Tuesday, December 31, 2013

 13 in '13 {linky party}

Well I've fallen a bit behind in my blogging, 2013 sent a few unexpected bumps and even some rough turns in August that continued into December - but the bumps have finally been smoothed out some, and I am looking forward to a wonderful 2014. When I saw this linky hosted by Miss Kindergarten, A Teeny Tiny Teacher, and Dragonflies in First, I thought what a nice way to present the highlights of those tricky months. Here are my 13 for '13 and one looking forward to '14:

My husband and I ran in states #s 16, 17, 18, and 19 ~ getting closer to all 50.
~ a 5K in Hendersonville, Kentucky
~ a Double = 10K followed by a 5K in Indy, Indiana with a trip to the Indiana State Fair
~ a 10K trail in Fall Creek Falls Tennessee (a gorgeous place)
~ a 5K in Lawrenceville, Georgia run with our daughter and 2 grandchildren in the jogger stroller!

My teaching partner made contact with Wildlands Conservancy.
We arranged for a fantastic naturalist to visit our classroom twice a month, she is following closely what we are teaching in the classroom. The first visit was an introduction to bears and deer which live in the forest - the habitat we studied for the first quarter.

We received our classroom mascot from Boyds by Enesco.
He is so soft and lovable!
We took our first field trip to the forest at Wildlands Conservancy. There we spent quite a bit of time exploring a pond. We collected water plants, minnows, tadpoles, and even a frog - which are now living in our classroom until Spring when we will return them to their pond. We also met Harvey the snake, a toad, sat on 'The Spooky Bridge' and tried looking through a microscope for the first time.
These are some of the creatures we collected at Wildlands Conservancy that are now living in an aquarium in our classroom. We can't wait to see the tadpoles change into frogs.
Here is our second field trip to the forest. This time we travelled to Lehigh Gap Nature Center.
There we hiked in the forest along the river and up the mountian. We looked and listened for songbirds, and were very fortunate to have a bald eagle fly right over us as we were hiking. We also explored the tiny things that live in ponds under microscopes and even got to hold a salamander.
Just Born has sponsored our World of Discovery Program (you can read more about this is the two previous posts.) Through their generous donation we have been able to purchase the most amazing classroom rug ever - it has a leaf for each student to sit on, kits for exploring lady bugs & worms, nonfiction books, books, and more books, and they are funding the transportation for our field trips! Thank you Just Born!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On this visit from Wildlands we learned all about worms. We touched them, looked at them through microscopes and went outside to see where they live.
Nocturnal animals was the theme of this Wildlands visit. Lisa ~ our favorite visitor and naturalist from Wildlands brought with her the book Sassafras by Audrey Penn along with a real live skunk and owl. She read the book to us, signed it, and left it as a wonderful gift for us to enjoy agin and again. 
For this visit we had moved our forest study to the tropical rainforest. You can see our sampling of visiting creatures above.
Our next area of study was the forest in the Tongass of Alaska. We looked closely at bears, salmon, bald eagles and the trees in this temperate rainforest. Our visiting animals included a flying squirrel, a porcupine and a great horned owl.
As it turned colder in our neighborhood we travelled to the northern forests of the Arctic. Here we learned about polar bears, arctic hares & foxes, and the snowy owl. We were able to compare and contrast different types of rabbits after this domestic rabbit visited us.
Our last Wildlands visit of 2013 concentrated on deer, reindeer and caribou - as Christmas was upon us. We even made reindeer ornaments for our Christmas trees.
Looking forward to 2014.
Christmas break was wonderful!
 Both our daughters visited along with our two grandchildren.
Wishing everyone an amazing NEW YEAR!

Pin It!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

 The Journey Is About To Begin... Into The Forest We Shall Go ...

