (thanks to her tutorial on making the t-shirt even though I had to hand paint mine because my printer is broken!) and they loved searching the school for "ar" words!  (I just loved having an excuse to wear my new boots to work!)  I purchased a cardboard treasure box and stuffed it with chocolate bars and pirate eye patches for each student.  We also read the story she included with the unit, which is so super cute.

(I even dressed up my sock monkey Max as a pirate too!)

My second TPT purchase was also from Abby.  I was so excited when she said she was doing a Derby unit!  I loved using this unit with my students.  I love any and all Derby activities! :-)

She has other fun units in her store like the "Sweetheart Snatcher" or the "Candy Corn Bandit".  Too cute!  I purchased this unit to use last year, but life (ok, grad school!) got in the way and I didn't get to use it.  I can't wait to use it next year.  I already have my pink envelopes and heart shaped stickers ready to decorate my hints!  I know my students will be so excited to hunt around the school again!  I love those kinds of activities, so I love that Abby has several of them in her TPT store!
Her stuff isn't all fun and games, though!  She also has some really awesome assessments in her store, such as the 20 and 25 day check-ups, and some RTI packs.  Plus, there are some freebies in her store to use with the RTI activities.    I don't just like her blog because of her TPT units.  She is hilarious as well!  Her posts are always so real.  Like the time she admitted that she goes to Walmart multiple times per week before school, or the post where she wrote about wanting a bodysuit.  :-)  Not only does she have great ideas, it's just fun to read her blog!



Abby has so generously offered to give away her "Parts of Speech Centers!"  One lucky winner can win this, along with 4 other activities from some of my favorite bloggers, and 2 items from my store!
 

In case you missed my post yesterday, here's what you can win!
From my store, I am offering 2 things.  You can choose 1 postcard set from my store, which I will customize for you if you like, and any one item from my store that you can choose.


Lisa Mattes of Growing Firsties has agreed to let the winner choose one item from her store.  She's got some really great stuff in her store!  I have a few of her "Common Core Crunch" packs, which are full of activities for language arts standards.  I have used some of these activities for homework, and some of them for activities in the classroom.  They are easy and quick!  I also have her Personal Narrative Unit, which has some wonderful ideas for teaching Personal Narratives.  I will be using it again this year!

Abby Mullins of The Inspired Apple is donating her "Parts of Speech" centers.  These centers are awesome!  I know my students always need some extra help with nouns, verbs, and adjectives.  There are sorts, charades, sentence making activities, and more in this pack.  I know my students will love practicing nouns, verbs, and adjectives with these activities!

Katie King from Queen of the First Grade Jungle agreed to donate her "Money Mega Pack".  I know that money isn't in the first grade math standards, but I believe it is so important that we work with students on these skills!  This is a great way to get some extra practice!  These centers are great for students who have a good grasp on coin values, and I definitely will use them with my advanced firsties! Plus, they will work great for differentiating math centers!

Since I started teaching, Math centers/workshops/activities have always been a struggle for me to set up and maintain. There are some things I struggle with, and one of those is student choice!  I love Tori Rebholz of Tori's Teacher Tips' Daily 3 pack.  It helps you set up Math Daily 3 in your own classroom.  If you love Daily 5, you will love this!  And I know I will take all the help I can get!!!  Also, this is an EXCLUSIVE giveaway!  Tori has never used this item in a giveaway before! :-)  So the winner will be extra lucky to get this pack!

Reagan Tunstall has agreed to donate her "Picnic Pals" Common Core Math and Literacy centers.  Just like all of her other ideas, these are fantastic!  They are super cute, and yet still rigorous, centers with a fun picnic theme that can be used any time of the year!  These centers made me want to run out and buy a picnic basket and picnic blanket and have a picnic right there in my classroom!  I don't know where she gets her amazing ideas, but she is awesome.

This giveaway will end on August 4, and I will choose a winner sometime on August 4th or 5th!  Please make sure you check back this week- you can enter each day by leaving a blog comment on that day's post, and there is a pretty good chance there will be some other items I will be giving away throughout the week or freebies I will be posting! I will be back later with my first blogger post! 

