Saturday, April 11, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Chapter 12

I'm being real for a moment, I was a little intimidated to learn that I was hosting the link up for this chapter.  After reading, I still didn't feel exactly clear about what problem based learning is, and if I was actually doing ANY of it in my classroom.  Maybe it's just me, but problem/project based learning sounds so official, and kind of serious/fancy.  After studying the chapter further, and...GOOGLING (yes, I googled it.  I *may* have even searched it on pinterest, too)...I realized that PBL is something that I have done, and continue to do as much as I can--I just didn't know it!

Marcia Tate describes project or problem based learning as interdisciplinary.  Learning is integrated into all aspects of the curriculum, and it is purposeful and student-led.

I love using unit topics (science/social studies) to create exciting and meaningful learning experiences  for my students.  One of my favorite projects ever was actually during my student teaching experience.  As a community/service learning project for social studies, I had my students brainstorm ways they could help out in the community.  After lists of ideas and class discussions, we voted on creating a school-wide teddy bear drive for the children at a local women & children's shelter.  The students were completely in charge of  advertising--creating posters to put on display around the school and flyers to send home with all classes--(writing & language standard...check!)  In addition to teddy bears, we also decided that we would accept monetary donations for people who didn't have time to shop for a bear.  Each morning, students were responsible for counting the money and stuffed toys collected--(math standard...check!)  The students were excited that they were contributing to people who were in need, and they were so engaged in the project, that I never once heard, "I don't know what to write."  Or,  "Do we HAVE to do this math?" One of my sweet girls brought in all the money she had in her piggy bank to donate.  Precious.

By the end of the two week project, we delivered 500 bears and $250 cash to a local shelter.  After we were done, many students were already busy brainstorming other projects they could do to help others.   Typing this now, I am wondering why I haven't done MORE projects like these.  It makes learning fun, and it was just good for the soul!

Although I am a fan of PBL, I think where I struggle is letting the students take more control during activities and projects (I'm a control freak!  WHO KNEW!???  HA!!!!!!)  Especially in first grade.  The project I did with the bears was a 3rd grade class.  I felt a little more comfortable giving tasks to the older ones.  I loved the suggestion on page 90 about sentence starters to help with student discussions while solving problems.

Like I said, I googled the PBL.  (Please don't laugh at me!  I really wanted to be a good linky host!)  I found this great video on Edutopia.  It helped me to see that PBL can be planned, but it can also happen naturally....for example, when I get those awesome "teachable moments"--I should take advantage of them, and allow them to develop into project based experiences.

Please share your thoughts on this chapter, and link up!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Valentine ideas, a freebie, a cool book, paint, and love.

Hello, friends!  It's been awhile!  I'm back, and ready to blog.  Here are my five randoms of the week:

1.  I'm back on MyFitnessPal.  And I'm hungry.   That's all.

2.  Valentine's Day--it's kind of a big deal. 
I kind of love Valentine's Day.  It is the cutest little holiday ever.  I love all the hearts, flowers, candy, and pink things.  That is why my classroom currently looks like a giant Valentine Village.  It's getting a little out of hand, and I'm not finished yet.  We've still got a week to go, people.

The kids created these giant hearts.  They drew pictures of all the things they love most, cut them out, and glued them inside the hearts.  They look so festive up there on the wall!  

To practice combinations to 10, everyone got a small bag of candy hearts.  They used the hearts to show a way to make ten.  I made it a little more challenging by explaining that they couldn't use the same way as someone at their table.  I also said they could add three numbers together to make 10.  They used Elmer's glue to attach the hearts to small blue plates.  This display just makes my eyes happy.  All my favorite colors!  I used a silver sharpie to write the names on each plate.

We finally got back to some interactive writing.  I LOVE making interactive writing charts!  After we worked together to write the steps and illustrate, the kids used the directions to create their own Valentine.  

And...I can't wait to use some of this little packet leading up to Valentine's Day!  
Next week is going to be awesome.

3.  I'm feeling adventurous.  I'm about to pull out some paint...for word work next week.  Yep, I'm crazy.  But y'all, I'm desperate for new and creative word work ideas.  I thought it might be fun to use paint for ai/ay week.  This may just be a Monday deal, because I foresee spilled cups of water, painted desks, and such.  But it could be amazing--who knows?  I will choose to be positive.  {It's going to be the BEST word work station EVER!!!!!!}  Lol.  Click the picture to download a free copy of the page.  

