Friday, July 25, 2014

Solving the Morning Work HEADACHE!

I have a love/hate relationship with morning work. I love that it is a routine, useful thing for students to do when they are unpacked but others are still coming in.  I love that it's independent and encourages my students to read and follow directions.  I love that it gets my kids settled and ready for the day.  I love that it reviews important concepts.

I hate finding it.

I hate that I am super well-planned and usually have all of my copying, etc., done for my lessons done with plenty of time to spare, but that there is no particular morning work that I use (other than random things that fit what I'm teaching), so I spend more time looking for and deciding on THAT than actual lessons.  I don't want to spend time on morning work.  I want to spend the 5 free minutes I have before the kids come connecting with my friends and colleagues since we don't have common lunches or prep times.  And because I like them.  And it relaxes me and makes me happy, and what better way to greet my kiddos?

Here is me thinking about morning work:
Ow.  My head.
Here's the thing.  I have lots of great review worksheets that I can use as morning work.  I can also whip up a mean set of morning work boxes in no time.  But WHY?

Of course each year is different, but I essentially teach the same concepts around the same time each year.  So WHY am I spending time choosing and re-choosing morning work every day of every year?  It makes no sense.  And so... 

It was a major goal of mine this summer to create morning work that I can use OVER AND OVER each year.  I wanted it to be relevant and cover a variety of topics so that I am not digging for morning work to review math one day, word study the next, and so on.  And heck, make it Common Core based, because I teach in a CC state.  And so it begins!  

Enter... Morning Stretch!

I'm super excited about it!  Here are a few sample pages:

You may notice that each page has a blank face that asks how students feel today.  That's because I want to know.  (My tagline is "Taking care of little minds and hearts").  There's a story behind this.  When I used to throw together morning work boxes, I'd sometimes throw that "How are you feeling?" space in there because it was easy.  (Yes, I said it.)  It was one less problem I had to make up or spelling feature to work out.  BUT... it often turned out to be the most informative piece of their morning work.  When a student is angry or sad when they walk in the door, we are sometimes too busy with kid stories and lunch money and library books and emails from parents and the office to notice right away (Again.. I said it.  Teacher truth.).  I quickly found that this little box of feelings gave me incredibly important insight into my kiddies' hearts.  And so.  It stays.

I am really happy Morning Stretch!  You can find it in my TpT store here - Morning Stretch September

Here's a sneak peek at October!

Do you have morning work headaches?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wordless Wednesday! July 23: The BIGGER, the Better!

Today I'm linking up with Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice for Wordless Wednesday!

This picture is a little old, before I got cutie patootie owl schedule cards to match my theme, but I digress... I have always liked using magnetic numbers to show the date.  I think they look neater than writing, and let's be real... anything to save me a minute writing on the board every day?  I'll take it!  I also sometimes use the set of magnetic numbers for math demonstrations, etc.

The only problem with my board numbers was that they were way too SMALL.  I am really lucky to have a big classroom, and I want to make sure that the kids can see the date easily, as they have to write it relatively often.  Same goes for math demos... bigger is definitely better.  So I finally bit the bullet this summer and ordered THESE:

It's Lakeshore's GIANT Magnetic Numbers & Operations Kit.  I ordered it for $29.99.  I love that it comes with counters and symbols along with the numbers.  Perfect!  And it's BIG! 

What are you looking to improve around your classroom this year?

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Teacherly Initiation

A year in the life of a teacher (add hubby and kids and TpT shop) is pretty busy and crazy, so it can be hard to remember what on earth I was doing last summer (or yesterday), but one of the very memorable things I did just about a year ago was begin my lil TpT shop!
Back then, I didn't have a nice, round logo (well, no one did... the site used square logos.  Remember?) or even exactly the same store name, but I did have ideas and the will to learn.  Fast forward a year and now my hubby are lucky enough to reap some rewards from my TpT earnings, including replacing these babies which have been with us since we first got married 16 years ago!
Oh, friends, you have served me well.  Well, mostly.  Other than the fact that for about two years now I have had to run loads through the dryer twice to actually get them dry.  But I can't complain, you have been there for me.  I hope the guys from Home Depot who hauled you away have big plans for you (or at least organ donation for your parts).

It was time.  Hubby and I brought the girls to Home Depot, and all of the appliances that light up and sing and do fancy things like... um... make ice... kept the girls occupied while we took care of ordering our new W/D set.  We had researched at home so it was pretty easy.  

Fast forward about a week to delivery day... they arrived, knocked on the door, and... the heavens opened.  I kid you not, it went from a perfectly sunny day to a horrendous rainstorm with thunder and lightning.  My hubby went out to the truck and he and the guys were stranded there!