Happy Birthday to my Blog!



a Rafflecopter giveaway


So now that you have read about one of my favorite bloggers, I have a freebie for you!

One of my favorite books to read at the beginning of the year with my first graders is Chrysanthemum.  There are so many things you can teach with this book.  I really love Kevin Henkes.  I have been doing a name graph for several years now at the beginning of the year.  Today's freebie is a Name Graph pack.  It has 3 different graphs (where the number of columns vary) and the option to do the graph as a class or for each individual student.  If I were doing this with second graders, I would most likely use it as a student recording sheet.  With my first graders, I will be using it as a whole class activity.

 

If you download, please remember to leave feedback!  

Thanks for following!  Remember to check back tomorrow for more blogiversary fun!






Monday, July 29, 2013

One Whole Year Blogging Blogiversary Celebration!

So about a year ago, I made my debut into blogging.  This wasn't my first experience with blogging, but it was my first experience with "teacher" blogging.  As I'm sure most new teacher bloggers feel, I had no idea what I was doing, but I was willing to try!  I was so excited to "meet" other teachers through blogging, share ideas, and just be a part of a community.  I can't believe it has been a year already- it totally snuck up on me, and I almost missed it!  I'm so glad I didn't- who wants to miss their blog's first birthday? :-)



I would definitely say that the sense of community is the best thing about blogging.  I have met other teachers and virtually stepped into their classrooms.  I have been inspired by their ideas, and tried out new ideas in my classroom.  In the past two years that I have been reading the blogs of other teachers, I have blossomed as a teacher as well.  There are so many amazing teachers out there, and I feel honored just to get to peek into their classrooms!  Everybody in this amazing community is so positive and helpful.  It's wonderful to feel like I can ask a question of another teacher, or post my own ideas, and these other ladies (and gentlemen!) are always willing to answer me or leave a positive comment!  I would like to say THANK YOU to all of you!

As I said before, there are so many teacher bloggers out there it is hard to keep up!  I have several that I really enjoy reading.  I am always finding great new bloggers!  But before I started blogging, there were a few bloggers that I read consistently.  These were the same bloggers that I added to my Google Reader account first, and the ones that I still eagerly check for updates!   So this week, I'd like to introduce you to some of my favorite bloggers, the ladies who have inspired me in my classroom and the ones who inspired me to start my own blog.

These awesome ladies proved to me what a wonderful community this is when I nervously approached them asking to be a part of my blogiversary celebration giveaway.  I was SURE there was no way they had any idea who I am, and yet, every single one of them recognized me and they were all so generous.  I am so grateful to all of these ladies, not only for agreeing to contribute to my little blog, but also for just making me feel like a million bucks with their sweet responses.  Seriously, they made my morning when I woke up to some really sweet messages on Facebook.  Thank you!!!

So here's how I'm going to run this little celebration: 
Each day, I am going to feature a teacher blogger that has inspired me in my own classroom.  I will tell you a little bit about how they have inspired me, some of my favorite products from their TPT stores, and a few favorite posts from their blogs.  Each of the bloggers I am writing about has also agreed to give away one item from their store as well!  I will give away the bundle of these 5 products, plus a few items from my own store, at the end of the week.  I will definitely add a few more things throughout the week as well, though the amount will vary depending on how much time I have!  The Rafflecopter will be up all week, though, so you can enter any day of the week for these items. 

So here is what you can win:
From my store, I am offering 2 things.  You can choose 1 postcard set from my store, which I will customize for you if you like, and any one item from my store that you can choose.


Lisa Mattes of Growing Firsties has agreed to let the winner choose one item from her store.  She's got some really great stuff in her store!  I have a few of her "Common Core Crunch" packs, which are full of activities for language arts standards.  I have used some of these activities for homework, and some of them for activities in the classroom.  They are easy and quick!  I also have her Personal Narrative Unit, which has some wonderful ideas for teaching Personal Narratives.  I will be using it again this year!