4.  The Q & A Book is a must-have for any parent.  Someone shared this a few months ago on Instagram.  Thank you, whoever you are!  I've been filling it out every night before bedtime with my four year old.  This book will be priceless one day!  

I especially love the "heart-warming" entries like this one...

Corn???!!!  Well, okay, then. 

5.  Love is...

I was actually inspired by the Q & A book to interview my students this week.  I asked each of them to tell me what love is.  I used a photo of each of them holding a sign, and typed up their response on the photo.  I printed and laminated them, and have all on display on my classroom door with the heading "Love is..."  (I would show it, but I don't show pics of the kids!  It is precious!)  Some of the responses...

Love is happiness.

If you love someone, you'd do anything for them.

Love means you marry somebody.

Love means you can't let go.

Love is when you really, really, really like someone.  

Love is when you like someone, and you tell them, and they say thank you or somethin'.  

I just love those sweet babies!!!

That's my 5 for the week!  Link up with Doodle Bugs Five for Friday here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

T is for...

It’s hard to believe, but I almost wasn’t a teacher. 

When I first started college, my mind was completely made up that I would work in advertising.  I got an amazing internship opportunity my sophomore year, and thought I was set.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that it didn’t make me happy.  And I wasn’t good at it.  It just wasn’t working.

God opened doors and placed teaching on my heart.  I am so very thankful that He knew what I needed, and showed me the way.  

I taught 4th grade my first two years.  It was hard—the kind of hard that made me want to give up this dream and do something else.  I couldn’t see the big picture.  

This year, the 4th grade students I had that very first HARD year-- will graduate from high school.  Through Facebook, I saw that one of those students just got her college acceptance letter to the University of Alabama.  I BAWLED like a little baby, y’all.  Not only was I beyond proud of this kid, but I felt that in some way, I was part of her journey to get there, you know?  

What we do as teachers, each and every day, is so much bigger than we can see.  We are helping kids reach their goals and accomplish dreams.  And, I’m not going to lie…I also cried because I feel super OLD—but that’s another story.

What are you thankful for?  Link up with Blog Hoppin'!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Reindeer Games GIVEAWAY!

One of my very first products needed some updating!  If you already own the original "Reindeer Games"--please go download the revised and new version!  It now has 51 pages of fun, with updated graphics, fonts, new games, and craftivity templates!  My favorite craft each year is the Root Beer Loving Reindeer--it goes along with a mini book the kids will illustrate--called If You Give a Reindeer a Root Beer.

This pack covers math standards, writing, and literacy, and...I just adore the reindeer clip art by Graphics from the Pond!  CUTE as can be.  The preview below shows some of the activities included in my updated packet.  I am giving away a copy of this fun little packet!  Please enter below!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Five on a Saturday...

1.  I got this ADORABLE mug that made my mornings a little happier.  And...I promptly lost it three days later.  It's seriously nowhere to be found.  That's how I roll.  I may have to go buy another.

2.  We went on our annual field trip to the zoo!  OH, the zoo.  We went in November.  On the coldest day so far this fall...and we FROZE.  Luckily, most of the animals didn't mind the cold at all, so we still got to see all the creatures.  

I wanted to be as prepared as possible for this field trip.  I sort of suffer from teacher OCD/paranoia when it comes to field trips, and I like lists.  Lots and lots of lists.  I created an editable field trip kit that y'all can download for FREE {here}.  In my kit, I added everything I used for our field trip this past week!  My absolute new favorite thing though, were these chaperone kits I made for the parents who came and froze with us.  The kits are just gallon sized baggies, filled with snacks, band-aids, baby wipes/hand sanitizer, and a card with important meet-up times, and my phone number for emergencies.  

3.  Speaking of the zoo... the morning of our trip, I had each of the kids draw an animal they hoped to see.  This was one of the drawings.  Oh, bless.  

4.  The Mayflower of Facts.  An awesome teacher on my team came up with the idea to create a Mayflower and pilgrim display together in the hallway.  I mean, I can't even handle how cute it turned out.  I told her this is officially our new Thanksgiving tradition.  We didn't give the kids templates (I honestly just love the look of kid-created art pieces).  They each cut out their own little pilgrim, and then we had them write one fact (about pilgrims or the Mayflower).  

5.  I am back to creating, and it makes me happy.  Here are some of the newest items I've added to my TpT shop:

Mayflower Memories--an interactive learning booklet.  My class has already completed half of the book!  I love using this booklet along with Scholastic's First Thanksgiving page! 

