Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fluency Fun with Mrs. Russell's Room

Hi there!
I'm wondering how you got here today.  
Was it because you followed the link up set by the fabulous Cassie from Adventures in Teaching?
Adventures in Teaching
 Or maybe you saw my title about fluency and thought to yourself, "I can ALWAYS use a few more tricks up my sleeve when it comes to fluency," and clicked on over.  
If it's the second one, I am right there with you people!  
When I found out I was going to be able to swap products with the amazing Tamara Russell of Mrs. Russell's Room 
I knew right away which product I wanted to get:
This is by far the best thing I have found for keeping track of my students' fluency.  I am so excited to be able to share with you just how amazing it is and then I KNOW you will want it too.  
First of all, this particular pack has enough fluency passages to get you through spring.

There are 5 different topics for each month and 3 levels for each topic.  

I must tell you that Tamara is an absolute genius!  Not only did she provide 3 different levels for each topic, but she also leveled them in just about every different way you might need in your classroom.  Your principals will be kissing you when they see the differentiation going on in your classroom and the data you are able to keep on each child.  But more importantly, you will be able to use this data to target your students' needs better too.  Win-win!

This was so easy to set up in my classroom.  I made multiple copies of the teacher data sheets.  I then copied the student copies of the reading passages onto 3 different colored papers - one color per level - so I could easily grab the one I wanted.

Then I got started (as quickly as possible).  The teacher data sheets are simple to use and include comprehension questions.  I was LOVING how my students could quickly see their progress as we read each passage multiple times.  They were so motivated to beat their words per minute.  Even my lowest readers blew me away with their ability to track print quicker and quicker each time.  So awesome as a teacher to see it happen right before eyes.

Now, I am pretty sure that you are thinking you absolutely NEED to get this yourself.  Well, you might like to know that Tamara has a full year's worth of fluency passages for you to grab.  You can get them at an awesome discount by grabbing the bundle.  She also has a Kindergarten version too - perfect for struggling 1st graders as well.  Just click the picture below to check them out in her store.  
**Just a little side note: the background paper for these pictures was also created by Tamara Russell - oh and it's FREE.  
Did I not tell you she's brilliant???**

You should also check out this blog post of Tamara's where she explains how she organizes her fluency packs into a binder and it includes a FREEBIE to get you started.  She truly thought of everything!
Now for the fun part - you can WIN this product and a bunch of other ones as well - including my Powerful Prompts pack for April that Tamara reviewed HERE.  

And don't forget to check out the rest of the swappers with the link up below.  All of the products above are being reviewed.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Ideas for Kinesthetic Learning

Here we are again - another month of AMAZING bloggers getting together to share some Bright Ideas.    This time I'd like to share some ideas for those wiggly, bouncy, chatty, energetic, wonderful, kinesthetic learners.  
We all know 'em.  We all have 'em.
I think kinesthetic learners would pretty much describe almost every child in my class in 1st grade.  Maybe it's the age, or maybe it's just my group of lovelies this year - but either way, I think all primary teachers can agree that it pays to have some strategies in your back pocket to break out when you see the wiggles start kicking in.  Not to mention that most children learn best by doing.  

All of the ideas I'm going to share are ones I use in my classroom.  I'm not claiming to have created these ideas, and I'm sure many teachers use the same ones, but I just wanted to share what I do. 
I hope you will see something that inspires you and you can try out in your own classroom.  I named these ideas just to help explain, but if there is another name for them that maybe I don't know about or if there is an original creator, please feel free to let me know.  I will always give credit where credit is due.

So let's start with some ELA ideas:

 Whole Body Spelling is using your whole body to form letters to spell a word.  You could do this with sight words or other spelling words.  You can do it in the classroom, but my students love going outside to do this.  We even go out in the winter and do this in the snow.  

Write in the air is just a quick way to practice spelling.  We use our fingers in the air as if we are writing and spell words out loud together.  This is a hard one to capture in a picture, but here is my attempt.  Maybe you can tell that they are spelling the word again.  :)

Listen and Jump is something we do when reviewing sight words, rhyming words, or vocabulary words.  In this picture all the kids have sight words and when I say a word that they have, they jump up in the air.  They LOVE this one!  
Sometimes I will give them other words and say if your word rhymes with "cat" then jump up or if your word starts with a "b" sound jump up.  This is also fun because a couple kids might jump up at the same time.  Again - simple, but gets 'em moving.