But the heroes of Home Depot and my Handsome Hubs made it happen (thank you SO much, guys!), and here are my huge and lovely new washer and dryer!
Thank you, Tpt!!!!
 So where's the teacherly initiation in all of this?  My first wash load was... drumroll... MY CHAIR POCKETS!  I can't believe I could fit them all in one load and still have so much space! What!

Friends, I have never SEEN those suckers come out so CLEAN.  EVER!
I couldn't put them in the dryer, so here they are, all perty and clean and hanging on my lil drying rack. 
I am pretty much in awe of my new W/D and the fact that I was able to buy them with TpT earnings.  So glad I took that plunge a year ago!  Ready to jump in with your own store?  Click HERE!  Thank you, TpT!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Candy Class' 500 Follower Giveaway!

Hey, all!  I've joined up with Jolene at The Candy Class to help her celebrate 500 followers!  She's having a 5-day giveaway on her blog, so check it out!  
Today is Day 3, and she is giving away lots of great prizes for both K-2 (including my bestselling Frog and Toad Are Friends Reading Comprehension Pack!) and 6 - 8

Want to win?  Just enter through the Rafflecopter here or on Jolene's blog!  Good luck and congrats, Jolene!

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Saturday, July 12, 2014

You Oughta Know About... Smart Apps for Kids AND Automatic Downloads!

I am so excited about this!  Today I am linking up with Jasmine from Buzzing with Mrs. McClain for the You Oughta Know Blog Hop, where teachers are shouting out about things that work well in the classroom!
So here's what I think you oughta know about... If you have iPads in your classroom, you NEED to know about the website Smart Apps for Kids

Smart Apps for Kids is ahhhhhhmazing.  I kid you not!  Every day they feature a Free App of the Day (generally for preschool or elementary but sometimes older).  But most days they feature ridiculous amounts of free and discounted apps.  The apps are not theirs - they scout out what is free right now and tell you about it!  Most days there are several apps listed and on Fridays they host Free App Friday, which often features over $100 in free apps!  The apps they feature are sometimes free for that day only or a few days only, so be sure to check them out and grab what you like while it is free!

In my classroom, I have 4 iPads (and typically about 22 kids).  We use them for projects, etc., but when we have indoor recess, the kids have free time on the iPads on a rotating schedule and I need to have good stuff on there that they can use independently but is also educationally relevant.  I don't have an app budget at all... zero dollars... so Smart Apps for Kids has been a lifesaver!  I subscribe to them via email and Twitter so that I don't have to remember to go and check every day to see what's new.

Also... and here comes the second thing You Oughta Know...  did you know that if you have multiple iPads, you can download something on one of them and have it automatically download on your others?  It's TRUE!  Go into Settings and on the left hand side scroll down to iTunes & App Store.  You can see it hilighted on the left in the picture:

Then see where it says Automatic Downloads on the right?  Yup... you can turn that on or off for Music, Apps, Books, and Updates and it will automatically work on any other iPad you have with the same Apple ID (the email ID that you use in the App Store).  In the picture above, you can see that Music and Books are turned on and Apps and Updates are turned off.  I just slide the little bar to the right to turn them on and, presto, I only have to download things on one iPad to have them show up on all 4!

 Because I wanted a different email on my home iPads/iTunes account and my classroom iPads (I didn't want all of my classroom stuff showing up on my home devices and vice versa - yikes!), I set up a gmail account just for my school iPads and made that my userID.  Since I only download free apps, I don't worry about linking any accounts to it or anything, and I have never once had to actually check that email account since I set it up. :)  

This tip is especially helpful for both saving time downloading new apps onto all of your devices (you can do this with your home stuff, too) but updating everything at once automatically - yes, please! :)  Hope these tips make your life a little bit easier when it comes to managing iPads in the classroom and finding quality free apps. :)

Speaking of making your life easier, I have just posted something I've needed myself for a long time - Morning Stretch!  It's Common Core aligned September morning work for first grade. Talk about making my own life easier... and I am known to scramble in the morning to figure out what morning work I want to give!  (Fortunately, I'm the only one who knows that.... and now you, lol).  

Check... done... one less thing to worry about in September!  I'll bring you more on this soon, but for now, guess what else you oughta know about? The great ideas from the other teacher in the You Ought Know hop!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fab Vocab!

When you read aloud to your class, you come across lots of great vocabulary words, right?  There is so much rich conversation around these words that happens when we are having story discussions, but what happens to those amazing new words after that?  If you don't keep using them, they just flutter away when the book ends.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't expect my firsties to remember and use tons of new story vocabulary, especially if there isn't anything to "stick" it to our classroom lives (for example, some of the farm vocabulary in Charlotte's Web, which I adore, and read every year).  But there are lots of colorful, descriptive words that we come across in books that the kids could be using in everyday life if we scaffold it.