The school year is finally drawing close and preparations are proceeding along. This year I will be teaching my students all their first grade curriculum through animals and habitats. (To read more about why and for an overview of the year please read the post previous to this one.) The first quarter we will begin our studies in the forest. The classroom will be divided into 4 sections. One area for forest wetlands, another for forest vegetation, another for forest animals, and the last for people of the forest. My first thought was to totally turn the classroom into a forest before the students arrived - you know sort of like a Disney World building. Then I got to thinking wouldn't it be better if we built the forest together over the first few weeks of school? Then this familiar quote “And the walls became the world all around.”  Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are got stuck in my head. So on the first day of school we will read this book together and begin creating our forested world together. I love all the trees teachers have made in their classrooms ~ so we will learn how trees grow from seeds. We will hold, examine, and compare tree seeds. Then we will plant/lay them where we'd like those trees to grow up the walls of the room. Well you know what will happen next. Acorns, pinecones, small stones, and anything else I can collect will be used as math manipulatives for counting, sorting, patterns, adding...rather than traditional plastic and foam pieces. We will learn about many animals that live in the forest. First, we will concentrate on the black bear. As we will be the bears this year. My Kindergarten teaching friend has named our hall Critterville and every class will pick an animal. I love it! Fiction and Nonfiction books about bears will rule the first days. Of course an author study of Karma Wilson will be in the plans. Love her bear books :)

I didn't have a picture of mama bear and cubs so this will have to do.

Oh the excitement of venturing down a new trail.

Our nonfiction study will be Fairytales that occur in the forest. I was very fortunate to have received a free copy of Happy Endings With A Wolf unit created by Angela Rubin. You can read all about it here. Let me tell you its great! It incorporates language arts, math and science! At Paula's Place here you can read all her great fairytale ideas. Love how she grew Jack's bean stalk and put the castle on top. Be sure to go take a look. She also has a great Fairytale unit. This morning I found a great Bear Hunt posted by Kelly of First Grade Fairytales. Head to the bottom of her post to find out how she made her bear hunt extra special for her students. Kelly thanks for sharing - I know my children are going to love their bear hunt!

The best news of all is my fantastic ESOL teacher made a contact with Wildlands Conservancy. Through a special grant they will be sending the most amazing naturalist to our classroom twice a month!! She will be bringing live animals, skulls, antlers, pelts, magnifying glasses, and all sorts of other amazing things to our classroom. Each time she visits she will read to and teach my children about an animal in the habitat we are currently studying! We will also be visiting the Conservancy. I just can't wait.

Moravian College has also agreed to partner with us and provide some college students to volunteer in the classroom.

I still have a few loose ends to tie up, but things are starting to look good :)

More to come when the journey actually begins the end of the month.

Now for some fun ~ 
This past weekend I ran the Color Me RAD 5K with my sister-in-law and niece. It is amazing and loads of fun. If you haven't tried one. Go for it!

Hint: If you do this run take a large fitted sheet place one short end over the head rest on your car seat, and the other down on the floor. This eliminates a mess in the car on the way home.

Now this is just plain cute - my granddaughter and her friend.
I can't take credit for this, the little guy's mom created it.

I leave with you with one of the last bloomers of summer. They are huge many as big or bigger than dinner plates. Enjoy the last bits of summer!
Pin It!

Monday, July 29, 2013

 Planning for the Implementation of an Inspiration

This Spring while teaching my fantastic first graders I was hit with an inspiration! I decided that next year ~ well now this year I would teach most of my first grade curriculum through animals and their habitats. I am doing this for 2 main reasons. First, I noticed whenever animals were mentioned all little ears in the classroom were tuned to whatever was being taught at the moment. Second, my children live in an urban environment and have very little knowledge of animals and their habitats. So I began reading, studying, dragging my ESOL teaching partner along, making phone calls..........

