New Year's Resolutions

Some say that resolutions are made to be broken.  I look at them as a way to take some time to assess where you are in life, where you want to be, reevaluate your priorities, and appreciate all that you have.    I am not a person who makes resolutions and gets mad or depressed when they don't work out.  I try to stick with attainable goals or at least goals that will make me a better person in the long run.  

For this post, I'm linking up with First Grade Nest to share these New Year's Resolutions.  Hop on over to Jessica's adorable blog and check out some other favorite bloggers' resolutions.  You might find one that inspires you.

Without further ado, here are my resolutions (more details below):

Drink more water
This is pretty self-explanatory.  I never drink enough water.  I want to live a healthier lifestyle in general and drinking more water is one small part of that.  I've read that drinking a glass of water right when you wake up in the morning is great to jumpstart your body for the day.  I also plan to drink a glass of water before eating - both meals and when I feel like snacking.  Although I do plan on eating healthier, I do not plan on following any sort of diet.  Some small things I plan to do to help with this are: buy fresh fruits and veggies 2 times a week so they are really fresh, eat more homemade soup and salad for meals (I've been pinning recipes like a crazy woman lately to help with this one),  pre-package healthy snacks for grab-and-go, and of course drink more water!

 I know, I know!  This is EVERYONE'S new year's resolution.  But I'm just keeping it simple.  I'm not saying how often.  I'm not setting any specific goals just yet.  I just want to find more time to exercise.  I want my treadmill to feel less lonely.  I want to listen to my workout mix on my iPod.  I want an excuse to buy some cute workout clothes.  I will exercise!  I don't know how much or how often - but it will happen.  To help me with this resolution I've downloaded the My Fitness Pal app.  I've started following some people on Instagram for inspiration.  I will, of course, start finding some pinspiration as well.   

Organize my life
 This one sounds little over the top, but I just want to find more ways to be organized in every aspect of my life.  Unfortunately I can't really spend the money to buy all the super cute containers, boxes, bins, shelves, etc. that I really want - so I have to get creative.  Again, I'm relying on Pinterest for help.  I started a new board, Organize This.  Pinterest is filled with organizational tips, so I'm looking to put some of them in action.  This past year I created some binders for our home: one for all our bills and one for all of our important papers like birth certificates, marriage license, etc.  This has helped tremendously.  For next year, I want to find a way to organize incoming papers (mail, school papers) that works for me.  There are so many ideas out there, but I will need to find something that works with our daily living.  I also want to organize better when it comes to grocery shopping: lists, coupons, menu planning.  

Blog once a week
 This will be a tough one for me, especially since I am finding less people are checking my blog and more people are finding me on my Facebook page.  It seems as though people are not commenting on blog posts as much as before, myself included.  So therefore, I will also add to this resolution to comment myself at least once a week on another blog.  I want and need to spread the love a little too!  

Appreciate more
This is a good reminder for all of us.  Each one of us has so many things to be thankful for.  When I'm stressed it is so easy to get short with the people I love.  I want to spend more time telling them all the things I appreciate about them.  I want to take a step back from whatever is stressing me and recognize the positives and not dwell on the negatives.  Do I need to point out to my husband when he leaves the milk on the counter, or could I just put it away and not say anything?  Should I sigh when my daughter wants just one more book at bedtime because I have school work to do, or could I think about how wonderful it is that she wants more time with me?  This past year has been difficult in many ways and reminds me how precious our time is with the ones we love.  I want to know that I didn't take that time for granted and I tried to show them that I appreciate them.  

Happy New Year everyone!  
I'm honored that you took the time to read my little blog.  
I appreciate you all!

Can you say random? (and Freebies)

Oh, I wonder if there is anyone even out there reading this little blog anymore.  I wouldn't blame you if you weren't, since I have been so bad about keeping up with it.  I will say I've been a little better at giving updates about my classroom using Instagram.  So if you use Instagram and like to see little bits and pieces here or there, I'd love if you'd follow me on that journey.   

I am also hoping to find a little more time to spend on Facebook so you can check me out there as well.  Speaking of Facebook, I just finished my first Facebook Freebie Hop with a bunch of other amazing first grade teachers and it was awesome!  I have to say I was truly amazed and honored at the response that we got from the freebie hop.  It's one of the reasons that I want to spend more time on my Facebook page because it seems like an easy way to check in each day.  

