Friday, June 23, 2017

Solar Eclipse Fun!

On August 21st, the United States will experience its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since 1918, that's 99 years! Everyone in the contiguous US will be able to see this solar eclipse! If you are lucky enough to see it in totality, I am way jealous. We will see about 90% here in Denver. =)

This solar eclipse falls on our first day of school! I am beyond excited to share this experience with our students. Our PTA has ordered us 700 pairs of solar viewing glasses (Amazon has a lot of options) so that all of our staff and students can watch safely! If you purchase a set for your class, make sure they are CE and ISO certified.

Below is a super easy art activity we are going to do on the day of the solar eclipse, along with some other activities for before, during, and after...

video




Who else is stoked for the solar eclipse? I can't wait!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Read Across America / Dr. Seuss' Birthday Fun!

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I am so lucky to have my son at my school. I love being able to see him at school every day. I also love getting to share our fun events with him, like celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday for Read Across America Day!

At my school, we dress up as Dr. Seuss characters and celebrate our love for reading all day long.

Last year my son and I loved our costumes so much that we are wearing them again this year!

Behold- The Lorax and his Truffula Tree!


It was so easy to make these costumes.

For my son's Lorax costume, I bought orange footed pajamas. They aren't available anymore, but an orange hoodie and sweatpants will give the same Lorax-y effect!



For the facial hair, I bought party favor glasses from Target, then hand drew and cut out the mustache and eyebrows from craft foam and hot-glued them on! Boom! Lorax!


These glasses are similar to what I bought, only mine didn't have lenses. And bonus- the extras went into my prize box!



For my Truffula Tree costume, I started with a black plastic headband and some pink tulle. I cut the tulle into strips and tied them around the headband one at a time until I got the fluffy Truffula Tree look I was going for.





Next, I got a white tshirt and white sweatpants, and some good ole trusty duct tape! With a black sharpie, I unrolled and colored the edges of the white duct tape black and stuck down a small section at a time on the shirt, but without cutting it until I reached the end. Then I did the same thing for the pants. After that, I went back and colored in the zig-zags on the tree trunk. Done! Super easy costume, but one that had a big effect!








Warning! The sharpie will rub off a little when you touch it, so make sure the t-shirt and sweatpants aren't your favorites just in case some rubs onto them!


We can't wait for March 2nd!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

GoNoodle Day!


It is very bittersweet to be leaving the classroom at the end of this week for the foreseeable future, as I enter the world of coaching. So, in an effort to not be a baby and cry all week, I am going to make our last week of school epic. We are having a science day, where we will do tons of science experiments all day long. I also posted recently about a really fun tech activity that is totally going to knock it out of the park. And finally, my most recent brainchild... GoNoodle Day!

If your class is anything like mine, they could do GoNoodle all. day. long. And now, they can! I am devoting an entire day to GoNoodle fun. Now, I don't think even my little firsties have enough energy to actually do GoNoodle all day long, so I have paired some academic and some just plain fun activities to go along with some of our favorite GoNoodle activities.

Below are the links to the two (free!) documents I'll be referencing as I describe our day-o-fun:

Lesson Plans- http://bit.ly/1WYNlgn
Activity Templates/Worksheets- http://bit.ly/1WYNe4w

In no particular order...

1. We LOVE Koo Koo Kangaroo. Neil is my kids' favorite (I think it's the mustache, sorry Brian), and they love his T-Rex arms in Dino Stomp.
After we show off our Dino Stomp skills, I am going to do a read aloud of one of my favorite books to read aloud: Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by the brilliant Mo Willems. Predictions, drawing conclusions, maybe even a little inferring thrown in, and a whole lot of laughter.

2. Those Kidz Bop kids know how to work it. And we love flailing around acting like we are working it too. They have three great songs with fun summer themed videos and dancing, and by golly on GoNoodle Day I might just play all three! Summer, I Love It, and Everybody Talks.
After dancing our little hearts out, we will sit down to rest and write and/or draw about what we like to do in the summer, using an information web to organize our thoughts (included in the free pdf listed above).

3. Run With Us really gets my future Olympians moving, and on GoNoodle Day we are going to practice the Long Jump. Afterwards, we are going to do some jumps of our own, and measure our distances. In partners, students will take turns jumping, then measure the lengths of their jumps (using standard or nonstandard units of measurement, whatever is applicable for your students). T-chart included for keeping track of jump measurements.


4. Moose Tube's "It's Not Hard" actually is quite hard, but we always love a good challenge. After practicing a few times, we will reflect on the past year and write about things that used to be hard, but aren't anymore!

5. Maximo always makes me laugh, but my kids never get his jokes. I make them watch him anyway, because yoga = peace. And peace is good amongst 29 first graders. On GoNoodle Day we will practice Willow Willow with Maximo, then read and discuss the classic The Giving Tree. It will be a good opportunity for some quiet, calm, down time. Namaste.

