Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Character Traits

Our last unit before break was Character Traits.  I have been meaning to post this for quite some time but I was so busy with end of quarter testing, and then I got sick with strep throat just before Christmas (which I'm just now beginning to get over).  I created several activities that I thought I'd share.

First we discussed physical, or outside, traits.  We listed the physical traits of several characters on chart paper (sorry, forgot to take pictures).  A couple of great read-alouds for this were Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon and Moosestache. We also did these sheets:
Click here to download
Click here to download

The, the students designed a creature. I downloaded several coloring pages of aliens/monsters from the internet and had the students color them.  Then, they filled in this sheet describing their creatures' physical traits.  I wish I had some pictures of the finished product.  They were adorable.
Click here to download

Then, we began talking about character traits.  We had a specific list of trait words to work on.  We did several T-charts listing the trait and the evidence from the text or pictures.  I made this worksheet as a checkpoint to see who was "getting it."  (I read these aloud to them.)

Click here to download

Click here to download
Most students were doing well at identifying traits, but weren't being specific with their proof from the text, so we did several examples of being specific and then did this sheet. 
In the end, only about 60% of my students were proficient/advanced on the post-test.  Not great results.  So, the other half of my class gets to go over it all again in small groups! 

Hopefully someone out there can use these.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ClassDojo Saved My Sanity!

I have seen many posts about ClassDojo lately, which encouraged me to finally try it with my kiddos.  I signed up and set up my class back in September, but it seemed like I never got around to setting up the behaviors and introducing it to my students.  We were just getting into the routines of first grade and I didn't want to add something new on top of it.  I wish I had.

Last week, I decided I just couldn't take any more of the talking!  I have a wonderful group of kids, but they like to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.  They have a hard time focusing and finishing work on time.  It was driving me insane! Enter ClassDojo

That little "plink" sound it makes when I award a positive point is just what my little darlings need to remind them that they are off task.  It focuses their attention back on their work.  I can take my phone with me into the hallway and they are quiet as we walk because they know I can give them points right there on my phone. 

There are so many features I love about this tool.  You can customize the behaviors you want to use, print reports or email them straight to parents, customize students' avatars, and best of all, it's FREE!

Plus, the students love it too! When I award a point, I can see a smile cross their face or hear a whispered "yes!" with a clenched fist.  They'll tap their neighbor and point to the screen.  If I have to change my screen away to use another window or use the document camera or DVD player, I here a chorus of "Awwww, bye little monster!"  At the end of the day, their points are translated into "Bird Bucks," which they can spend at our school store. Did I mention that they LOVE it?

I was so excited by how well it worked in my room, that I showed my principal as she passed my class in the hall for a restroom break.  She went down the hall to watch in my room as I awarded a point from my phone.  She was so impressed with the tool that she told all the other teachers in the building.  I had lots of visitors that day and my students were excited to get to show off!

If you haven't yet checked out ClassDojo, please do.  It might save your sanity too!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Writing Process Posters

I've been teaching the writing process to my first graders and I wanted some cute posters for each stage that we teach.  I couldn't find any out there that had all the steps my district includes in its curriculum, so I made my own.

You can get them on my Teacher's Notebook store here.

This is the first item I've posted on there, so please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parent Teacher Conferences

For the first time in ten years, I had every single family show up for conferences at their scheduled time.  It is an awesome feeling!

I have mixed feelings for Parent Teacher Conferences.  I dread all the extra work.  All the paperwork I have to organize, scheduling times for everyone, in some cases making sure both parents can be there or each get their own time (thank God for my wonderful secretary who does the preliminary scheduling!).  Not to mention the extra hours spent at school, no time to eat dinner, and a sore throat when I get home!

However, I also love getting to talk to my students' parents.  Most people think of conferences as a time when you talk about grades and behavior.  Of course there are always those conversations too, but if a student is having problems in my classroom, their parents are going to know about it before they come in for a conference.  So, I like to use this time to help build a relationship with the parents.  I enjoy sharing stories about their child, learning how they act at home and what they enjoy outside the classroom.  I like to tell stories about their child at school and see the parents smile with pride when they see great work their child has done.

How to you view Parent Teacher Conferences?   Love them?  Hate them?  How to they run at your school?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writer's Workshop Mentor Texts Linky Party

Funky First Grade Fun is having a linky party and this is one I can really get in to! The hard part was narrowing down the list of books I LOVE to use during writer's workshop.  So, here a few of my favorites:

 I use Owl Moon for SO many lessons!  It is perfect for teaching about a small moment.  It's also great for adding details or describing words.  Plus, I use it for Reader's Workshop - especially for visualizing.  It's great for including all the senses.  

The Best Story is one of the first books I read each year in Writer's Workshop.  It's great for teaching where writer's get their ideas.  In the end, the main character learns that the best story comes from your heart.  After reading it, I give each student a paper heart and they fill it with words/pictures of the things/people they love.

