Tuesday, April 24

First Grade Poetry

During the last two weeks, my kiddos have been writing lots of poetry.  I think that poetry is something that they are naturally drawn to and pretty easy to write.

We've read lots of children's poetry-- including my favorite Shel Silverstein.  My kids can't seem to get enough of him this year!

I started out teaching this unit by reading "Writing Dino-mite Poems" in the Learn to Write series.  This is a great tool for teaching writing.  There is a teaching book with printables and a read-aloud book for each type of writing.  You don't have to purchase the whole set.  Individual books are sold at my local parent teacher store. 

I've found that it's easiest to have structured poems for the kids to practice with each day.  I bind these in a little book to take home.  Click here to download a copy of my poetry book.  Many of these poems were inspired from the Dino-mite Poetry book.  Others were found online.

I hate that I let my kids take home their books without taking pictures first.  I'll do my best to describe each poem with an example.

Animal Riddle Poem- inspired by "Shanna's Animal Riddles"
1st Line- one sentence describing animal
2nd Line- another sentence describing animal
3rd Line- It rhymes with ___
4th Line- sound or action word, repeated three times
5th Line- It is a (name of animal)

*Make sure children pick animals that have rhyming words!

How Do I Know?
Students should pick a time of day, a season, a month, or holiday to write about

Simile Poem
Students can pick any object to write about.

Spring Is...
First Line- Color or colors to describe something "springy"
Second Line- Name of object
Third Line- a phrase starting with -ing
Fourth Line- Any thought pertaining to topic

A few other sping ideas (bumblebees, flowers, butterflies, basketball, baseball, grass, sandals, dresses)

I Can
On each line, the children will tell something they can do like an animal

The Book of Poems also includes an acrostic and a free verse poem.

How do you teach poetry?  I would love some new poems to try next year!

Monday, April 23

Reading/Math Tub Choice

I really love the structure of my reading and math tubs this year.  If you want to find out about reading and math tubs, you can read my previous posts.

I've never been super confortable with giving my children choices during independent work times.  I guess that's the control freak in me.  I like the control of grouping my children (either by ability or behavior).

But, I decided to give "choice" a try as we come to the end of the year.  I have a pretty good class this year, and I thought they could handle it.

I first started by adding student choice to Math Tub time.  We do math before reading each day, so it just made sense.  I told my kiddos if they could make good choices all week with math, we would give reading a try the following week.

I've been really pleased with their choice-making abilities.  Granted it's not as quiet as when I was picking the groups, but I think it adds a little more enthusiasm for the activities.

So... how does it work?

Well, I have 18 kids and 4 tubs each week (4 reading and 4 math).  At the beginning of our tub time, I let the children come up one at a time and make their choice on the Promethean Board.  They know that only four children can pick each tub- then that tub is full.  The two children picked to make their choice last get to be the fifth child at two of the tubs (so there are 2 groups of 4 and 2 groups of 5).

Here's what my flipchart looks like.  I just quickly change out the names of the tubs each week, to help the kids know where they want to go.
** If you're interested in this week's tubs: The homophone match was from First Grade Parade, the i sort came from Cara Carroll's March Unit, the Popcorn sort is from Babbling Abby's popcorn adjective unit, and the lightning bug round-up game can be found here for free.**

As they are making their choices, I also write it down on a little chart.  I probably don't have to do this part, because they remember what has already been completed.  But, I like to see what's been completed by the end of the week.  Maybe I'm trying to keep a little control??

After they make their choice they go ahead and get started.  This has helped space out the kids getting started, so they all aren't moving at the same time.

How do you do choice in your classroom?

Wednesday, February 22

Photo Dump

I'm hoping the old saying, "a picture's worth a thousand words" is true tonight.  I'm so tired.  I went straight from work to pick up my kids and then to a really cool missionary thing at my church.  It wasn't over until 8:30. Needless to say, it's been a long day.  But, I have tons of pictures from the last few weeks...

My kids collect their Valentine's cards and treats in these heart pockets.  Some years I let them decorate the front, but we were pressed for time this year.  (I kinda like the "clean-ness" of no decoration!).  These are really quick and easy to make. 

 This is the hanging hall art for February.  The kids glued tissue paper squares to a heart traced onto red cardstock.  It works best to paint a little glue, place tissue paper in glue, then paint over the top with more glue.  Watered down glue works well.  Wait until they're dry then cut out.

