Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ten Things I've Learned... {McLinky Party}

1. I get paid to be my first grade self every day!
2. Kids make noise all the time!
3. I don’t like the potty dance.
4. Kids want band-aids no matter how small the papercut.
5. I am a hairstylist, shoe-tier, nurse, life coach, and confidante.
6. I love messy faces, hands, clothes, and pillow hair.
7. First graders can't tell the difference between stories and questions.
8. Kids are the thirstiest creatures ever!
9. Kids teach me more than I ever thought possible.
10. I’ll never underestimate the importance that I play in a child’s life. We are a positive constant.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Teacher...What Do I Do Next??

How many times do you model the steps for students, ask them to repeat the steps, and then send them to work independently...and not 5 minutes later you hear, "Teacher, what do I do next?" Or, how many times do you model the steps that students are to follow and next thing you know...a student is cutting out materials and they were supposed to color first!?!

To make sure students don't forget...I created picture direction icons to post on my whiteboard.

As I give directions, I number the step and place my magnetic icons next to the number.
Not only do students have a visual to refer to (without having to ask the teacher), but you can foster independence by reminding students where to find the answer. Clipart by Scrappin Doodles.

Friday, March 25, 2011

R.I.P. Dead Words

How many of you are tired of seeing students use the words awesome, cool, nice, or good...to death? I know that I am! Especially when students come back saying that they added details and these are the words that they chose to describe. So, the other day we had a mini lesson before our writer’s workshop entitled, “Dead Words.” I drafted a quick paragraph using these powerless words. I then showed students a visual of a tombstone with their overused words. 
I went through my draft and crossed out the dead words. As a class, we came up with a word bank of synonyms to be used as more exciting alternatives. 
I went back to my draft, added these new powerful words and voila!!! My revision was much more alive and powerful. My students enjoyed the spin! 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reading Comprehension Strategies Posters

At this point in the school year, many of my first graders are starting to place less emphasis on identifying words and more emphasis on understanding what they read. To further my students' success, I am going to really start emphasizing and encouraging the use of various comprehension strategies. 

The same colleague that shared the word attack decoding posters with me also passed along the idea of these cute reading comprehension strategies posters.

While these posters won't be appropriate for all levels of learners in my class, they will definitely promote the concept that good readers use comprehension strategies to make sure they understand what they are reading. 

Head on over to my {TPT store} for your own set. Graphics by Scrappin Doodles.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

5 in a Row: Dolch Phrases Game

Did you know that 50 to 75 percent of all words in text material are common words that are repeated? These 220 words are called the Dolch Sight Words. Because these words are used to hold thoughts together, these words must be recognized at a glance before a child can read with confidence. However, learning Dolch sight words in isolation is not as effective as learning them in context. Reading phrases allows children to learn how to train their eyes to take in more than one word at a time. Check out my new game called 5 in Row: Dolch Phrases. Not only is a great game to use during center time...but it's free! {Click here}

Monday, March 14, 2011

Can Seeds Grow in a Straw?

In addition to the lima bean experiment, the class started another project to see if plants can grow without soil. 

Students were introduced to the seed of a grain- wheat. We then had a discussion in which students shared what they know about grains: Plants are important sources of food for people. What kinds of plants do people eat? Has anyone heard of plants called grains? What are some of the grains you have eaten? (Wheat, oats, corn, barley, rice)

Students each received a seed and were asked to describe what they observed. We then discussed whether or not this seed could grow without soil. Most of the class agreed that it would grow since they were witnessing the lima beans growing roots. 

After modeling how to create the seed-in-a-straw, each student received 2 straws marked 3” from the bottom (in case one didn’t grow), 2 paper towel wicks (1”x3”), and 2 wheat seeds. 

Next, students independently prepared their two straws. After preparation, the class put their straws into a large plastic cup of water with the wicks down.  

Here are the results after 1 week:

Lima Bean Experiment

My class also started their lima bean experiment to answer the question: “Can plants grow without water?”
Provide each student with a labeled plastic sandwich bag, one paper towel (cut in ½), and three lima beans. Ask students to carefully fold one half-sheet of paper towel in ½. Then have them lay 3 beans on the paper towel. Explain that the beans need to be in the middle and spaced apart. Next, students place their other ½ sheet of paper towel on top of the lima beans. This paper towel is also folded in half. Then, provide students with a spray bottle to dampen the paper towels. Assist as students slide their paper towel into the baggie. Show students how to leave part of the baggie unzipped to allow for air.

I recommend stapling the bottom fourth of the baggie to give the seeds a place to lie without sitting in the extra water that collects at the bottom.

Place the bags in a sunny place.
See the root starting to reach down!