I love any book illustrated by David Catrow!  His illustrations are so funny and cute!  I Wanna Iguana is a great book for teaching letter writing or persuasive writing. 

I read The Important Book during my poetry unit.  It's great for teaching that you can write about anything and for adjectives. 

These are only a few of the great books I love for teaching Writer's Workshop.  I can't wait to see what other people post.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Listen to Reading - Hate it? or Love it?

Ever since I started Daily Five three years ago, I have dreaded "Listen to Reading."  Though I knew the benefits and how much the kids enjoyed it, managing it was such a hassle!  I was using TAPE players with students who didn't even know what a cassette tape was, let alone have experience using them.  I tried everything I could to make it easier - red/green stickers on the stop/play buttons, a sticker on the side of the tape they should use, pictures of the book with the tape so they wouldn't get mixed up.  Tapes wouldn't get rewound, they'd get stuck in the player, we'd have to replace batteries.  All of this took away from precious time I could be spending teaching kids. 

Enter  Last year I applied for, and received, a grant to purchase 6 MP3 players and 8 books on CD to convert into MP3s.  (Insert angelic singing and a warm glow here.)  It is AMAZING the difference these have made in my classroom!!!  I load one book at a time on them and put them in a gallon-size plastic bag with the book.  The kids grab a bag, plug in their headphones, and push "play." Most of them have at least seen an MP3 player used before even if they haven't used one themselves.  It took about 2 days for them to get the hang of it and now Listen to Reading runs SO smoothly.  If you don't have them, I strongly suggest you look into possible funding for them.  

Here are some pictures of the MP3 players in action:  

I also bought 2 'splitters' at Wal-Mart for about $4 each.  They allow 2 students to plug headphones into the same MP3 player. 
We also use our 1 classroom computer to do Listen to Reading.  Most of the time the students listen to books at Storyline Online.
If you also do Daily 5, how does Listen to Reading look in your room?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Reading Buddies

I seriously need to get better at posting on here.  I don't know how people find the time to do it every day!  They must be better at time management than I am.

Every Friday, my class gets together with a 5th grade class to have "reading buddies." Each first grader is paired with a fifth grader who listens to them read.  The kids (both 1st and 5th) LOVE this time and look forward to it.  Plus, it's a nice break for me because the 5th graders are really doing the teaching. 

This week, we decided to do something a little different.  Recently, our school purchased subscriptions to  Each student gets a log-in and I can set what level they read at.  Then, the site gives them books on their level to read.

We have a set of laptops that the school shares and I've never used them with first graders before, but I've wanted to get more technology in the hands of my students.  So, with the help of the 5th graders, my students were able to learn how to open them, turn them on, and get to the raz-kids website.  Then, the first graders read the online books to their buddy for the remaining time.  It was an awesome way to introduce the laptops and the website to my firsties!  Here are a couple pictures. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How do you do classroom jobs?

I have done them several different ways.  I tried changing the jobs every week, but I had trouble remembering to change them and never remembered who was supposed to be doing what job.

I tried having my students keep the same job the whole year.  It worked well for a while, but there were still jobs that didn't get done and students got tired of their jobs.  Then I worried about being "fair" because they didn't get a chance to do the coveted jobs.

This led me to think about "real" jobs.  How do people get jobs?  What happens if you don't like your job or you don't do your job correctly?  Do you change jobs every week?  Also, our first Social Studies unit is about community, rules, rights, and responsibilities.  So, I decided to incorporate classroom jobs into the SS unit.

How do people get jobs?  They fill out an application and do an interview! I came up with a simple job application for my students to fill out. (It's color here, but I printed it in black and white.)
Then, I did "interviews" with them!  I asked each one why they thought they would be good at the jobs they wanted.  (It took about 2 minutes each and they were willing to do it during recess!!) I explained to the class that I would TRY to give each of them one of the jobs they wanted, but I couldn't promise.  I did promise that I would not give them the job they crossed out.  Luckily, it worked out that I was able to give each child one of their three choices.

What happens if you don't like your job?  You quit!  I told them they had to try the job for 2 weeks and if they didn't like it, they could quit and apply for another. (If one isn't available you may have to wait!)

What happens if you don't do your job?  You get fired :-(.  If students don't do their job, or don't do it well, I can take the job away and someone else can apply for it.

I'm hoping this will be a great way to begin teaching the students about responsibility!  I'll let you know how it goes!  What do you think?  How do you run jobs in your classroom?

Update:  I have changed the google doc so that it is no longer private.  You can download it now!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fabulous Favorites in Photos

is having a fun linky party and I thought it was an easy one to join in on for my first linky party experience. Here is her post: Fabulous Favorites in Photos!

So, here are a few of MY favorite things!

