Halloween Happiness

If by chance you've been checking out my Instagram, you might be aware that we are expecting our third baby girl any day now.  To be exact - our due date is today!  So right now, we are just in waiting mode.
A photo posted by Melissa Machan (@firstgradesmiles) on

Or maybe you saw this post way back when where we told our other two girls they were getting another sister.  

If not, now you know.  This is the reason why this poor little blog of mine hasn't seen much action over the last 9 months.  But now that I am here just waiting for #3 to arrive, I have a little time to talk about one of my favorite times of the year.  

If I were in school right now (my last day was Friday) I would be taking out some of my favorite Halloween books.  

I might also be getting my favorite bulletin board ready.

And I would most definitely be getting some of the following activities out and ready to be copied for these next couple weeks.  I wanted to share them with you because even though these pictures are from last year, I never got a chance to properly share them amidst the Halloween chaos.  Plus, I'm a little sad that I won't be there this year for all the Halloween fun they will be having.  I'm sure my sub will be lovin' it all because I have a great group of kids this year that will eat. this. up!  So here are some of the activities (mostly literacy) that I love to do with my kids this time of year.  

First up is this little rhyming story that I LOVE to read with my students.  I was lucky enough to have Nikki from Melonheadz clipart make me these little witches and the other clipart to go with my story.  We read this book together and then the students complete some activities afterwards like some comprehension activities and also a pocket chart activity.  

As I mentioned earlier, I love to take out my Halloween books each year.  One of my favorites, and probably most teachers' favorites, is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything.  I love using the book on tape (yes I said tape -- I'm not throwing away those cassettes until they do not work anymore).  This one is a fun one to listen to with the background music and noises.  Then students complete this sequencing activity and put together this mini-book.  

Halloween is also a great time to learn about parts of speech.  There are so many fun nouns and adjectives that fit with Halloween like: spooky spiders, creepy ghosts, wacky witches, and slimy skeletons.  There are tons of great activities to go with teaching Halloween parts of speech.  I like to sort them and practice using them first.  

Then we turn them into something adorable like this Witches' Brew writing and craft.  

OR this Haunted House book.  

I also have another quick activity in my store that uses nouns, verbs, and adjectives called: Halloween Fill-in-the-Blank Poetry.  

Did I mention I love to do as many Halloween read alouds as I can???  So an easy activity to do with a read aloud is a story map. 

Here is another book activity that is fun to do.  These two books are perfect for a compare/contrast lesson and finding text-to-text connections.  

Now after all this literacy fun, it will be time for a snack.  I love making this Witches' Brew with the kids.  I use the labels on paper lunch bags and put the ingredients inside so they can't see them.  I add them one at a time --- making a big deal about what it is.  "Time to add some witch warts --- now these are yummy!  But not as good as these smashed bugs -- plus, they have protein!"  You get the idea.  I mix it all up in a large bowl and serve it in cups for the kids.  Obviously they figure out that dragon wings are really Doritos and smashed bugs are raisins, but it's still fun.  

These activities can be found in my Bewitched: Halloween Literacy Pack.  

So although I won't be the one teaching these activities in my classroom this year, I can't wait to see the pictures and hear all about it from my sub.

I will be home, being a mom!  The best job in the world.  I might be able to go in to school for my daughter's classroom Halloween party that I usually have to miss.  Maybe I will bring in a snack.  The two snacks below are suuuuper simple if you are looking for something to send in to your child's class. 

The bottom pictures are just mandarin oranges with a black sharpie.  Sometimes it's nice to have something other than candy at a Halloween party.  The Jack-o-Lantern is made out of a pan of brownies.  It was so simple to cut the outline of the pumpkin, frost it with orange icing, and then use the leftover brownie pieces for the face.  My daughter loved it so much she has requested it again this year instead of a birthday cake for her end of October birthday.  

Even though this year will be a little different than it usually is for me, I am still so excited to have some Halloween fun!  

Happy Early Halloween to you!!!

Back to School Resources for 1st Grade

Hi friends!

I wanted to write a quick post to show you my must-haves for this time of year.  There is a One Day Sale over at Teachers Pay Teachers and I thought a post with some of my favorite resources might be helpful.  

First up is this All-In-One bundle I made for anyone just starting the year in 1st grade.  These packs keep me sane in the beginning of the year, so I put them together into this bundle.  You can read more about it HERE or click on the picture to see it in my store.  

I also bundled some of my favorite math resources that I use starting Day 1.  You can read about it HERE or click the picture.  