Lifesize Making Words  - We use letter cards to spell words.  As we stretch out the sounds the kids will either stand up or hold up their letter.  Sometimes we have vowel teams and those kids link up their arms and say their sound together or we put a Super E at the end of the word and have him/her flip the vowel sound.  The person holding the vowel turns around in a circle and says the long vowel sound instead.  Acting out phonics is something that really helps my lower readers.  They seem to remember things like flipping the vowel and linking arms and so on.  Great visual for the whole class.

Finally, and probably our MOST favorite, is a variation of the game Hullabaloo.  This is such a cute game and my 3 and 5 year old girls really love playing this at home.  

In the actual game there are rubber mats that have pictures and words with things like animals, food, instruments, etc.  You spread these out on the floor randomly.  Then you turn on the "announcer".  The announcer says things like "Slither over to a yellow mat" or "Hop over to a food".  The kids move around and find the mats he's talking about.  Then he will say something like, "If you are standing on the elephant you win - take a bow."  It's super cute!  

So I decided to make this into a classroom game to practice word families and as we learn new spelling patterns.  I use these pack of foam shapes that I got from the Dollar Tree.  

Then I write words on them using a sharpie.  Right now we are working on long vowels so the pack of words I'm using has CVCe words, vowel teams, and also includes blends and digraphs.  But in the beginning of the year I just use CVC words and slowly add in blends.  

We spread out the words on the floor and I will give directions like, "Tiptoe over to a word that rhymes with feet" or "Crawl over to a word that has a long e sound."  We just stand next to the word instead of on them and then I have them read the words they chose.  I play this with small groups of children so it is more manageable and because I don't have a ton of room, but it could be played as a class too.  In the actual game kids can share mats, so sometimes we do that too.  

I also use these same cards at our reading table with fun fly swatter to swat the words if we don't have time to spread them all out on the floor.  This is also a class favorite and super quick to set up when I don't have the time for the full thing.

Now for some kinesthetic ideas to use in math: 

First up is skip counting.  We use numeral cards that I quickly printed on the computer and laminated and each child has a number.  We sit in a line or a circle.  If we are counting by 2s for example, we will count around the circle and whisper the odd numbers and then shout (not too loud) the even numbers while those children stand up.  Then we switch it up and count by other numbers.  If we're counting by 3s, we would whisper 1,2 and shout 3, whisper 4,5, and shout 6, and so on.  

For Greater than/Less than we use the same numeral cards.  We make numbers between 0 and 120 (first grade common core standards).  Then I have a student stand in the middle and hold their arms like the sign.  We practice reading it together.  For example: 57 is greater than 46.   We will also make numbers and put them in order from least to greatest or vice versa.  Sometimes we turn the numeral cards into necklaces using sheet protectors and string and they don't have to hold up the numbers.  

This next one is something I am planning on getting when I have the money, but wanted to share it with you.  In my classroom I have made a Lifesize Tens Frame out of a dollar store plastic tablecloth and washi tape for the lines (sorry no picture).  We have kids stand in the tens frame to practice counting, adding, and subtracting using our bodies.  But I also just found online this giant 120 chart and blow up dice that I think I will HAVE to get.  I also saw another one that was even bigger where the kids move around on it.  How fun!  

Finally is my version of Math Hullabaloo.  This is the same idea as the reading version, only using numbers.  Again, I write a bunch of numbers between 0 and 120 on the foam shapes using sharpie.  Then we spread them all out.  I give clues such as, "Dance over to a number with 6 tens" or "Slide over to a number greater than 30."  Super fun!

Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my Bright Ideas for Kinesthetic Learners.  If you enjoyed these ideas, please consider following my blog on Bloglovin' over on the side or following me on Facebook or Instagram.  

Also, if you're looking for more Bright Ideas right now, you'll definitely want to check out the links below.  I know I'm going to!  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Life of a Teacher

Anyone else doing report cards right now????  

Leave me some motivational comments - puh-leeeeeeease!!!  :-)

And don't forget to check out more Wordless Wednesday posts.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why is it snowing outside in APRIL??

I just want to start by saying, if you are not on Instagram I highly recommend it.  