Favorite Color:
Favorite Store:

Favorite Teacher Supplies:

Favorite TV Shows:

Favorite Drink:
Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke

Favorite Game:

What are some of your favorite things?

Wowie! It has been one crazy week! We started our teacher meetings last Friday and had more meetings Monday. Monday night was our Back to School Night, where I got to meet all my wonderful children, and Tuesday was our first day of school. I was overwhelmed with 30 wonderful children! Our school is one of the choice schools for those that didn't make AYP in our district and in the two weeks before school started, I think we gained about 8 first graders between our 2 classes.

We spent the first few days wondering if we were going to get another section and were told on Thursday that we wouldn't. We'd each be getting a paraprofessional instead. So, I had our WONDERFUL custodian switch out my tables for desks. 30 children was just TOO crowded at my tables. Then, Thursday evening, we were told we actually WERE getting another section. Oh well! Desks it is! I didn't want to make that wonderful man move all those desks back out. So, he's only moving out 10! Tomorrow, I will only have 20 students! It's so exciting!

So, now I get to really start getting to know my children and helping them get to know each other. It was so hard to build community when I didn't know if we were going to be staying together or not. What's your favorite community building activity?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who has a wonderful husband? (and a cute sign)

I do! Thanks to him, my classroom is ready for the first day of school! We don't start until Tuesday, but tomorrow begins our district meetings. So, today he spent the entire day helping me in my room and putting up with my OCD tendencies (I made him tape yard sticks to my tables so that I could make sure they were evenly spaced and at right angles...yes, I'm THAT bad). Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera today, so I don't have pictures yet, but I promise I'll post them tomorrow.

I spent this evening making a cute sign for my room.

You can download it here.

I'd be glad to change it to for your grade level, just let me know!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Student Self Assessment

Our school has recently been studying Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Jan Chappuis. One of our first steps was to have the students keep track of their own learning.  We created "data notebooks" for each student to keep track of their learning.  Students set goals for themselves and tracked their progress.  Right now, our notebooks are very simple.  I'm sure someone out there could fancy them up and make them much cuter.  (If you do, please send me a copy!) I'm looking forward to trying to utilize them more this year.  Take a look at what we have made so far and let me know if you have any ideas for how we could improve upon them.  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Classrom Progress

I didn't work as much this week as I wanted to, but did get some stuff done. As promised, here are some pics: (Sorry for the poor quality.  I only had my iPod.)

This is the east wall.  I am lucky enough that I don't have to take down my bulletin boards each year.  I left these two up.  Saved me a lot of work!
Here's a closeup of each bulletin board:
My award-winning reading board.       
Writing process board.  Each boat has a step in the writing process on it (prewriting, drafting, peer conference, revising, editing, publishing).  The students' names are written on fish taped to clothespins.  The students move their fish as they move through the steps.  On the right side, I'll put anchor charts for writing.
Two views from the door into the room.  As you can see, I still have a lot of work to do.
 I got my easel all organized and ready for teaching:

I also covered these two bulletin boards on the North wall.  Nothing special, but here they are:
This one I use just to put up reminders and such, because it's behind the big metal cabinet.

New this year will be a classroom behavior matrix.   It will go here.

I am working on curtains for my windows. Hopefully, I'll be able to post pictures of them soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Today was day one of working in my classroom.  I was there from about 7:15 to 9:15 am and it was already almost 90 degrees when I left and I was dripping with sweat. 

I got my goal accomplished - with the help of my wonderful husband.  He helped me move the furniture around without scuffing up the newly waxed floor. 

I had to go on a small scavenger hunt - I was missing my desk chair.  Found it in the room next door.  Other than that, nothing too eventful.  Forgot my camera, so no pictures yet, but I will do my best to remember it tomorrow.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tomorrow begins day 1

Tomorrow will be the first day I work in my classroom this summer.  I am a little stressed that I only have 2 weeks to do everything, but I have enjoyed my summer and spending time with my husband and children.  My goal for tomorrow is to get all of the furniture arranged.  I've been struggling with this part all summer.  Using a wonderful (FREE) program called Sweet Home 3D, I've virtually moved the furniture around about 80 different times.  I've finally settled on this arrangement: 

The area at the top will be the library area and the other carpet area will be our meeting area.  We'll see if it actually stays this way once We start moving stuff around.  I'll post pictures soon.  

It's supposed to be 99 degrees tomorrow with a heat index of around 110.  Here's praying I don't melt! 

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Many of my fellow teachers have been entering the blogging world, so I decided to give it a try as well.  I have spent hours putting this thing together and I think it's finally ready.  I went back and forth trying to decide if I wanted to start a classroom blog to use with my students and their parents or a blog to share with fellow teachers.  Then, after hours of work on this blog, I discovered  It is just what I was looking for to use with my kiddos. So, instead of wasting the work I had already put into designing this blog, I decided I might as well just do both! Here goes....!