Abby Mullins of The Inspired Apple is donating her "Parts of Speech" centers.  These centers are awesome!  I know my students always need some extra help with nouns, verbs, and adjectives.  There are sorts, charades, sentence making activities, and more in this pack.  I know my students will love practicing nouns, verbs, and adjectives with these activities!

Katie King from Queen of the First Grade Jungle agreed to donate her "Money Mega Pack".  I know that money isn't in the first grade math standards, but I believe it is so important that we work with students on these skills!  This is a great way to get some extra practice!  These centers are great for students who have a good grasp on coin values, and I definitely will use them with my advanced firsties! Plus, they will work great for differentiating math centers!

Since I started teaching, Math centers/workshops/activities have always been a struggle for me to set up and maintain. There are some things I struggle with, and one of those is student choice!  I love Tori Rebholz of Tori's Teacher Tips' Daily 3 pack.  It helps you set up Math Daily 3 in your own classroom.  If you love Daily 5, you will love this!  And I know I will take all the help I can get!!!  Also, this is an EXCLUSIVE giveaway!  Tori has never used this item in a giveaway before! :-)  So the winner will be extra lucky to get this pack!

Reagan Tunstall has agreed to donate her "Picnic Pals" Common Core Math and Literacy centers.  Just like all of her other ideas, these are fantastic!  They are super cute, and yet still rigorous, centers with a fun picnic theme that can be used any time of the year!  These centers made me want to run out and buy a picnic basket and picnic blanket and have a picnic right there in my classroom!  I don't know where she gets her amazing ideas, but she is awesome.

This giveaway will end on August 4, and I will choose a winner sometime on August 4th or 5th!  Please make sure you check back this week- you can enter each day by leaving a blog comment on that day's post, and there is a pretty good chance there will be some other items I will be giving away throughout the week or freebies I will be posting! I will be back later with my first blogger post! 

Happy Birthday to my Blog!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Family Journals

I just noticed that I have a few blog post ideas that are all related to a similar theme:  they are all about connecting with your students and their families.  I just realized it today, when I uploaded my newest product to my TPT store, and I was already thinking about my next blog post.  I hope you can use some of the information I will be sharing in the next few blog posts.  I decided I had enough ideas on this topic that I would share a few of them.

I was incredibly lucky to work with one of the best teachers when I did my student teaching, and I learned SO MUCH from her.  She was incredible.  Then, last summer, while I was working on my Masters degree, I had Melanie as a teacher in one of my classes.  The class was called "Engaging Families in Literacy" or something very similar to that.  I was so excited when I realized she would be the instructor for this class!  The class was a great reminder of some of the things I had learned in her classroom while student teaching.  My favorite "new" activity I introduced in my classroom last year was Family Message Journals, or Family Journals.  I hadn't tried them in my own classroom until this past year, but I am so glad I did!  I apologize in advance because this post is long!

There are a few different ways to do Family Journals, but the result is the same:  increased communication between school and home.  And I don't know about you, but I am always looking for a new way to increase positive communication between me and my families!  One way you can do Family Journals is to have the students write in their journals at school.  They write about something they learned at school that day.  Then they take their journals home that night, and a family member responds to their writing.  There are a few resources here and here, and a book about Family Message Journals as well. (I have that book, and it's pretty good!  It really explains how to make Family Message Journals work in the younger grades!)  Some teachers use the journals every day, while others just use them once or twice a week.  The best thing about these journals is that you can use them however you like!

The other way to do Family Journals is the way that I do Family Journals.  I use them as a tool to get to know more about my students and their families.  The student and a family member responds to a prompt that I assign them each week by stapling it into their journal.  The students had an entire week to respond to the prompt, and then they would return their journals to school.  The most important thing about the Family Journals is that they are authentic: the students have a purpose for writing, and they have an audience to communicate to.  The extra writing practice is also incredibly useful!