I found the pushes I needed to go forward in the two books above. 
From Ron Clark: think big, be persistent, and make it happen. In his book The End Of Molasses Classes, my favorite chapters are: Create Moments That Will Have A Lasting Impact On Children's Lives, Make Learning Magical, Open Your Doors To The Parents, Make the Most of Every Moment! There Should be an Urgency in Education!, and Reach Out To the Community to Build a Powerful Network.
Dave Burgess in Teach Like a Pirate gave me many things to think on. This is the quote that keeps me jumping...
"Jump on creative opportunities that come your way, and then implement them! Be proactive in your pursuit of your vision for your classroom and life."

So by now you are probably wondering, "What exactly is she up to?"
Here's the plan:
I will divide my classroom into four areas. An area for animals, one for wetlands, one for vegetation and the last for humans. The area types will remain the same all year, but what is in them will change. 
In the first quarter they will reflect the forest and then rainforest. In the second quarter the Arctic and Antarctic. The third quarter Australia and Safari. The last quarter we will learn about farms and life cycles.

A few more thoughts from Dave Burgess. 
He has a whole chapter titled, 'Find A Crew.' I am lucky to have found many great crew members. First, is my dear husband, he listens to all my ideas, helps me develop them, and scale them down so they are workable. He also goes on many missions with me to collect objects and pictures for the classroom. We have collected turtle shells, acorns, sticks chewed by beavers, and various other items. I couldn't do this project without the blessing of my Principal, Supervisor of ESOL, and Assistant Superintendent for Education. My ESOL teaching partner is fantastic at organizing and planning. She has helped to write a grant that looks promising and has made contacts and arrangements with two local environmental agencies to provide programing for our students. The crew will continue to grow.

"Determine to intentionally control your environment and all the presentational elements in play. Everything matters." That's a heavy one from Dave. I began working on this one this week. I have called many foundations and agencies that provide educational programs about animals and the response has been amazing! I will soon be receiving awesome posters and other education materials to use to turn my room into the habitats. 

The above two books have been my inspiration for math this year. Rather than use traditional math manipulatives I plan on using things like acorns, pinecones and stones for counting, sorting, etc.

Reading and writing will have a new look also thanks to the above 3 books. Reading all of your blog posts on Daily 5 and CAFE have helped me enormously in my planning. Thank you :)

Last, but not least I am planning a technology piece where my class will communicate with classes in all of the habitats we are studying this year. This is the piece I am currently working on. If you are interested in participating please let me know. As soon as I put this idea carefully together I will post more details.

Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you too are inspired to step outside the box and plan an innovative program for your class!
Pin It!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

 Looking For a Teacher Binder

I am asking for your help. This year I'd like to use several teacher binders ~ one for lesson plans, one for Daily 5/CAFE and one for a substitute. I went to Teachers Pay Teachers and found there are thousands - yes over 2000 to choose from, I spent more time than I'd like to admit looking through the first couple. So I am asking if any of you have created and are selling one, or you have used one that you love, PLEASE let me know so I can go check it out. Thanks :)
Pin It!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

 Sunday Smorgasbord

Today I am linking up with Michelle from Fabulous in First ! I have a whole bunch of random today so this is just perfect. Thanks Michelle:)

This morning's 7 mile run was HOT and sloooow. I couldn't complain though my husband ran 18 - crrazzy! He is preparing for a September marathon. I think my marathoning days may be over.

This is my new favorite drink. I used to drink Coke, but it is not good for a runner or for weight control. I then moved to chocolate milk - better for me. A week ago my neighbor introduced me to this ~ Dark Chocolate Almond Milk. It is delicious, less calories than a glass of regular milk, and has more calcium. How could I go wrong? Yummy!

I did a bit of school shopping this week. Found some great polos on sale, sale, sale at the Talbots Outlet, perfect for those first hot days back to school. Yes, I bought more than 2. Also, after reading all your great blogs their were some teacher books I just had to get and read. So I placed an order with Amazon. Can't wait for them to arrive. This is my last week teaching summer school, the books should arrive just in time for me to dive in.

