Monday, October 29, 2012

All That Candy = Halloween Math Homework

Besides nightly reading, I don't ask my first graders to do homework.  All that Halloween candy is worthy of some time spent thinking about math though.  Here's what I ask my trick-or-treaters to do with it.  Click on the pictures for your own copies.

 (We make a graph with their favorite wrappers.  I found the idea somewhere on the internet years ago.)

(My favorite part of this activity is how the parents are guided through the process.)

Might as well do something productive with all that candy!

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Sayings: Easy and Pleasurable

(More Saturday Sayings found by clicking above.)

Admittedly I don't understand all the ins and outs of what the Common Core refers to as text complexity, so I'm in no way attempting to argue the standards.  I don't have enough knowledge to do that.  On the contrary, I have a lot of respect for the Common Core and what it's attempting to do for education.  When I read this quote though, I was reminded of the importance of easy and pleasurable reading.  One of my literacy mentors, Janice Sullivan, planted this quote into my teaching pedagogy several years ago.  

A lot of easy reading makes reading easy.

This year my grade level team is passionately pursuing the goal of fluent, confident readers for all our kids.  I know.  Like, duh.  That should be a given, right?  And yes it is, but we're growing weary of not radically moving the kids who arrive on our doorstep already struggling and indeed improve but not enough.  We send them off to the next grade without becoming those fluent, confident readers we were hoping for. We're not entirely quite sure how to pull this off, but I'm pretty sure a lot of easy and pleasurable reading is a key factor.  

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Friday, October 26, 2012

My October Favs

Barbara from Grade ONEderful, who is indeed very wonderful, was the first one who Boo-ed me.  I also want to thank sweet Rachel from A-B-Seymour, the lovely Kristi and Crystal from Teaching Little Miracles, and new friends Erin from First With Franklin and Barbara from It's About Time Teachers for Booing me as well.  The rules are as follows...

Here are my October favorites.  Click on the pictures to learn more.
This class book is one of our favorites, especially since each kid gets a picture taken with a large spider on their head.  

This book is fun to make if your kids get to wear costumes to school for Halloween.

My class had a fun time making these pumpkin drawings last year.  They learned about drawing, shading, outlining, and perspective.  They were adorable.  (I can't take credit.  Click on the picture to find the original owner.)

This maple leaf art project turned out great as well.  The kids learned about warm and cool colors and a little about the batik process.  (Again, this wasn't my idea.  The original owner can be found by clicking.)

We just painted these today.  I love how they turned out. (The picture will take you to Ms. Marciniak's blog and the wonderful bloggers who inspired her.)

I'm supposed to Boo five bloggers, which might prove to be difficult with all the Booing that's been going on.  If you've already been Boo-ed, you have permission to ignore me.

Sandi at Literacy Minute

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Don't sweat the small stuff.  This has become one of my classroom's mantras of late.  Even considering all of our past and present daily conversations about character, some classes have a handful of children who simply have a tendency to make big stuff out of small stuff.  You know what I mean, right?  The complaints about where someone is sitting, where someone is standing in line, how someone looked at someone else, etc. are more frequent than I'd prefer.  It's all small stuff and not worth sweating about.  One day in the midst of a small stuff moment, the saying "Don't sweat the small stuff" popped into my brain and since then I bring it up when one of these little moments happens.  I typically say, "That's small stuff" and we move on.  I decided it was worthy of a classroom book.  Each child drew a picture of something that was small stuff.  Here are a few pages.

As I was typing this post, I had the idea that next year I would probably start by making a Small Stuff/Big Stuff chart with the kids before making the book.  Considering we're still in the midst of dealing with this issue, we might still have to make that chart and super-size it! :)
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Did You Plan?

During writing workshop, I've seen a lack of planning of late.  Sometimes it results in a story that has no focus.  It's a story that's not zoomed in on the details of one small moment.  Instead it's about several moments and all of them lack any depth.  I recently created this chart in front of my writers as a tool for how to be better planners.

I also turned it into small table charts for my groups.  Click on the picture for your own copy.

Earlier this fall I posted about I'm making smaller table charts from large charts as a way to help make my teaching stick.  Look here if you're interested in seeing how I use and display them.  You can also get yourself a copy of the first one I created.  

Here's to better planners!

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Unclipped Classroom Linky

When I make decisions about my classroom, whether academically or behaviorally, I try to keep in mind how I as an adult would feel if those decisions were made for me.  Having said that, I'm not a fan of keeping public records of children's behavior.  The last time I was a student myself was almost 10 years ago during my Masters, but as an adult I wouldn't have been okay with my professors publicly keeping track of class conduct.  I would have been one of those students who never had a problem, but regardless, it wouldn't have felt right.  I guess I feel the same way for kids.  For me as the teacher, it doesn't feel right.  

I was kind of surprised to read Nikki's post from Teaching in Progress recently, because I assumed I was the only one who felt like I do.  She expressed the same concerns, but she said it so eloquently.  (Read it here.)  Now she's created a linky with alternatives to behavior charts, and she invited me to link up.  I'm all over it.  

If you'd like to see how I handle behavior without a chart on the wall, read this.  It has something to do with this picture.

Thanks to Nikki for being bold enough to share her thoughts and create a linky with helpful alternatives.  Go check it out!