We celebrate Valentine's Day with our Dads-- Doughnuts with Dad.  This takes the place of a party.  I've done it every year I've taught and really like it.  The kids make these dads to hang in the hall.

We also make dad a little book, a card, and a button.  Nothing too fancy-- Dads don't seem to be too picky!  We also play Are You Smarter than a First Grader (kids vs dads).  The kids really like it.  My friend and I created the game on a flipchart for the Promethean Board.  If you are interested in a copy let me know.

My room set up for the dads (I dust off the doughnut sugar and reuse these tablecloths!)

I was feeling festive this year-- even the tree got a little heart love.

The kids were so excited to dump all of their goodies from the heart pockets and read their cards.

We've been learning about place value the last couple of weeks.  I love this marshmallow place value activity.  The kids loved it too!  We practiced first with just the marshmallows, then added the recording sheet later.  You can find the activity {here} on Abby's blog.

We also did a little contraction surgery last week.  My class loved that too!  They were so cute in their little surgical masks and gloves (I got a dentist parent to donate the masks).  My class was struggling with contractions this year.  I really think this helped them to understand these words a little better.

 Of course I copied Cara's surgeon.  I'm willing to admit that I have absolutely no drawing abilities!  I love tracing with the Promethean Board :)

One of my math tubs this week-- from Cara's Place Value Unit (this is a must buy- probably my most favorite unit of hers)

Another math tub from Cara.  I was afraid the base 10 blocks would get all mixed up if I put different amounts in 10 baggies.  So I used different colored pipe cleaners and pom poms for tens and ones. 

I made this little 10's mat to help them sort their beans into groups of 10.  They LOVE scoop and sort!  Cara's again!

I can't remember where I found this idea last year.  Please let me know if it's yours.  I created this little sheet.  It's just good practice for counting tens and ones.  Once they made their own initials, they could use the base-10 blocks to create other letters.

Open House is tomorrow night.  So, we've been working hard to make sure the room is "Parent Perfect."  Here are the directed-drawings of George and Abe.  I love this activity from Deanna Jump.  I made them draw with marker-- they listen much better that way!

Our anchor chart inspired by Abby.  This lesson was a hit.  They all wrote a question on a sticky note (making sure to use a question word and a question mark) then I answered each one.

I loved this inferring idea of Cara's but didn't have a big bulletin board.  So, I changed it a little to fit my space.  I took a picture of each page in the book and printed them out.  Each child worked with a partner to make their inference.  They all created their own David, but some were sent home early for lack of space.

After studying -ch we had a crunchy munchy -ch "party", inspired by First Grader at Last.  It wasn't really a party, although I called it one!  The kids each brought in their own -ch food for snack time.

I love how these Splats turned out.  My kids had some great text-to-self connections.

My kids really got into homophones.  I read "Dear Deer" to introduce the concept.  They worked in pairs to create their homophone pears. 

Here are some of our finished Venns.  I think they turned out really cute.

This one cracks me up!  Not quite sure about the red glasses :)

I've never had a child make their Venn into a ninja-- there's a first time for everything!

Sunday, February 19

Attitude Adjusted... I Think

I'm sorry for the negative tone of my last post.  My intent of this blog is not to complain about my job.  I actually love my job-- and this year I have a great group of kids.  My gripe isn't with Skpye at all.  I just get bogged down with always being asked to do more.  It seems there are always new standards, new assessments, new philosophies, new technology, new paperwork, new procedures that all get in the way of the job I love (all of that with no pay raise-- actually a pay cut if you teach in Alabama).  That's what frustrates me the most.

Thanks to all of you who commented about your Skype experiences.  I truly appreciate your ideas and your willingness to communicate with my class.  I'm planning to get in touch with you and set up something.  There was even a sweet teacher from Egypt that wants to Skype- how cool is that? 

I am in agreement that my firsties will love it-- let's be honest though, what do they not love?  They were also "in love" with the Fruit Loops and marshmallows I gave them to practice place value, the Band-Aids, surgical masks and gloves we used to do contraction surgery (some even took the masks and gloves to daycare to play doctor kitties!), and they still beg me to go back to the field and run laps around the track (which they obviously didn't see as punishment during recess one day last month). 