One reason is because there are people (like me) who take pictures in the classroom, post them on Instagram, and forget to blog about them.  Oops!  Guilty.

It's just so easy to take a quick snapshot and quickly post it.  We all know that life seems ever so full and sometimes the quickest options win out.  

That being said, regardless of how much I love Instagram, I still LOVE, LOVE, LOVE reading blog posts.  True, there isn't always time to read many of them, but it is always worth the time after I've read them.  There are some pretty stinkin' amazing teachers out in the world!  

Ok, moving right along.  My title of this post is about how it is snowing outside and it's APRIL, people!!!  See, we're learning about Spring in the classroom.  Why can't mother nature just get the message?

Disclaimer: I've said it before, and I'll say it again --- I am certainly no Cara Carroll when it comes to anchor charts. No lie folks - Cara's anchor charts are TO DIE FOR!!!  If you are ever in need of some visual inspiration - go there for sure!  So, as I post my own anchor charts, please know that I am totally aware that they are a little amateur, but I am so proud of myself for even attempting that I just HAVE to share.  

On that note, here is something else we worked on this week --- 
PUNCTUATION... with none other than the PIGEON!   

Mo Willems is so great!  The kids love him and P.S. So do I!
We read 4 different pigeon books and charted some things we noticed about the punctuation in these books.  We then practiced using them with some shared writing.  It turned out to be such a fun lesson.  I know we will be referring back to the Pigeon again in the future, along with some other Mo books.

In math, we were working on telling time this past week.  First, we made paper plate clocks.  Last year we did time a little earlier in the year and it was still winter (the real winter - like on the calendar) so we made these Snowman Clocks.  They were super fun!

But as you've already realized, I am D-O-N-E with winter so I refused to make snowman clocks this year.  We just made them without the heads.  

We did many things to practice telling time, but the kids and my favorite game to play with these clocks is what I call Teacher/Student.  I know, it's lame - but I hadn't thought of a name for it when I introduced it to the class and this was all I could come up with.  Creativity isn't always available on demand for me!

Anywho - here is how you play Teacher/Student.  First, I modeled for them, seeing as I am the teacher and they are the students.  We all have our own clocks.  I would turn my clock away from them and say a time.  I would make the time on my clock and they were supposed to make the time on their own clock.  After a minute or so, I say Flip!  We all flip our clocks around and hold them up.  The great thing about this is I can quickly scan to see who's got it and who doesn't.  The students can also look at my clock to self-check at the same time.  Many figure it out and fix theirs.  If the student's clock matches the teacher's then the student gets a point.  We do this for many different rounds.  

Then I group them with partners (or groups of 3) and they get to take turns being the teacher.  This game is a win-win because both the "teacher" and the "students" have to make the time on their clocks.  It's funny when the student then says, "Hey, the teacher got it wrong",  because yes, sometimes that happens.  I really monitor this as I'm walking around so I can catch the ones who need help.  Here are a couple snapshots of my kiddos playing.

If you're looking for the templates to make this clock it is a FREEBIE in my store and it includes this quick little snowman center to help practice too.  Yes, I did use this center even though I am anti-winter right now.  The kids didn't mind!

Finally, to get back to spring.  We started just a couple of my Spring centers this week.  These two were perfect.  Leapin' Lily Pads was a contraction match center (perfect to go with our punctuation discussion) and Buzzing About Short Vowels was a perfect review for my firsties.  It amazes me that some of them still struggle with these short vowel sounds.  You can never practice them enough!

We will be continuing to work through this huge pack of centers over the next month and I'll try to post pictures (both here and on Instagram) as we do.  But if you'd like to check them out on your own, you can click on the pictures below.  

Thanks for checking in!  Hope to see you around Instagram, too! :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

I'm linking up with the sweet Christina at Sugar and Spice today for a little Wordless Wednesday.  You can go to her blog to read all about it.  

Without any more words from me --- here is my picture for today:

How do you fight the war against broken or unsharpened pencils in your room?  
Clearly, I need some ideas friends :-)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April is Here!

I don't know about you, but March is always such a loooooooong month that by the time April is here I feel such a sense of accomplishment.  Maybe it's the freezing cold temperatures we had all winter long, but April always brings an audible sigh of relief along with it.  