These are our two beautiful daughters. Sorry this is a picture of one of my favorite pictures of them together. They will be 25 and 23 this summer. Boy am I getting old. Happy Birthday Girls! Dad and I love you very much.

Wendy, our greyhound turned 11 this week. We rescued her 9 years ago. Greyhounds make great pets. They are big, but also very calm and loving.

This is Bubba (nickname), our grandson, he is now two and lives way too far away.

Here's his sister Roo (also nickname), our granddaughter. She will be 7 months soon. We will be visiting them in August. Can't wait :)

The coneflowers are in full bloom. They bring in goldfinches and butterflies :)
Have a great week ~ thanks for reading!
Pin It!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

 A Reality Check

Well I got stuck on this post. Ever since I read Little Bunny's Sleepless Night by Carol Roth and Valeri Gorbachev (way back in the beginning of May) I've been mulling around what I wanted to say about the discussion that took place that morning with my fantastic bunch of first graders whom I already miss. 

This is a great story for making connections, predictions, sequencing and teaching the 5 senses.
I started this read aloud like I do most, by showing the cover of the book and telling the children, "This story is about a Little Bunny, and he has trouble sleeping one night." Then I asked the question, "Why can't you sleep?" I didn't realize this would be a loaded question. I expected answers like... my mom sends me to bed too early, I'm not tired, I want to stay up and play, I'm excited about ~ but those are not the answers I got.
A little background is needed here. Each day, my wonderful first graders bounce into the classroom ready and eager for the day. They are clean, dressed nicely and loved by their families. It is, at times, easy for me to forget their homes aren't like what I,  or many of us know. You see my school is next to a housing project and low rent housing. Over 91% of my children live in urban poverty and many are second language learners. Yes, many enter my classroom with a variety of needs, but they are first graders and its my mission to fully prepare them for any second grade classroom they may enter. Often they arrive at school tired. Never did I think to ask them why, until I pulled this book off the shelf for our read aloud.
Here are the answers I received, # of children who agreed out of 18:
*14 said they were too cold ~ small PJ's, no blanket or thin blanket, sleeping on the floor or sofa
*16 said outside noise kept them awake ~ gunshots, fighting, loud music, noisy cars
*16 said they had nightmares ~ no explanation needed
*14 said it was too noisy in their house ~ fighting, loud TV or music
*10 said brothers or sisters in their room kept them awake
*12 said they were scared
*9 said they were too hungry to sleep
Not a single child said they weren't tired or were sent to bed too early.
Why did this bother me so much, and why does it still weigh heavy on my mind. Certainly deep down I knew this was their reality. I like to hope/think that in some small way I am making a difference in their lives - but I think this set it straight, I cannot change what I cannot change - and that hurts. These are innocent children who will forever be effected by their living situation.
It also reminded me to talk less and listen more. This class needed to talk about their lives and I listened. I learned more than I wanted this year, but hopefully I will be a better teacher because I asked and I listened.
Pin It!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

 West Virginia State #15

School ended in a flurry and running season began. 

The Run by the River, Shepherdstown, West Virginia
On June 8th we ran a 5K in West Virginia, our 15th state on a quest to run in all 50.
This had to be one of the friendliest, nicest runs we have ever done.
If  you are near Shepherdstown, WV the beginning of June I strongly suggest you sign up! 

Upon arrival we were greeted with a table of yummy foods and happy people. They gave us our race packets (seen below) filled with great treats for runners ~ including chapstick, sunscreen,water bottles and chocolate. You will notice the chocolate is missing because it didn't last long.
The T-shirts were colorful, soft and made of 100% recycled materials. I love how the race logo is on the front and back of the shirts. All these goodies came in the signed bags.
In addition each runner was also given a handmade card created by a child at the Day Care the proceeds benefitted :)

The race was advertised as an out and back course, downhill out and uphill back. Well when the race started with two quick up and down hills I began to worry, because if this wasn't what they were calling the hill then I wondered what the hill would bring. Well I soon found out. It was long and at times steep. Of course the down part was easy, the up took some work. At the finish line they had someone taking every runner's picture. Upon arriving home we found that we had each received an email with our pictures and another personalized email. How thoughtful!