Here is a preview of what is included:  

Troll-rific Tallies is a unit that I started TWO years ago.  I just finished it this week--I have earned the award for Biggest Procrastinator, ever!  I love this unit--mainly because I am super proud that I finished it.   

Did you link up with Doodle Bugs this week?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Variety of Fall Fun-tivities--in Photographs.

September always brings apple fun.  I can't stand the cuteness of those kid created apple core art projects!  They are still in the hallway, and I don't want to take them down!  In other news, hanging that giant tree was all kinds of hilarious. YES,  it's off center.  Don't even worry about it.

We created a class book together to learn how to create "How to" writing pieces.

Of course we had our annual Apple Tasting Party!  Had to tally up our favorites.  

We made scrappy owlets out of brown paper bags and scrap book paper...

A little bat labeling chart, helpful for our nonfiction writing unit:

We started counting collections using "spooky bags" and everyone got a bag of fun Halloween erasers.

The week of Halloween, a teacher on my fabulous first grade team came up with the idea to have her students practice descriptive writing by describing monsters.  I thought it was a super fun idea, and since we had just read and LOVED the book I Need My Monster, we read it again--listening for great describing words in the text for each monster.  Afterward I gave each pair of students a top secret folder with a monster inside to describe.  The kids worked together to write a description of their monster, and then they read it aloud to the class to see if the rest of the class could guess which monster on the wall belonged to them!  It was great fun for the week of Halloween.

The kids created these funky pumpkins and wrote silly stories about them.  Cutest collection of pumpkins ever.

We read the book Pumpkin Town and then created a town collage, complete with seeds and pumpkins.  The kids used magazines and paper bags to create the houses, and it looks AWESOME.  One goal this week is to create a shared writing at the top of the chart to retell the plot of the story.

And last, because I'm a proud mommy, look at my happy little baby gnome on Halloween!  
AHHH!  I love him!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Secret to How I Do it All

I have gotten so many emails in the past couple of months from fellow teachers that have been so incredibly complimentary and sweet.  Emails that remind me of why I started this blog in the first place.  But along with those emails, many have asked the question, "How do you do it all?  How do you find the balance?  The time?  How do you manage blogging, creating, teaching, kids, and family?"

The answer is so simple.

I don't do it all.

I struggle with balance.  Life with 2 kids is hard.  Working is hard.  Keeping my house clean is a tiny nightmare.  Blogging has fallen off the priority list, as has creating teaching resources for TpT.  I would be lying if I said that it doesn't bother me.  I feel a tinge of jealousy when I see other teacher bloggers that seem to be able to do it all--and then again, maybe appearances aren't what they seem.  Maybe they have the same exact struggles that I do?  The thing about blogs, Facebook, and instagram is that people usually share all the good things.  Nobody really shares the hard things.

So, hard things. Here we go.

I just want to keep it real with y'all.  And reality is, I still love teaching. classroom isn't as tidy and "picture perfect" as it once was.  For example, it's a daily struggle to keep my teaching table cleared off.  I *may* or may not be guilty of shoving things in cabinets and random drawers to make myself feel better.  Shoving things in random drawers and cabinets actually causes a new set of disorganization problems, but... I don't worry about it until I need to worry about it.  I don't work on school stuff until midnight anymore.  I have a laundry mountain waiting for me at the end of each week.  I don't exercise.  I stuff myself with cookies, candy, and junk food when I'm stressed--so...that's pretty much everyday.  My family goes out to eat for dinner way more than I'd like--because, after a long day of teaching, I'm just way too tired to cook anything.  And I SURE don't want to clean it all up! I run my dishwasher nearly everyday, because I don't want to hand wash any dishes.  Call me lazy... I don't care! I haven't had a hair cut since before my son was born.  That was about 8 months ago.  True fact.  I forget to pay my bills, even though they are due the exact same day EVERY single month! (I mean, really, what is the matter with me?!) So, the truth is, I'm kind of a mess.  I'm a little scattered.  I need to be more organized.  After nearly 9 years of teaching, I'm still figuring things out.  I think that's normal, but maybe it's not.  I don't know.   I need a popsicle.

I love my babies.  But I feel guilty because there are times when I focus more on my classroom than on them.  I worry about the time I already lost with my little girl when she was a baby because I was busy blogging or creating.  I don't want to regret time lost with my family due to technology.   Our family suffered a great loss this past month, and I've realized that family is the most important thing.  So, even though I certainly don't "do it all"--I know that I have the people I love around me, and I'm doing the best I can.