I know what you're thinking: that sounds like SO MUCH EXTRA WORK.  I understand where you are coming from, but believe me, it's not as hard as it sounds!  Each Monday, I would take out their journals, open to the next page, and staple in that week's prompt.  (This year, I am going to put a ribbon in the journals so that I can easily find the next clean page in their journal!)  I sent home the journals with the students on Monday.  This process took me probably around 7 minutes for 20 students.  The students would respond, their parents or another family member would respond, and they would return the journal to me.

Though I had a strict "homework can't be turned in until Friday" policy in my classroom, I would take the journals any day of the week.  Usually, I read the journals that day, because it only took a minute to read what they had written.  I responded a minimum of once a month (we are busy, after all!), but sometimes I responded more often, especially if the student had something they wrote that caught my eye or something I felt I should respond to.

The very first thing I did when beginning to use the journals in my classroom was to have the students decorate and personalize their journals.  The only requirement I had was that I knew whose journal it was!  I wrote their names (and number) at the top of their journal, and then they decorated them at home as part of their homework the first week of school.  I wanted them to feel like these journals were special.

  

Attached to their journal that first week was a letter from me, explaining what this journal was and how this process worked.  I kept extras on hand for new students as well.  The letter explaining how to do the Family Journal is included in my pack of Family Journal Prompts.  There are actually 2 different letters:  1 where the students first assignment is just to personalize their journal, and a second where they personalize the journal and have a prompt to complete for the week.  There are letters for Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade included, as well as a generic letter for all grade levels.  The pack of prompts includes 69 different prompts, though there are some prompts that are repeated for each grade level, Kindergarten through fifth.  On most pages, there are 10 prompts to a page.  On each page, the prompt is the same, so all you have to do is print the prompts out, cut them out, and staple them into the notebooks.  If you had older students, they could probably even glue the journal entries in themselves.  Or you could have an older student help out by stapling the prompts in.  


The second week, I sent home the first prompt for them to respond to.  There is sometimes one prompt for both parents to respond to, and sometimes there is a separate but related prompt for the parent and child.  Notice I put the world "adult" instead of "parent."  In my school, and in my classroom, I had students who did not live with their parents.  Some of them lived with grandparents, while others lived with foster parents or aunts and uncles.  I didn't want to cause issues by implying that only a parent could respond, and to recognize those families that were different.  Also, some of my students have much older brothers and sisters who responded to their little brothers and sisters, and I wanted them to realize that it didn't matter who responded as long as someone did.


I started off using prompts that I already had, but quickly progressed into writing my own prompts.  I tried to match the prompts to the season, or events that were happening in our classroom, or things that we had learned recently, so that the students could really connect to the prompts.  Of course, having journals like this does come with some problems.  Sometimes the students don't have a parent to respond to them, because they have to work at night, or there is a sick family member that they are visiting at the hospital.  I handled that by requiring that the students did their journal each week.  If, for some reason, a grown up couldn't respond to them, they weren't penalized.  I would find a grown up in the school, such as our preferred sub or our secretary, to respond to the child.  They loved having one of the grown ups at school write in their journals!

Some other problems that my arise with doing family journals are that families may feel uncomfortable responding to a particular prompt, that the student loses their journal, or that the student doesn't do their journal at home.  I had some ideas in place just in case these things happened in my classroom.  I tried to be proactive about solving problems beforehand so that these journals would be successful.

And they were so successful!  If I were to say any one thing I have done in the past 5 years has made a difference and helped me to really know my students, these journals would be it!  I loved reading what the families wrote each week.  I loved responding to what they had written.  Sometimes, the journal became a conversation between a student and I or a parent and I.  I even had families include pictures!  Some students had multiple family members write in their journal each week.  I learned more about my students than I ever would have without these journals.  I learned that one student could do the splits, and she demonstrated this ability to the class.  I learned that another student wanted to be a nurse, or that another went out for ice cream each Friday if her behavior was good.  I learned that some of my parents were good writers, while others had a lot of information to share about certain topics.

 

   

And we all know the kids love it when you have "inside information" about them that you can share!  They loved that I knew stuff about them, and this helped me make a connection to some of these students.  

And then, sometimes, you get sweet messages like these that really just make the whole process worth it!

Please check out my Family Journal Prompts in my TPT store!
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