After the race there was nice cold water and plenty of tasty snacks to refuel on. In addition to the 5K, there was a 5 Miler, and a Kid's Fun Run. They followed the races with a nice awards assembly. My husband and I were both pleasantly surprised to find we had won our age groups! For this we were given an envelope that had written on it, "Congratulations on Your Speedy Run!" Inside we each received a gift certificate to Mellow Moods Cafe and Juice Bar.
We decided to head up to the cafe for a quick bite before hitting the road again. What a great place! Delicious, healthy food. If you are ever in the area do stop in.
We also made a stop at Two Rivers Treads a natural running store. They will do a gait analysis for free.
All in all it was an awesome race, a great town filled with wonderful little shops and friendly people, and a just plain great day!
Pin It!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

 Blog Lovin'

<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/5653679/?claim=rg58yrq54ng">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>
Just getting set up!
Pin It!

Monday, April 22, 2013

 Be a Fly on My Wall

I am linking up with Jodi from Fun-In-First to offer you a look at a day in my classroom. As you know days vary and my schedule has some flexibility in it. This particular day we did not do centers ~ although we often do.

Top left is Rockin' Roll and Read made by Dana of Polka Dots Checks & Stripes, top right is a Silent E Bunting Game by Melissa of Fashion Craze Learning Days,  and bottom is a Kung Fu Four by Mary of Pitner's Potourri. All three are excellent games for struggling readers.

We start our day at 8:55 with a quick extra jolt of reading. At the start of the third quarter I became concerned that a few of my students were still struggling readers. They now enjoy a 15-20 minute extra small group reading lesson each day as soon as they walk in the door. We begin each lesson with a short round of  word game (shown above.) Followed by passage reading. While this group is meeting with me my other students are reading about the room in pairs working on developing fluency and expression.

On this day we played Rockin' Roll and Read.

We then work on reading fluency using Sight Word Fluency Passages for Reading Intervention created by Christine of Sugar and Spice. These passages have proven to be worth their weight in gold. Everyone of my students in this group has made great gains in reading :)

While I am reading with this group my other students are pair reading poems, plays and passages from April Fluency Passages created by Amy of The Resource(ful) Room. My children really enjoy them and love presenting them to the class. See video below.
After 15-20 minutes we all meet together for morning meeting. One of the reasons we did not get to centers today was that our morning meeting ran late due to 3 reasons ~ 2 good and 1 major goof up by me :( As the children gathered in our meeting spot there was quite a commotion (unusual for this group.) When I asked what was going on they said one of the boys said the "f" word, other students were quick to confirm this and the student himself said he did it. So without thinking I started on my we don't say those kind of words in school and sent him to the behavior chart to move his name. Big mistake on my part. I know better. Well he returned crying and I finally came to my senses and decided perhaps I should ask why he would say such a word at school. He was so distraught he couldn't speak so I asked if any of the other children knew why he said it. One boy spoke up and said he was trying to read a word on the map. I asked him to bring me the map ~ turns out this little guy with some speech issues was trying to say Africa, not quite sure how it ended up sounding like the "f" word, but I do believe this is what happened. So now I had to change gears. Apologize to the poor little guy and explain to my students that saying a naughty word is not really bad if it was truly an accident. I felt sooooooo bad.

Here's my Collection of Elmer books. Really amazing books written by David McKee. If you don't have them check them out. You won't be sorry.

