Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teacher Talk Tuesday

Things are getting pretty hectic around here as the start of school approaches! I envy those of you who've already been through {or are currently surviving} the back to school rush. 

So, my teacher talk this Tuesday is inspired by my husband. He graciously helped me square away my classroom today!! My husband has definitely helped me become a "smarter" teacher. I love to create systems to organize and streamline my work. 

For example, I wanted to hang student work on one of my classroom walls; basically, creating a bulletin board. Well, part of a bulletin board is changing out the work. It is very time-consumming to remove staples. In an effort to create an organized system, I tried using clothespins on a string. Oh, boy! That was a crooked, lopsided bother!! My husband showed me some picture clips from Command and made a suggestion. I already loved their hooks and strips for my center signs. He had my attention. 

So, I let him do his thing. And, look at his idea in action!! All I have to do is slide student work up into the clip; or, pull down to refresh. 

I mentioned in a recent post, that I also have a system for my hallway bulletin board. That's where my husband comes in {again}. After hanging the paper and border, my husband tacks an example paper on the bulletin board. He then uses tacks and string to make a straight line across the bulletin board. {Our iPhones even have a level to confirm this!!} He meticulously calculates and measures the space between each paper. Here's the result!! I have a great backdrop for posting student work, and it doesn't cut into too much time {which I already have too little of}!  

I hope you have someone to support you and your classroom. It makes a world of difference. Organization and efficient systems are also key! 

Bounce on over to "Blog Hoppin'" to link up.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday

Tell us a little something about you...
Hi! I’m Alicia from First Grade Factory. I am a wife, mother, and teacher. I have a son in the United States Marine Corps, and a daughter just starting her Junior year of High School. I’ve only been blogging for the last six months and I find myself wondering, “What was I doing with my life?” HA!  My love of blogging comes naturally. It all started from my willingness to craft and share materials with colleagues.   

How long have you been teaching?
The 2011-2012 school year starts my ninth year of teaching. At the age of 24, I signed my first teaching contract. I was assigned to teach third grade at an at-risk Edison School. The following year, I moved down to second grade. The year after that, I landed in first grade and have never left! I love it!! The innocence, desire, curiosity, … I could go on and on about 6 and 7 year olds!!

You might not know...
I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada! My grandparents moved here in the 1950s to help establish the Clark County School District. My grandmother taught Kindergarten for 30 years, and my grandfather was a high school guidance counselor for over 30 years. Nevada and teaching is in my blood. I initially set out to teach college English to 26 and 27 year olds. But, I quickly realized that I liked teaching 6 and 7 year olds a little more.  

What are you looking most forward to this school year?
I’m looking forward to making my classroom simplistic. Pencils, paper, crayons, erasers, ELMO projector, Smart Board, … done. Technology is going to really support and better my craft.

What do you need to improve?
I need to work on relaxing more. My mind always turns to teaching and my classroom. I have this drive to always better myself! It’s exhausting!! I always tell myself, “Progress, not perfection!” 

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?
I cannot live without my Sharpie Flip Chart Pens. And, 3M Sticky Note chart paper of course. I love student-centered posters and charts. I also must have my 32G flash drive. It holds everything that I could ever need away from home. I cannot live without my daily Red Bull. It gets cracked opened everyday at lunch.
* * * *           
Thanks for reading! I hope you have a school year to remember!!
Las Vegas Grammar School (Fifth Street School), built 1936

Bounce on over to "Blog Hoppin'" to link up. I look forward to meeting you! 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Reading Comprehension Strategy Materials

Also after many requests, I am posting my Reading Comprehension Strategy Materials. This download offers a parent letter describing the importance of reading comprehension strategies, an overview page describing each strategy, and bookmarks that can be used for either home or school. Clipart by Scrappin Doodles and ThistleGirl Designs.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Word Attack Strategies, take 2


After many requests, I have customized my Word Attack Strategies Posters into a landscape format. And just because you all are so wonderful, I am including some Word Attack Strategies Materials. This download offers a parent letter describing the importance of word attack strategies, an overview page describing each strategy, and bookmarks that can be used for either home or school. Clipart by ThistleGirl Designs.



Friday, August 12, 2011

Making Students Feel Special

Lindsey, of The Teacher Wife fame, posted a great question on her blog yesterday. She asked, "How do you make your students feel special?" Since she is looping with her students to second grade, she needs some new ideas. So, scroll down to see how I celebrate my students. You can even download my materials. Then, head on over to Lindsey's blog to read more and even share your own ideas!
To celebrate my students, I have a Super Star Student of the week. A new student is chosen each Monday. When students walk into the classroom each Monday, they excitedly look to see who's been chosen. On their desk, they find a star cutout, a letter to their parents, and their Super Star questionnaire. It's so cute when they realize who was chosen and they congratulate that student, saying, "I knew it was going to be you! You are always so good." 