This next one is a new resource that I created.  I can't wait to use this with my RTI groups this year.  You can read all about it HERE.  

For small group instruction, I also made these Guided Reading packs.  This post gives you some more information on these babies.  

How about this fun sight word program?  My kiddos LOVED this and really learned their sight words.  I am in the process of writing up a post to show you these packs.  

But for now, here's some quick pictures to give you a preview.  

Finally, some Fall themed resources for my favorite time of year (that isn't summer vacation of course).  

These are two new fall themed packs that I just finished and am also excited to use this year.

I know that was a lot to throw at you, but I didn't want a sale to go by without letting you know all about it and sharing what I will be using!!  

I will be back soon to give you more about my prep for back to school (we go back after Labor Day).

Happy shopping!!!

Math Intervention Part 1

As I gear up for my 14th year teaching (Yikes - I'm getting old), I am thinking of all the changes that have happened with education even in my short career so far.  I won't go into it all, but one obvious change has been increased high-stakes testing.  I'm sure we all have our opinions and ideas about this one, but I'll save that for another post at another time.  I don't have the energy to get into it right now with my summer brain still in charge.  

Ahhhhh summer!!!  I just love it!!!

Oh, sorry - back to why I'm here today.  

Along with the changes in testing and teacher evaluation, there has also been a huge push for more specific interventions in the classroom in order to target individual skills as best we can.  Response to Intervention (RTI) is something that my district has been doing since it was introduced; however, this upcoming year will be our first year that we will have an actual RTI time in our schedules everyday and group our students across the grade level based on needs.  I know other states have been doing this for some time now, so we might be a little behind.  Either way, it will be an adjustment for all of our teachers.  

As with anything new, we teachers are immediately on the hunt for materials to use.  I knew I would be  searching like crazy come the fall and decided to start making my own packs to help with this RTI time.  I decided to start with Math because I think we will need more than what we currently have.  I started with where my lowest students might be since I knew they would need the most support and I will work my way on from there.  

So my thought process as I started creating consisted of 4 main aspects of what I wanted in an RTI pack.  Here is what I came up with:


Of course it is important to assess students to find out where they need help and what skills they have and don't have.  


Once you have assessed all of your students, you can group them by need and focus in on those specific skills within your groups.  


I don't know about you, but I get bored doing the same thing over and over.  And I think my students do too.  I wanted more than just worksheets or printables to use within my groups.  I did include those things in my packs as well, because of course there is a time and place for this stuff; however, I knew I needed to create more fun and interactive ways to target the skills I was looking for.  You gotta keep it interesting and motivating in order for learning to happen.  


Finally, I knew that with any intervention, you need to be able to monitor progress along the way and adjust as needed.  Therefore, although I'm not a huge fan of over-assessing - again, there is a time and place for it.  In my mind, in order for RTI to work we need to collect as much data as we can in order to  help our students grow.  

So with those 4 things in mind, my first Math RTI pack was born:

This baby took me FOR-EV-ER!!!  It is 238 pages and focuses on 6 main skills for early number sense.  

I knew I needed to have some form of pre-assessment to help group students, but that I would also need to progress monitor along the way with further assessments as mentioned earlier.

And of course we needed lots of ways to practice, practice, practice!!!  I've included easy prep directions and ideas for each skill, task cards, practice printables, and interactive games or centers.  Everything that is shown in color is also available in black and white.  

I am so relieved to have something to start my year off with when we begin our RTI groups.  

I can't wait to finish the next packs that will continue to work through the Common Core standards in both Kindergarten and 1st Grade: 

Math RTI #2 - Operations and Algebraic Thinking
Math RTI #3 - Number and Operations in Base Ten
Math RTI #4 - Measurement and Data
Math RTI #5 - Geometry

If you'd like to check out the pack in my store, click HERE or on the above picture.  

And if you are back to school already - I hope it's going great so far!!!
Thanks for stopping by!

Summer Teacher Mom vs. SAHM

Alright all you Stay at Home Moms --- how in the world do you do it????

What I mean is, how do you motivate yourself to get anything done each day when it's just soooooo easy to stay in your pajamas and watch Netflix or scan Pinterest????

Because here is me when summer hits...

and a little of this too...

So, what is your secret????

I am asking.  This girl's gotta know!  I need some help.

Here is how we are different.  This is my thought process as summer begins.  

No alarm clock to hit snooze on.  Just wait for the kids to come in and lay in bed while we watch a little Disney Jr to try to wake up together.  