After I tried to repair the damage I did to my poor little guy we moved onto lunch count and story time. We are working on fractions in math and I always try to ask a math question that has something to do with our lunch count before moving on. Today's first question was, "What is half of 12?" Well I called on one of my little ones who's hand was up, but I really wasn't sure she knew. She promptly answered, "6 is half of 12 because 6 plus 6 is 12." Well gotta love that Whole Brain Teaching, not only did she get the correct answer, she said it in a sentence and added the because clapper! I was doing the teacher happy dance there so I decided to up the anty and asked, "If I have have 4 friends and 12 candy bars how many candy bars will each friend get if I share them equally?" I was really surprised when one of my little guy's hand quickly shot up and he answered, " 3 because 3 plus 3 is 6 and there are 2 sixes in 12." Wow I am sure I could not have come up with that in first grade! Okay happy moments here:)
Next up my absolute favorite part of the day... story time. This year my students could listen to stories for hours. They love making predictions and connections. They really love when characters appear in multiple books. Today we read the last Elmer story I have. Then we sat and talked about all we've enjoyed while reading Elmer books. Last week when we started the Elmer books we did a mini nonfiction unit on elephants by Megan of Mrs. Mitchell's First Grade.

I tried to insert a video of two of my students reading one of Amy's poems, but I just couldn't get it to work. Sorry. The students loved watching themselves on video.

Next up morning work. I use Jodi's monthly packs because they offer a fluency component on one side and reinforce common core ELA and math on the other side AND they are already differentiated. Who could ask for more. At first it took my students a long time to complete these papers. Now they fly through them. This is the time I attend to student folders.

Last thing before specials and lunch ~ anthology time. I teach the strategies and skills as outlined by the program. We enjoy the stories, but I often add here and put my own twist on things. This weeks' stories had to do with insects.
At 10:45 my students leave for specials, they have a different one each day. At 11:30 I pick them up and drop them off for lunch. It makes for a short morning and a very long afternoon.

Now its noon and we begin math. Yesterday we made fraction pizzas that I have seen on several blogs. We started by reviewing our pizzas then we used this great fraction matching game by Michelle of Our Sweet Success, very cute and free!

The bulk of our math lesson was completing a fraction activity with kites created by Jennifer of Cuddle Bugs Teaching.
Next up - Guided Reading. I have 3 groups. My top 2 groups are working on this amazing pack called Find Us Forever Homes created by Tracy of Creekside Teacher Tales. I meet first with my high flyers, set the stage and send them off to work independently. At the end of the period I meet with them again to check on their progress. My middle group does the packet with me and sometimes in pairs after a strong introduction. I meet with my struggling readers for a second time each day now. This is when they read books. Today we were reading the little book that goes with our anthology.

A high flyer completing the activities for the dog Lucy.

The middle group working together on the dog Jack.

My third group reading their books.
While I am meeting with these three groups I offer the students a variety of activities to complete. On this day they were working on their Elmer stories. I find I get some of their best writing after they have heard several stories about one character, and I ask them to write their own adventure for this character. Elmer has sparked the most writing I have ever gotten!

Some of that beautiful Elmer writing.

We are also working on a collage to display with our stories.

After guided reading we go outside for a 10 to 15 minute recess.

This is normally followed by our RTII groups. All first graders are grouped based on DIBELS scores and sent to appropriate teachers in small groups for interventions. I teach a group of 12 tier two children using My Sidewalks On Reading Street.

But..since our poor upper grade children were state testing for two weeks we did not do RTII during this time. Instead I took what I was already doing at the end of the day Jodi's Spring Fluency Pack and expanded upon her weekly themes.

On this day we spent time learning about ladybugs. The paper on the left is from Jodi's pack, there is a nice ladybug poem on the other side with some questions to complete. The Ladybug Life Cycle book and worksheet below come from Michelle of Apples and ABC's free Ladybug Life Cycle pack.

At 3:25 I walk my students to the door, no buses here, everyone walks.

There you have it, one day in my classroom, similar, but different from all my other days.

I leave you with these gorgeous flowers from my garden...

My wish for you is that all bleeding hearts from last week ~ those in Boston, Texas, Kansas and where ever you may be find peace and begin to heal.
Pin It!