What's that?  You missed it?  

Well . . . because of the overwhelming response - I've decided to put my freebie on here as a thank you to anyone who is still stopping by to see what's going on in my world or even to those of you who have just stopped by for a visit.  I hope you are able to find a use for it.  I will link it up at the bottom of this post.  This freebie will only be free for a little while and then it will be for sale in my TpT store.  Get it while you can.  

Just a quick recap about Thanksgiving because I updated my Turkeys on Strike activity from last year.  First we read The Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey.  Suuuuuper cute book!  Then we worked on these Turkeys on Strike.  The kids had to use a little persuasion to get people to choose something else to eat on Thanksgiving instead of turkeys.  We had so much fun with these little guys!

Click on the picture to get the sign and writing papers if you can use them next year. 

Moving right along to Christmas, because don't you feel like the absolute second that Thanksgiving was over this year it was time for Christmas.  Actually, it almost seemed like Thanksgiving was an afterthought, which is too bad because it really is a great holiday focused on family and not just presents.  

So, right after Thanksgiving we started our Gingerbread week.  Check out this post from last year to get some ideas.  Here is a quick little craft we did using the book, The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup. Another adorable book!  

This really isn't anything big, but the kids were SOOOO excited to make a Gingerbread pirate.  I am thinking I need to tap into this topic of motivation and make a little pirate unit this year.  Add it to the to-do list!  

In case you're looking for a quick and easy craft, here's what we did.  We used those foam cut-outs (I think from JoAnn's or Michael's), glitter glue (which I got on sale on Black Friday), and sharpies.  They could choose to make a hat or sword out of construction paper if they wanted, and most of them wanted to.  Then I had them write a quick little blurb about the book as a reading response (not pictured).  

This upcoming week we are doing Reindeer and Elves.  Here is some Pinspiration I will be using to make this a fun-filled week. 

 Don't you just love those cookies?  I don't think I will be able to pull off the ornament/decoration this year but they are really adorable.  We will, however, be studying reindeer using my Reindeer Unit and going to Elf school using my Elf Elementary pack.  Definitely check out Instagram to see some how these fun ideas turn out.  Learning about reindeer is always a class favorite (right after pirates I guess).   

And finally, here is the freebie that I mentioned earlier in this post.  This includes a fact family math center and craftivity.  I hope you like it!  

***This freebie has expired and is now for sale***

Sorry for my randomness lately, but don't say I didn't warn you with the title of this post.  

I'd love to hear from you and what you are doing as we get closer to Christmas -- Gingerbread, Reindeer, Elves, crafts, etc.  Got any Pinterest ideas to share.  I just love Pinterest =) 

Thanks so much for stopping by!  

Trying to catch up Part 2

Hi there - me again!

  I've just been having the hardest time keeping up with timely blog posts with all the rest of life that is happening that I had to do some quick catch up posts.  So this is part 2 of them.

Here's one thing I've realized about myself - my brain maxes out at 10.  

I've thought long and hard about it and I've found that I am only capable of doing about 10 things well and if something else comes in, then that means something on my list of 10 has to go.  I'm not proud of this, nor do I think it is a very good excuse, but it just seems to be the way things have been lately.  Let me give you the rundown of what I consider my daily list of things I do:

#1. Keep myself and my two girls clothed by doing laundry.  Not my poor husband because he does his own laundry.  Now I'm not even saying all our laundry gets done --- but we do all have clean clothes when we need them.  
#2. I keep food in the house by going grocery shopping
#3. I plan and cook the majority of our meals.  Which will sometimes be frozen chicken nuggets, but dangit I planned it and cooked it - so it's a meal!
#4. I drive and pick-up my kids at day care
#5. I keep our house somewhat picked up and clean 
#6. I pay the monthly bills
#7. I spend quality time with my husband and kids
#8. I spend time with the rest of my family and my friends
#9. I teach (that's like the black hole of time commitment - am I right?) - planning, creating, teaching, assessing, REPEAT!  This should count for more than 1, but I'll let it slide.
#10. And finally, I try to keep up with my blog and other social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

So there's my list of 10!  I know there are actually more, but those are the main ones I try to do on a daily basis.  