Here are the results after a week and a half:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Read and Color with Sight Words

Some of my favorite center activities involve students reading to follow directions. Students enjoy coloring...so why not incorporate reading and coloring together!! Here is a {download} that you can use in your reading, sight word, or even art center. There are 6 activity pages in all. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

UPDATE: Plant Survival

Our unit on plants is in full bloom! Everyday we’ve been starting a new project, asking questions, making hypotheses, and recording our observations. Teaching students about plants is so engaging and hands-on. I love it! Two weeks doesn’t seem long enough.

To start, here’s an update on my prior post “Experiments with Plants.” Check out how Plant A and Plant B have done over the past week. 
Sorry Plant A!!
Check back to find out about our lima bean experiment to answer the question: “Can plants grow without water?” 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Fun

What's more fun than celebrating holiday fun while learning! I love using thematic units. In my classroom, I especially like doing math and science activities for the holidays. So, we will have some "St. Patrick's Day Data Fun" by graphing Lucky Charms and conducting the Potato Race Experiment. Check out my unit for sale on {TpT}. 

Lucky Charms graphing utilizes a variety of math skills for first grade. Before receiving a baggie full of cereal, students will make an estimate regarding the number of marshmallows they have. Students will then verify their estimate by counting their total. Next, students will sort their marshmallows by type and then graph accordingly. Now comes the fun part...students will compare quantities using greater than, less than, and equal signs. They will answer questions regarding most, least, and write equations using marshmallow totals.

Data Analysis
In the potato race experiment, students will practice making and testing a hypothesis.

Using two different types of potatoes, students will observe each potatoes' characteristics. The teacher will set up a ramp and explain that the potatoes will be released simultaneously. The race will be conducted 10 times. Based on this information, students must predict which potato will win the race. Students will graph the results, verify if their hypothesis was correct, note observations from the experiment, and make conclusions about the experiment's results.
Hypothesis and Data Collection Page
Want a delicious treat? Make some "Shamrock Shakes"!! Get some holiday themed cups, lime sherbet, and Sprite. Spoon some sherbet into a cup, pour some Sprite over the top...and voila! Don't forget some spoons, straws, and napkins. :)

For more holiday fun, Rachelle from "What the Teacher Wants!" blogspot posted a free St. Patty's Day Mini Unit. 

Elements for Plant Survival

This past week, our class has been learning about plants and the elements that they need to survive. We started the lesson by creating a circle map and students named the elements that they "believed" plants need to be healthy. Some of their ideas were sun, soil, water, air, space, bugs, rocks, and vitamins. As I listed them on the circle map, I made sure to state that their idea could be true or false. 

I then let students know that we would use the {scientific process} to determine which elements plants actually need to survive. I showed the students 3 plants. One plant was labeled A, the second was labeled B, and the third C. I explained to students that each plant would receive certain elements.

Plant A would only receive sun.

Plant B would receive sun and water.

Plant C would only receive water. That meant that Plant C was going to be placed in a dark cabinet.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Let the Kids Blog!

During staff development day, our school offered various technology training sessions. One of the sessions was about a website called kidblog.org. Kidblog.org is an easy and safe way to create a blog where your class can communicate online. Students are able to publish posts and participate in discussions within a secure classroom blogging community. Plus, teachers maintain complete control over the students' blogs by setting the privacy controls, approving comments before they post, and more. 
Today I sat down with my first graders and showed them our new class blog and how it works. They were so excited to learn that they could chat with each other online while at home. I love the idea because they are reading, writing, and learning computer skills! It's a great way for students to connect in the evenings or on the weekend. {Click here} for my parent letter. 
Below is a transcript from this evening's discussions. We are up to 56 posts in one night. I think the kids love it. CHECK IT OUT!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Challenging Minds

So many times after reading a story in our basal, the comprehension questions are very basic and only require simple recall. Even the workbooks that the district provides just focus on the story's vocabulary and phonics skill. So, for my students, I created a reading journal prompt template and thought-provoking questions.

After reading a story from our basal, I pull out my folder of journal templates and pre-cut prompts that I keep in an envelope.

Reading Journal Templates and Prompts Folder 
Based on the story, I choose appropriate prompts. I sometimes cater the difficulty to each child's ability. These prompts touch on making personal connections, identifying important elements, expressing feelings about the story, and noticing the author's craft. Students glue their prompt to the top of their journal template page. They complete these activities independently. At a later time, I call a small group back together and I use their responses to facilitate discussion.

Today, one of my groups read a non-fiction story about a veterinarian who was overworked at an animal shelter. Here are some of my students' insightful thoughts regarding the story. :)

"Puffy was a shame."

Hire "another vet to watch the lost pets."
Even at such a young age, students are so insightful and practical when given that extra push. Click on this {link} to download my template and prompts for FREE!