{There's that little bit of bad attitude creeping back in.}

So, I'll end with this. 

I thought about it all week.  Of course I immediately came to Philippians 2:14 that says"Do all things without complaining."  Even my principal's quote of the week was about having joy and a good attitude (hope she didn't think of that one after reading my last post!).  I'm a rule follower and will do whatever my job requires of me.  I'm trying harder to do it without complaining.  Of course my kids will love it, and it will be a great experience for them (and me).

I'll keep you updated on how it goes.

If you made it to the bottom of this post, you deserve a little freebie.  This week my kiddos are learning about long e, spelled -ee and -ea.  Here's a little word work to practice long e.  Those that finish early always enjoy creating their own puzzles on the back.  Click {here} to download a copy.

Thursday, February 16

Skype in First Grade

Have any of you ever used Skype in your classroom?  Our school has asked that we give it a try during the next month.  I'll be honest-- I have a bad attitude about it.  I love technology, and I feel like I do a good job of using it.  But, with so many other important things going on in my classroom---like LEARING TO READ-- I don't really want to put the time or energy into Skyping (is that a word?)

I'm sure it will be great, and hey- I might even like it after I do it- but right now I just don't want to.  Maybe after I complete 100 report card assessments and finish 18 time-consuming report cards I'll have more energy :)

So, I guess I need an attitude adjustment.  I'd love to know if any of you have used Skype in your classroom.  What did you do?  How did you and the kiddos like it?  Did you ever do it again?  I just need to find a little motivation.  I'm the kind of person that will put 150% into any project I find worthwhile.  I'm hoping you give me some great reasons to find this valuable.

If you've never used Skype at school, what do you think?  Is my bad attitude justified, or should I look at this as the perfect opportunity to try something new?

Maybe, just maybe, if I beg ask really nice one of you lovely teachers would be willing to Skype with my class??!  I'm sure you're just dying to, right?

Tuesday, February 7

Scrambled Sentences in Reverse

I love finding a new spin on an old activity.  For months now, my kids have been unscrambling sentences during reading tubs.  The sentences started off super easy and short, then became longer, then capitalization and punctuation were left out...  Now this activity is getting too easy (which is a good thing, right?)

So, it's time for a twist on the ol' scrambled sentence.  After reading Julie Lee's post about mirrored words I had an idea.  The kids will use mirrors to read each reversed word; then they can unscramble the sentence.  I'm hoping this will add a little pizzaz to this activity.

I decided to go with a spring theme as wishful thinking that spring will be here soon.   Plus it makes it a little more versatile to use anytime between now and May.  Click {here} to download a free copy.  Please let me know how it goes if you try it with your kids.

Wednesday, February 1

Friend Venns

After reading Abby's post about her Venn Diagrams I thought I'd share how my kiddos make their Friend Venns. 
First, each pair of children start out with a rough draft sheet.  They sit together and brainstorm ideas.  This usually takes a little while-- especially depending on the pairing.  Sometimes when children are too similiar it's hard for them to complete this part.  As they are working, I walk around the room and take a picture of each pair and write their names at the top of their Venn (just to make them a little cuter).  After a little teacher proof reading, they are allowed to start on the body.

I've done the Venns two different ways.  For several years I used a round head shape (made from tracing a large plastic plate).  I  like these, and they always turn out pretty cute. 

A friend on my team came up with the idea for a diamond shaped Venn.  I think they are super cute and allow for a little more personalizing.  They are a little more work to prepare, but so worth it-- especially for Open House later in February.

The children write their information on the Venn first.  Then, they start adding details.  I give them strips for the arms and legs.  They are allowed to add hair, shoes, bows, etc (one year I had children adding things like tennis rackets and baseballs in their hands).  Whatever floats their little boats!  These are so cute displayed on a bulletin board alongside the picture of each pair.  I wish I had more examples but we aren't doing this project until Friday- the picture above is from last year. 

I did the best I could to share a pattern with you.  It is too big to get the whole thing on a piece of paper. You should be able to print both pages and then tape them together to create a pattern.  Click {here} to get the pattern.  The shape really doesn't take too long to cut out.  I like to trace the writing lines in pencil for my kids, just to keep their work a little neater.  Best part is you'll only need one page per two children.