I'm off to work on that laundry mountain.  And also, pay that bill that was due on the 4th.  Thank the Lord for Halloween candy and baby snuggles.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

One Magical Morning

Our classroom is so cozy and peaceful in the mornings!  Usually before the kids arrive, I turn on the lamps and little lights and just have a moment before all the fun begins!  It only took a few moments of quiet to completely change my plan for that day.  I was sitting there thinking of how our room just looks magical.  I needed to do something different today...

We are right in the middle of a Mercer Mayer author study (the author and illustrator of all the Little Critter books), and he has a few Little Critter versions of popular fairy tales--one being Jack and the Beanstalk.  I quickly ran down to the teacher workroom to grab green paper.  I really wanted the kids to walk into the room (no big lights overhead), and see a beanstalk growing over by the window.  One big glue gun burn later (OW!) the beanstalk was stuck to the wall, and the kids were pointing and wondering all morning WHY it was there and asking what it was all about.  

Later that morning, we read Little Critter's Jack and the Beanstalk, and the kids created posters in groups to illustrate the beginning, middle, and end of the story.  They did an amazing job!  But they didn't stop there.  The beanstalk needed more details!  One little one suggested adding vines.  Another one said we needed a castle at the top.  One friend wanted to draw and add the little magical beans. And of course, Little Critter needed to be on the I found some velcro and stuck him on the wall!  When it was done, the kids had helped to transform the reading area into a corner FULL of writing, illustrations, and imagination.  I hadn't planned it, it just happened.  Watching the kids get excited about a story enough to work for over two hours creating, drawing, discussing, and planning--it was a teacher's dream.  It was one of my favorite mornings of teaching.  One magical morning.

(One photo of a section of the beanstalk.  I couldn't get the whole thing in!)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Itty Bitty Word Books (Free Download)

A few weeks ago, I shared my Michael's Create to Educate project called "Itty Bitty Word Books".  They have been A HIT with my students, and so I wanted to come back and share my downloadable file in case you wanted to use them in your classroom, too!

In case you missed that post, here's a little refresher:

I bought 4 mini photo albums (by Recollections brand) at Michaels.  I printed the pictures on card stock and added them to each album--I divided mine up by season:  fall, winter, spring, and summer.  I keep them on my writing resource table, near the paper and other word helpers.  When the kids need to look up how to spell a seasonal word, they grab one of the itty bitty books, and look it up-- like a little picture dictionary.

I LOVE them already.  My students use them DAILY for spelling help.  Also, when they are flipping through and looking at the pictures, they are inspired to create stories!  One little girl told me that she wasn't planning on writing about the beach that day, but she saw a picture of the ocean and it reminded her of her family vacation this summer.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Show Us What You Bought

I'm linking up with my friends at Blog Hoppin' to show off my TpT sale goodies!  I am SO excited to begin my school year with the resources I bought today!  Check them out:

1.  Science Blasters by my ultimate teaching FAVE--Kim Adsit!  She has the BEST packets, and if you haven't ever seen her present in person, you MUST make the time!  I just love her.  Anyway, this unit is absolutely what I have been looking for to conduct science with my littles.  It includes 20 clear, easy experiments--each with printables for student response.  I might just do one of these our first day.

2.  Editable Substitute Handbook by Amy Groesbeck!  I just discovered Amy's store this summer, and I am LOVING it!  I also purchased her schedule cards and math bin labels.  CUTE stuff.  I'm excited about this sub handbook, because I like to be prepared when I'm out unexpectedly.  This will keep me super organized and ready for anything.  I also love that it's just adorable looking. 

3.  Numbers to 120 by Anna Brantley!  I am all about the math this year.  I have a fancy new math wall, and I'm about to organize my games, and just go math crazy.  I love that this unit gives so much practice with numbers--but is interactive, differentiated, and common core aligned.  We use Investigations for math in our district, but I like to supplement my games with great resources like this!  

4.  RTI Progress Monitoring and Close Reading by Jen Jones!  These packets are AMAZING.  I am in awe of how detailed these are, and how easy they will be to implement.  I plan on using the RTI passages with my strugglers, and the close reads with my advanced readers--SO excited.  Jen is reading and literacy genius.  

Still one more day to get these great resources on SALE!  I will probably go back for clip art tomorrow.  Because I only have a few hundred clip art packs.  But I NEED more.  
I know you understand. ;)


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