In the last month I have had some interrupting chickens (have you read that book - it's adorable!).  

 Anywho - I have been placed in charge of planning our school Christmas party (talk about pressure) and I also got a student teacher.  So when those two new items moved in - I guess my brain just kicked #10 right out of there to make room.  Or at least, that's the way I'm telling the story.  I just can't handle more than 10 important things I guess, and when it comes down to it - the other 9 things really are my priority so they cannot go anywhere.  I want to also make the note that I realize there are many people in the world who do all this and SO much more. I guess it just seems like there aren't enough hours in the day sometimes and I was just searching for a reason why I couldn't get everything done.

So without further ado -- here is part 2 of catching up on what's been going on in my classroom.  (I should have taken WAY more pictures, but that also was too much for this girl to handle I guess).

Veteran's Day activities from my Proud to Be an American unit

Handmade flag and Thank You Veterans necklaces.

This is a page out of a mini-book we use to introduce Veteran's Day.  Then the students wrote thank you letters to a veteran.

In reading we have been focusing on informational texts lately.  I made a little pack that is perfect for my first graders as we venture into informational texts called Be a Fact Finder.    In this pack you will find resources to use during guided reading, whole group reading, and independent reading.  Here are just a few pictures of what we've been using in guided reading, but I will post more about this pack at another time when I have more pictures to show.

In math we have been working very hard on strengthening our number sense.  Every day we do a number of the day in our Daily Math workbooks.  We also worked on some awesome number collages in the beginning of the year.  Our latest activities to help build our number sense come from my new Number Bond Books pack.  

The kids make a number bracelet for each number 1-12 using a pipe cleaner and beads.  (By the way, this comes from Singapore Math.  I've only been to one training on this, so I am no expert, but the number bracelet idea was one thing I took away from the training).

With each page of the book students use their beads to find the number bonds to that number, in this example it's 5.  

They draw the beads on the page in two different colors and then color in the tens frame with those same two colors.

Then they fill in the number bond and create the fact family that goes with it.

Once these are created I will be using them during whole group and in centers to work on true/false equations and number sentences with missing addends.  The bracelets are the perfect manipulative for kids to see how these numbers are all bonded together -- get it?  

If you are interested in these books, but don't have the time or resources to make the bracelets, I have also included all the books without the number bracelet part.  

For my last bit of information, I just want to talk for a minute about how much I LOVE Mr. Clean!!!!  More specifically, I love these Mr. Clean Magic Erasers!!!!  If you didn't already know it, these things really are magic.  I use them ALL the time to erase dry erase marker on anything laminated like our Number of the Day poster that I change each morning.  

The kids use them in centers, too!  When the tables and chairs in the classroom get really gross, I get the magic eraser wet and go to town cleaning up.  If our white board isn't erasing the best with the regular erasers, these will do the trick.  I use them on our flip chart that we have from our reading program Treasures, too.  I also use them at home to clean little kid's handprints off the walls and scuff marks off the door.  They really are amazing!  I just had to spend some time talking about it on the off-chance that anyone has yet to discover their amazingness!  

Ok - that's it!  Have a fantastic day!!!!  =)

Trying to catch up Part 1

Hello my friends!  

I am going to give a few posts here where I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.  I don't know about you, but life has been cuh-raaaaaaazy lately and unfortunately I haven't been able to blog like I've wanted.  I can't really throw ALL the pictures in just one post, so I'll spread them out in two. 

Here we go....

Observing the magic of Fall with our five senses

We used our handprints for the tree and painted on the trunk.

Then we used sponges to do the leaves.  My little firsties went NUTS over the sponge painting and many of their trees didn't come out looking like trees.  Oh well - they had TONS of fun so that's what matters.

Here is part of a project I am working on.  Yes, still working on it!  Maybe next year I will have it complete and ready to share, but for now here are some pictures of a very small part of it - our Witches' Brew!

I prepped these bags with the ingredients above.  The kids were so grossed out, but loved every second of it.  Of course they knew what they really were once they saw them, but it was still fun.

We mixed it all up and then scooped it out.  