Then it's time for breakfast and coffee.  It's amazing how good HOT coffee actually is!!!  I think to myself, Should I make the beds before going downstairs?  No---because I might want to climb back into bed when it's nap time.  Just pull the covers up a little.  

So we all go downstairs in our pj's.  Why would we get dressed?  There's just no answer to that question.  

Then we spend our morning hanging out.  The kids venture into the play room and I sit down to watch a morning talk show.  I've missed a lot in the last 10 months so there's so much to catch up on.  I realize I don't even know what they're talking about so I have to go online to do a little celebrity news research.  

Time for a morning snack.  Then the kids want to go outside.  I check out what I'm wearing and am thankful that my pj's can double for real clothes.  I am a big fan of that kind of summer wardrobe - yoga capris and t-shirts.  Keeps people guessing - Did she just work out or maybe on her way there?  Maybe that's just what she's wearing today.  A total mystery!

We play until it's time for lunch.  More eating of course and I actually have time to chew AND taste my food.  A thing of beauty!

So I could keep going, but I think you see what I'm talking about here.  It's just so easy to let the days slip away without doing that load of laundry or going grocery shopping or really anything at all!

The problem is - there actually are things that need to get done.  And as much as I would like to not be on a schedule in the summer, I might need one.  There's just too much freedom and I don't know what to do with myself.  

So now I'm off to search Pinterest for new blogs to follow or organizing tips that might help me.  This might take a while so I guess the laundry can wait until tomorrow.  ;)

If you have a schedule that you follow or any fun sites for me to check out - leave them in the comments below.  

Party of Five

Hi there!  Long time, no blog!  

If you are reading this ---- thank you SO much for checking back on me after my looooooong break!  The last 10 weeks have been a little rough around here.  It was right around that time that I started to feel a bit queasy (Is that how you spell that?).   

One day I was out to dinner with Mr. First Grade Smiles celebrating this next stage in our lives, and the very next day I was no longer able to eat anything (or really smell any food for that matter) after 4:00 pm.  It started out slow, but every day was getting a little worse.  

This is my 3rd pregnancy (If you didn't know, we are blessed with two beautiful, smart, fun little girls).  Each pregnancy has been a little worse than the one before and this one decided to really blow the last pregnancy out of the water with morning ALL DAY sickness!  On top of becoming best friends with my porcelain throne, I was also finding that I had little to no energy.  Thank God I have the most amazing husband who didn't even bat an eyelash.  He took over as full time parent and took care of the cleaning and pretty much everything else around the house.  I don't know what I would have done without him.  

I only wish he could've followed me to school and helped out there.  It is not easy to teach energetic, excited, little firsties when you have zero energy and just want to lie down on the ground all day.  My students were also great, even though they didn't know any better.  They went along with their less than enthusiastic teacher and some slightly boring lessons and didn't seem to mind.  

So now here we are, 15 weeks in and I am finally feeling more like myself.  It was also time to tell our girls the big news!!!  We held off telling them before now because my older daughter goes to the school I teach in and I wasn't ready to share until we were further along.  It was definitely not easy keeping it from them.  They would ask why I didn't feel well and were they going to catch it.  
Um, you better not catch this!!!  

So I wanted to share how we decided to tell them that they were going to be big sisters.  We wanted to do something fun for them because they are 3 and 6 and old enough to really understand and get excited about this news.  So we prepared a little surprise package with some goodies inside that were supposed to reveal the big news.  Let's just say it took a little longer for them to catch on than we thought.  

When the girls came home from soccer we told them we had a present for them to open.  

As they opened the bin we had pink and blue balloons come out.  We soon learned that that was a mistake. 

We had a VERY difficult time regaining their attention after they saw the balloons.  Who knew balloons could be this exciting?

So we tried to get them to keep looking inside the bin.  

They pulled out some Big Sister t-shirts and some baby onesies.  
The onesies said, "I have 2 big sisters" and "I love my sisters".

I love Hannah's face in this picture.  You would think she was catching on, but nope!  They still had NO IDEA! 

Another great Hannah face.  Lauren just figured out the baby stuff was for us and that meant........

Here is what was inside the bin (underneath all the balloons).  I used fabric markers to write on the onesies.  

And of course, here they are posing for the final picture and very excited!

Although they were extremely distracted by the balloons, and it did take them forever to catch on, it was so fun for us to watch them as they finally figured out that we were going to have a baby.  

And now we are ready to share our news with the world (or whatever part of it that actually cares).  =)

Thank you again for sticking with me here.  I promise to get back on the blogging and creating track now that I feel like a person again - technically like one and a half persons =)