Parents send in 5-8 pictures of their child to post in the classroom. I have a picture board with elastic criss-crosses to hold the photos without stapling, taping, etc. I also put a title above my picture board, using my favorite angled letter tiles {of course}! Students love this display, especially when there are baby pictures. The Super Star can also choose to be line leader, sit at the teacher's desk, pick where they sit, or lead calendar for the week.

On Friday, we gather in a circle so the Super Star can show their pictures, share their Super Star questionnaire, and read their favorite story to the class. Afterwards, everyone goes back to their seat and writes to the Super Star. They describe the student, write nice thoughts about them, and then illustrate. The Super Star writes to the teacher. I compile all of the students' writing and place the Super Star questionnaire on the top. Next, I fold an 18x24 piece of construction paper in half to make a Super Star book. On the top of the book, there is a super star cutout, along with the students's name and date. That Friday, the Super Star gets to take home their own personal class book.
Click on the picture
to check out my materials.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bulletin Boards Made Simple



The thought of putting up bulletin boards has always been a daunting task for me. I cringe at the thought of putting up the background paper, hanging the title straight, and updating for each holiday. For the sake of my own sanity, I have been using a simple and efficient approach to my bulletin boards. 

At the start of the school year, I still have to hang my background paper...but, I don't worry about hanging my title perfectly or changing out my bulletin board. My bulletin board stays up all year! 
















Each year I decide on a different theme. Last year's theme was close to my heart. I chose to go with a Marine Corps bulletin board since my 
son was at bootcamp. When recruits enter bootcamp, they find themselves standing on yellow footprints. These footprints symbolize the start of their journey, where their lives will be changed forever. 

I went with the Marine Corps' colors and chose a title to go with my recruit's journey. This applied to my students since they were stepping it up to first grade! One of my favorite bulletin board ideas is to create a title using letter squares. I can stagger and angle the squares without pulling out a level or having to restaple. I also laminate and staple construction paper to mark each student's spot.

I have so much on my plate, and wrestling with bulletin boards takes away precious time. Whether my bulletin board has student work posted or not, it is still decorated. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Weather Graphs Freebie

I recently put together my Math Journal Pages download to help you create student math journals throughout the school year! Well, another aspect to my math block is weather observation and graphing. 

So, here's a download for you...
Get your very own set of monthly graphs to record rainy, windy, sunny, cloudy, stormy, and snowy weather. Keep that monthly data posted so students can compare and analyze the weather from month to month. You can also keep track of the weather for the entire school year. School year weather graphs help students recognize and discuss patterns throughout the year. I laminate these graphs and post them on my calendar bulletin board. Students also have a copy in their math journal so they can more actively record, collect, and analyze weather data. Clipart by ThistleGirl Designs. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Student Math Journals

Oh, my!! 15 more days until Las Vegas teachers report to school. The countdown is really on! With only the tail end of summer left, I am motivated to ready myself for a new group of students! 

My first motivation was to redesign my old math journal templates from years ago. I enjoy teaching with journals of all types. But, I have to say, that I never thought I would enjoy math journals as much as I actually do. It allows students to become mathematical thinkers and reasoners. They have to reflect on their problem solving process and learn how to communicate their ideas. My school site also encourages the use of math journals. A good portion of our state assessment scores come from heavily weighted constructed response questions. 

My students have a monthly math journal that I collect and save to monitor student progress. First grade is such a remarkable year for growth and journals share that story. They are also a great resource to use during parent-teacher conferences to showcase a student's improvement or goals. Journals can even be used in instances where a student needs additional academic support (Response to Instruction). 


From updating my journal page templates, I put together a handy resource for you to create student math journals throughout the school year! My Math Journal Pages {Templates} offer a variety of resources to support students’ mathematical understanding and written expression. Download over 30 pages of constructed response forms and student reference pages. Clipart by ThistleGirl Designs. 

The first 3 bloggers to post a comment will receive my Math Journal Page Templates for free! 
{Make sure to leave your email} 
This product will be on sale until tomorrow (8/10/11)! Create your own student math journals today!! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nursery Rhyme Homework Booklet

Homework is important because it not only reinforces what students learn in class, but it also helps them to develop a sense of responsibility. First grade homework assignments are designed to help students develop a sense of responsibility and good work habits. 

Some children take to reading at a younger age and can read independently by the time they finish kindergarten. For others, it can be a struggle to learn their letters by the time kindergarten ends. When entering first grade, students have a wide range of reading skills. 


My nursery rhyme homework booklet is designed with this in mind. This booklet includes a parent letter, homework schedule, homework task checklist, challenge homework activities, and 10 nursery rhymes. 


Available at my TpT store, this product allows for the practice of basic skills to solidify basic concepts and readiness skills. These specific skills include: the direction to move when you read (from left to right), identifying rhyming words, capital letters, and initial letter sounds. However, for the accelerated student who enjoys an extra challenge, there are OPTIONAL homework challenge activities. Clipart by ThistleGirl Designs.