How do I do that in my classroom?  I keep a stack of index cards and a Sharpie nearby when I am reading and when I come to a word that I think is fascinating (oh I definitely play up cool new words), I'll say something like, "Wow, that's a great/smart/interesting new word! (Or "whoa, that sounds like a high school word!" - They think that is the super coolest  thing ever)  How can I remember that word?"  I'll scratch my chin and look around and then amazingly find just what I needed to jot that word down!  So I'll write it down and say it a few times (of course, the kids get into it too, they like to say fancy new words).  And then I'll look all confused again and say, "Wait, what did that mean?"  And since we discussed it in story context, they are more than happy to remind me.  So smart, those firsties.  So smart.  

Then I wonder aloud how I can remember what it means.  Sometimes a problem solver will suggest to draw a picture.  If they don't, I'll suggest it after they've given me some ideas. Now, all of this takes a very brief amount of time, and I don't want to stop and draw right now and totally lose the mojo of the story.  So I'll ask if anyone can do me the huge favor of reminding us all what that word means.  I am never short on volunteers for that job.  I'll pick someone, they take the card to their table and illustrate while we continue reading.  They keep listening too, and often I'll find my illustrators stopping to look up at the story, staying connected.

When the illustration is done, they bring it back to me (usually I am still reading) and I just quietly reach out my hand to take it.  I'll lay the card down until after the story and then show it to the class.  I do ask the illustrator to put his/her name on the back.  Then I add it to the "FAB VOCAB" section on our word wall.  These are not like our sight words on the word wall - I do not expect them to be spelled correctly, etc., should the kids use them in their writing.  And the great thing is that they do!  Once a fab vocab word goes up, I'll use it if I can when I am teaching or talking and the kids follow my lead.  It's pretty awesome at the end of the year to have a nice collection of great vocab words and kids who actually use them in everyday language!  (Many of my kids speak English very well but are bilingual, often speaking Chinese or several Indian dialects at home, and they still get to know lots of great new words!)

Of course, I don't do this with every new word in every book we read*.  Lots of times the kids will ask to put new words on the Fab Vocab board and I'll say "Not right now", mainly because it would take way too much time to do that with every new word in every book I read.  We save it mainly for our chapter books and I do refer to it during writing lessons on word choice, but it is always there.  At the end of the year, I just pull them down and send them home with the illustrators.

*I also don't have a plan at all... like... ever... for what words will go up here.  It happens completely in the moment when we read new and interesting words in context, so every year the Fab Vocab board is totally different!

How do you help your kids to hang on to some of the new and rich language in the stories that you read together?
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July Currently

Hey guys!  I know, it's been a while... We finished school at the end of June and I needed a little bit of a break from all things schooly!  This year was great in some ways and very challenging in others so I do welcome the drop in intensity that comes with summer!  Today I am linking up with Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for a July "Currently"!

The end of school was crazy busy and then my kids were in school a week longer so I was able to go in to some of their events, which was so much FUN!  We live in an area with lots of parents who stay at home, so I know it can be hard for my girls sometimes that mom and dad can't come in for all of their events.  But they are so sweet and understanding, and we get to as much as we can.  I use pretty much all of my personal days for their school events.  This year, that included an awesome Philly Zoo field trip for my own first grader and the Locks of Love event at her school where she proudly donated her long hair to help make wigs for children who have illnesses that result in hair loss.
 So proud of my little cutie!  

Now we are juggling children's theater camp in the morning for my little one and in the afternoon for my middle schooler.  Mom's taxi is racking up trips but I really don't mind... it's nice to have to go outside a few times a day, even in this 95 degree heat!  (My classroom was like the arctic this year, so having to go out into the sun is a welcome change.  Fortunately, my blower did get fixed at the end of the year!).

Once I had a little breather, I was able to work on some TpT projects that I wanted to get done - updating my fall and winter writing paper packs, adding summer, and bundling all 4:


 Then I created a set of calendar cards and monthly headers for a friend who is doing a full year maternity leave in first grade this coming year (her first full year, congrats Erika!) and wants a Polar Pals polar bear theme:
Then, because I was thinking about the beginning of the year and what might make life in September the teeniest bit easier for myself and other teachers, I made this Grandparents Day freebie pack:

Click to download FREE!  Enjoy!
I hope you are all enjoying the summer!  Looks like the storms are headed our way so we'll see whether our upcoming fun events will work out (Trenton Thunder baseball game with fireworks, friend's party, family pool day!)!  Fingers crossed but I'm not so sure lol...  Happy early 4th!

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