While they munched, we talked about making our own witches' brew and what ingredients we would include.  We brainstormed a list of Halloween adjectives and nouns.  I typed them on the computer to make it a quick brainstorming and then they could see them at their seats.  

Then we put them together to fill in this recipe for witches' brew.  


One more little activity was a quick compare/contrast activity with these two picture books.  

We had some great discussion about story elements, character traits, and so much more.  It was such an easy way to bring in a little common core.

Be sure to jump over (or up) to part two of my catching up blog posts!  I have some deep insights as to why my brain cannot handle too many things.  

Motivating students to do their best

Ok, friends!  Let's be real for a second.  

Am I the only one who gets a teeny, tiny bit frustrated when you look at the work your students have done during centers while you were working with reading groups (or math groups)?   If I am, please feel free to stop reading right now.  

But like most teachers, I spend the whole first month of school teaching, modeling, practicing, reteaching, and guiding students through the process of centers in our classroom.  I don't pull groups until October.  I do pull some kids one on one to do some testing in the beginning but I take many breaks and walk around the classroom to point out the positive and redirect the negative.  After each session we have a class meeting and discuss how it went.  We review procedures.  We celebrate the students who were working hard.  By the end of September it feels like they really get it.

Then, between the time on that Friday when they "get it" to the following Monday when we actually start guided reading ----- they FORGET!!!  I don't know what happens.  They forget where to find the centers (same place as the whole month before).  They forget where to turn in finished papers (same place as before).  They forget their names on papers.  They rush to finish their work.  Ahhhhhhh!!!!!

So naturally I start to question myself.  Did I rush into this?  Did I not model enough?  But then I remember a little thing called Gradual Release of Responsibility.   I can't expect them to be 100% perfect on their own, when the previous week they were used to me monitoring and redirecting.  I needed to still take a few minutes in between reading groups to walk around and do this.  The reason they were so good was because I was right there with them.  I can't just desert them now!  

One lesson learned!

The next thing I did was find the students (in this case there were really only 3) who really tried their hardest during centers and did their best work.  They had been working quietly and followed directions.  Plus, the work they did showed great effort and just what I was looking for.  

So instead of pointing out the other 15 kids whose work was sub-par at best, I celebrated these 3 kiddos so everyone could SEE what I was looking for.  They got stickers and their papers were hung up on the board for all to see.  I also rewarded these 3 kids with an amazing thing called CHOICE!  

They earned a star on the center chart, which meant they got to do Bonus Centers after they finished their other centers.  They could choose where to go next.  I have found that choice is always motivating. 

They could choose a center card from this little bucket and place it in the center chart in front of their name.  Some bonus centers only allow for a couple people, so once it's full the other students have to choose something else.  Since there were only 3 of them doing this, they didn't fill any of the centers.  

My goal is that eventually most, if not all of the students, will earn Bonus Centers.  For those of you who do strictly Daily 5, you already know how motivating choice can be.  Although I do not follow Daily 5 at this point with my centers, these bonus centers have a twinge of Daily 5 infused in them.  The choices for Bonus Centers for now are:  Listening Center, Games (phonics and word work games), Read with a Buddy, Big Book Center, and iPads.  In case you were wondering, their normal centers are: Word Work, Writing, Spelling, and Pocket Chart.  

I've told the students that they can all EARN Bonus Centers, but they can also LOSE Bonus Centers.  They get to keep the star in the chart as long as they are doing their best work during center time.  I'm hoping this will help my kiddos stay motivated and keep thinking about trying their best.  

What do you do in your classroom to keep kids motivated to do their best work?  How do you manage centers?  I'd love to hear what works for other teachers too =)

Oh October, where did you come from?

Do you ever get to a new month and think, that can't be right?  

I could've sworn it was just the 1st of September and now October shows up unexpectedly!  As you can see from my picture I put on Instagram, I was completely surprised by the change in month and forgot to change my calendar.  Don't worry, the kids were very quick to let me know about it.  Unlike me, they do not miss a beat.  

So seeing as how I was a little confused about what month it is, it probably doesn't surprise anyone to see that I am a little late in my Apple celebrations as well!  I know a lot of other people were probably right on the ball and timed this perfectly with Johnny Appleseed's birthday last week.  Not me!  I like to build up the suspense and anticipation.  I think it adds a little extra something to the festivities (or something like that)  =)

So without further ado, here is a run down of our Apple Extravanganza!