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Sayings: The Cart Before the Horse

(Click above for more Saturday Sayings.)

I could be off, but I think it's fairly safe to say that walk into most any elementary classroom and there'll be evidence of daily spelling instruction.  I don't believe the same is true for daily writing instruction.  That's not to say that kids aren't doing any writing, but practicing spelling isn't writing instruction. Practicing grammar isn't writing instruction.  Worksheets aren't writing instruction.  I even have my doubts as to whether integrating writing into other subject areas is considered writing instruction.  Will I walk into any elementary classroom and see evidence of a daily concentrated writing block where kids are learning the craft of writing?  I hate to say it, but I don't believe this is the case like it is for spelling.  Unfortunately, spelling doesn't do writers much good if writing doesn't come first and everyday, for that matter.  How does the saying go?  Put the cart before the horse?   

(By the way, I do teach spelling.  With individualized lists and no tests, it wouldn't be considered traditional spelling by any means.  You can read about it here.)

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Seriously Hard to Break

Every first grade teacher probably knows that bad handwriting habits are seriously hard to break, especially when it comes to how pencils are held.  In the past I've always started the year with some kind of pencil gripper and am later left with the question, "Did it really work?"  Hmm, well, not exactly.  So far this year I haven't pulled them out.  I tried this idea from Pinterest one day though.  No offense to the person who invented it, but it didn't really work for me.
The child holds a tissue that's supposed to help them grip the pencil correctly.
I found something that else that seems easier to incorporate.  Check these out.  

Option 1

 Option 2

My district is moving towards a Handwriting Without Tears approach, which is where the above pictures came from. I didn't make it to the training and haven't fully bought in yet, but this is one of the things that I'm giving a whirl.  So far I've been trying Option 1.  Is it possible that after a good 100 times of hearing it, my writers might actually hold their pencils the right way?  Habits are hard to break, but it's worth a shot. Click here for copies of both options.

(When it all comes down to it though, the way they write their letters is more important than how they hold a pencil.  If you'd like to know about the purple and green handwriting strategy that works for me, go here.)

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Math Intentionality (Freebie)

I've found that it's so easy to get stuck asking my mathematicians to think about the same kinds of contextual problems, even when I know there are several other types.  I get stuck in a rut, and as a result, my kids do too and it's not even their fault.  I want to make myself more accountable to the other problem types, so I created this checklist.  The document includes the 14 problem types and very simple examples of each.  My goal isn't simply to get a checkmark in each column but to be more intentional.  I hope this helps someone else be more intentional as well.  Click on the picture for your own copy.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Another Year's Worth

I'd like to sincerely thank everyone who left the most thoughtful comments on my blog this week.  I've enjoyed hearing from you.  I put all your names in a hat...literally.  

Here's what came out.

Congrats Ms. Smith from...
(Ms. Smith is as sweet as can be.  I enjoy visiting and commenting on her blog.)

Ms. Smith, you get yourself one of these, except made to your liking.  Let's chat!

Thank you again everyone for reading my blog during the past year and thinking that I have something worthwhile to share.  Stick with me and we'll see if I can come up with another year's worth of worthy thoughts.  My blog and I appreciate all of you.  

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Sayings: The Keeper of Math Strategies?

(Click above for other Saturday Sayings.)

I am in love with a better way of teaching math.  The ultimate goal is no longer the end product, but it's how a child arrives there that's most important.  I don't mean to dismiss the answer, right or wrong, but focusing on the strategy is so much more powerful.  I am not the keeper of all math strategies, passing them out when some random math expert from a teaching manual says it's time.  Instead, I am in charge of cultivating an environment where the students are inventing the strategies and teaching them to each other.  My goal is to present the right problems, ask the right questions, and nudge them to think strategically to find their own solutions.  I've gotten into the habit of frequently asking, "Is that the only way?"  The automatic answer is a resounding, "No!"  We don't celebrate answers.  We celebrate the many ways that they are given the freedom to invent.  

(Read here if you're interested in reading about how I promote strategic thinking in my room.)

In honor of my blog's one year anniversary, find out here what I could make for you if you're a follower and comment on any of my posts this week.  Today is the last of my posts for the week.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Apples - Matisse Style

We've had some fun with apples lately.  Several years ago I made up this life cycle activity.  It's nothing fancy, but it's effective.  The kids draw, color, and label the life cycle and then wear it upon their heads as it goes around and around as life cycles do.

We've been singing a lot about apples too.  I didn't make up this song, but I wish I knew who did.  I found it on the internet years ago.  Maybe Dr. Jean?  Click on the words for your own copy.
This next thing is a new one for me, and I get no credit whatsoever.  I found it on a great art blog called Fine Lines that you should definitely visit.  I was very pleased with how the kids did, and they walked away with a bit of knowledge about Matisse, Cezanne, Renoir, still life, wet on wet, shadowing, and outlining...and so did I! 
(I must thank my beautiful niece Britt for giving me some artistic tips!)

And finally, I leave you with a few of the hazards of being a first grade teacher.  This is what happens when you run out of red paint and have to borrow the powdery stuff from next door.  Ugh.

In honor of my blog's one year anniversary, find out here what I could make for you if you're a follower and comment on any of my posts this week.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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