Ahhhh - we're three-quarters of the way through the year.  
Ahhhh - spring weather is starting to show its face.

Sidenote - In case it wasn't clear, that "Ahhhh" was my audible sigh of relief not me yelling "Ahhhhh!".  That would most definitely have had an extra "h" in it and be followed by an exclamation point *obviously* - LOL!
(I felt the need to clarify because I'm never sure if I know how to write the correct letters for things like this, but hopefully context took over there.)

So unless you've been under a rock (or are new to the blogging world) - you've heard about Farley's Currently link up on the 1st of each month.  I try to join as much as I can because it's such a fun party, so I'm happy to be here linking up today.  

*Currently I'm LISTENING to animal planet in the background while I type away.  The kids are in bed and I've taken my usual post on the couch with my computer while my hubby gets to control the remote for a little bit.  Great quality time - right?  #lifewithkids  #wereworkingondoingmoredatenights 

*I'm LOVING that the weather today was in the 50s!!!!  The sun was shining and I wasn't freezing during recess today.  I was just so happy to actually be able to be outside for recess, let alone enjoy the sunshine.  I got home and my girls rode their bikes and played outside for an hour before dinner.  I just LOVE spring!

*I'm THINKING I can't wait for spring break.  It's super late this year so it seems a long time coming, but it will so nice when it's here.

*Currently I'm WANTING my students to take more pride in their work.  Lately they have all been happy to throw a name on a paper (some forgetting even that) and scribble a couple words and a quick sketch of a picture with one, maybe two, color crayons.  Ugh!!!  Time to bust out the positive reinforcement!  Stickers, anyone?  "Oh, wow!  I am so impressed with Billy's paper.  He gets TWO stickers today!!!  Did everyone see how hard Billy worked on his paper.  Maybe I'll hang it up in the front of the room so you can look at whenever you'd like."  Fingers crossed this works :)

*I'm definitely NEEDING to get started on my report cards.  I have a little bit of time, but I do not want to wait until the last minute.  Praying for some motivation!

*Finally, my hours each day are 8:15-3:25 and the kids are there from 8:20-3:10.  Our last day is not until June 26th.  It is suuuuuuuper late this year.  My antsy kiddos (and their antsy teacher) are going to have to spice things up so we can make it that long.  

So now you know what I am currently doing as April begins.  

One more thing - if you are one of my sweet followers who inquires about my Powerful Prompts packs each month - April has now been out and you can grab it HERE if you'd like it.  

Take care sweet friends!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Last week in school I started feeling the urge to pull everything off the shelves and reorganize.  Not just the shelves.  The cabinets.  My desk.  All of it!  

I spent one planning period going through a bunch of my leveled books and reorganizing them into different tubs.  Then I started rearranging my math manipulatives, but I got overwhelmed and knew I didn't have enough time to really devote to it.  So I sat down.  I sat and stared around my room, reorganizing in my head.  Taking mental notes.  Preparing for ..... well, I don't know when I will actually have time to reorganize my room, but I do have ideas.  Lots and lots of ideas.  Just check my Pinterest account and see all the great ideas I have.  Oh, and cute bins I will need to buy in order to help with said organizing.  Yes, it really was too much to accomplish during my 40 minute planning period (35 when you count walking the kids to and from specials).  But it is about this time each year when I start to feel this urge.  The urge to just take everything out and reorganize, clean, get rid of, rediscover.  Then I realize - it must be spring cleaning time!  Anyone else have this instinctual feeling of dissatisfaction?  The need to be the person my Pinterest account claims that I am.  
If. Only.

If you are like me, you might be ready for a full overhaul of your classroom or even your life at this point in the year.  So how about an overhaul of your lesson plans?  
Looking for some new ideas to spark your interest and motivate your students?  
I thought too!  
So when my friend Beth Ann (Zip A Dee Doo Dah Designs) came up with this fantabulous idea to have a Spring Cleaning Sale - I jumped on board and so did about 200 other sellers, too.    

To help you get started, here are just a few of my must haves from my little store that are on sale.  Just click on the picture to go to my store to see them in more detail.  

If you're looking for some more shopping - check out all the other sellers who have joined in by going to Georgia Grown Kiddos and linking to the sales from there.  

Happy shopping!
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