This was how we started our day - with a little interactive morning message.  I always try to incorporate some of what we're learning in the messages, like sight words, phonics instruction, vocabulary, and grammar for the week.  

It also happened to be on Friday and every Friday we say T.G.I.F.  I say to the students, "What day is it?" They reply, "Friday!"  Then we say together, "T.G.I.F.  Thank Goodness It's Friday!!!"  I mean, who doesn't love Fridays???  You have to celebrate the little things.  

On a side note, I started a little link up on Instagram for Fridays where you tell what you're most looking forward to for the weekend.  Just use the hashtag #fridaylinkup when you post.  
I'd love to hear about all the fun teacher weekends out there.  We teachers deserve our weekends - don't you agree??  If you want me to see it, tag me @firstgradesmiles

I digress.  Back to apples. . .

For math we focused on making 10.  


This was probably the highlight of the day for most of the kids.  We started with some Apple Jacks for counting and some Zoo Pals paper plates.  

Am I seriously the last one to realize how cute and fun these plates are for math???  Where have I been?  

Each student got a plate, a bag of Apple Jacks (more than 10 for a little snack of course), and this little booklet.  


They had to count out 10 Apple Jacks (all one color to avoid confusion) and put them in the large part of the plate.  Then they split them in 2 groups and put them into the two smaller sections (for some animals it's the ears, others it's the eyes or paws).  Next they colored in the apples in the booklet to match the two groups and write a number sentence.  

I was SO impressed with my little kiddos and how they totally GOT IT!  They just went to town making new groups, coloring apples, writing number sentences, and repeat.   The final page of this booklet has some missing numbers problems.  Normally these are super hard for the kids at this point in the year, but with Zoo Pals plates and Apple Jacks - not so hard.  They were rockstars!! 

Here are two centers that will be going into math tubs next week.  

Matching the picture to the number sentences:

And this super cute MATHtivity:  

If you're interested in the making 10's book, center, and creativity - I just posted it on TpT.  

Later in the day we read this Scholastic News that had this adorable song on the cover.   Anyone else get Scholastic News?  I just love them.  Really great nonfiction resource that ties in social studies, science, and even math sometimes.  The kids love them too!

We are also doing Five Senses in Science right now, and Apples fits in perfectly with that.  Here is my amateur attempt at an anchor chart (I do try, but they never come out as cute as I want them to).  We started this earlier this week.  

Then we did this tree map.

I had the kids do a little writing about apples using our sensory images while I called kids up to do some apple tasting.  Of course we graphed our results.

And no, I don't have only 13 kids in my class.  There's a bug going around and we had a bunch absent.  I also took off one yellow because it covered the title.  I need to make a longer graph next year =)

Finally we finished our day with some homemade applesauce in the crock pot.  We actually began our day with making the applesauce, but here is the finished product.  Yummmmmmy!!!!

I just love apple day!!!  Next week we are going on a field trip to go apple picking too!  Can't wait!

Before you go - I have a few fun closing remarks:

1. When I got home I had my girls do some apple tasting as well.  Here is what they picked: 

They took the decision very seriously =)

2. Here is a picture from Bradley's Learning Paradise on Instagram showing a boy with one of my Math About Me freebies.  I just LOVE seeing other kids enjoying something I've created.  Totally makes my day!!!

3. Finally, I have to give a shout out to Laura Candler.  If you don't know who Laura Candler is then I am completely shocked.  Honestly!  Laura, to me, is a pioneer in the world of blogging and sharing resources.  When I first started teaching 12 years ago (gasp!) her site was so incredibly useful to me.  She graciously shares SO many resources!  She was kind enough to promote my Nonfiction Text Features Scavenger Hunt on her Facebook page: Laura Candler's Teaching Resources, which has over 100,000 followers!  Holy Moly!!!  I cannot say enough about how much respect I have for her and I am so honored to be a small bleep on her radar.  You need to stop over and check out all she has to offer!  You could spend HOURS (and I have) searching through her incredible sites.  

Here's her blog: Corkboard Connections.  
Corkboard Connections

I hope you'll head over to spend some time there!  You won't be sorry =)