6. Next are a couple of Happy options. The YouTube channel and the Zumba channel both have dancing videos for the song Happy by Pharrell Williams. I'll probably go with the YouTube option because of the Minions. These kids and their Minions...

After dancing and getting happy, we will write about what makes us happy.



7. Koo Koo Kangaroo, we are coming back for more! Another favorite is Just Kidding. We are pretty sure that Brian does actually know how to count to four, but we have fun with this one anyway. After doing JK, we are going to have a joke party. I bought this set of jokes from TpT - https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/JOKE-OF-THE-WEEK-2010022 - and can't wait for my kids to read them together. I can hear the roaring laughter already! If a joke set isn't in your budget (apparently my TpT budget is endless), you could find some online and project them, or have the kids write their own! Those are sure to be terrible. But will make you laugh in a totally different way!

8. Finally, an art activity! Don't worry, I would never make you get out the paints in the last week of school. That would be plain crazy. This one only requires glue and paper. And when you are done, if this is your last gluing activity for the year, you can do the always cathartic practice of dumping the whole tub of glue sticks/bottles into the trash can!

For this activity, we will start with a Flow calming exercise called Rainbow Breath.

The kids will then make a rainbow paper garland. I found a great tutorial here - http://www.minieco.co.uk/folded-paper-garland/ - and while I haven't actually tried it myself yet, it seems doable! There is always the possibility of ending up with a Pinterest fail, but hey, it'll be good fine motor exercise!


I hope your kids love GoNoodle Day! I can't wait for ours!

Monday, May 16, 2016

End of the Year Fun!

Oh boy do I have some fun end of the year activities to share with you.


First, an iPad/coloring/writing activity for the books. This one is going to be a HUGE hit, for all elementary ages.

I discovered this really cool iPad/iPhone app called Quiver that turns a 2D coloring page into a 3D masterpiece. It is so cool, my kids are going to FLIP.

There are dozens of free coloring pages you can download, but I chose two that I could turn into a school-ish activity. Totally school-ish, so your principal will totally approve.


1. Post your objective. (See, I told you it's principal friendly.)

***I can write about a trip I will take using future tense.**


2. Give students writing prompt and have them write about a trip they will take this summer OR a trip they hope to take one day. Freebie link here! ------> http://bit.ly/1ZZP1DM


3. Pass out Quiver coloring page - Go to http://quivervision.com/ and download the airplane page. I also printed the Enjoy Summer page since it fits well with the summer travel theme.


4. Color.



5. Open up the Quiver app (download it in advance, duh).

6. Watch your picture come to life! It not only pops off the page in 3D, there are sound and movement effects too! So make sure the sound is turned on!

The airplane pulls the flag with your destination, the propeller spins, smoke trails behind, and you hear the engines roaring!

There is no way your kids won't like this. It is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Since I have 29 students and only 6 iPads, I decided to give an extra coloring page for students to work on as they take turns with the iPads. There are dozens of free options on the website.




Another thing I like to do in the days leading up to the last day of school, is have my students reflect on what they have learned over the year, and begin goal setting for the next year! These little fold and cut booklets (below) are so easy to make, and the kids love them. Especially on colored paper. So fancy! And free! http://bit.ly/1qpyWLu





If you are underwhelmed with your current Memory Book options, like I was last year when I opened up my 10 year old memory book file (old lady alert)... I've got you covered. http://bit.ly/1R5lnGP





Finally, my favorite Last Day of School activity. In my classroom we begin our last day the same way we started our first.



Students walk in and find their personalized name coloring page in the circle, and sit down for our last morning meeting together.

At the end of morning meeting, they spread out around the room and enjoy some quality time with their community, coloring and chatting.


Then, each student glues their coloring page to a big piece of construction paper. Everyone walks around with a pen (omg, a pen?!) and writes nice messages to each other on the posters. It is a lovely feeling of community, the room gets very quiet and the kids take this job very seriously, thinking of just the right thing to write to each person.


The final products (example above) are so adorable. Last year my kids loved them so much, I laminated them on my lunch break. =)

These are available for K-2, http://bit.ly/1SGUwmG



I hope you have found something you and your students will enjoy in your last days together!

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Journey into Alternative Seating

Ready? Set? Go!


I had been dabbling with the idea of alternative seating for years, and once even bought some exercise balls for my second grade classroom, but that didn't end well when I went on maternity leave and the balls turned into play equipment rather than seating equipment.

This year, with my move to a new school and a new grade level, first, I decided was THE year. And I will never go back.

Alternative seating, also known as flexible seating (if there is a difference, please educate me, but until then I'm going to continue acting like I know what I'm talking about), has transformed my classroom in a way I couldn't have imagined. It has lowered stress and anxiety levels, heightened focus levels, and has allowed me to personalize the learning that goes on in my classroom.

Here is a panoramic view of my classroom in all of it's flexible glory!


Here is how our journey unfolded, in 3 steps!

Step 1 - Adjust

Provided to me at my school were a lot of tables and chairs, so I started by adjusting the use of what I already had by removing legs from a few tables for floor seating, raising a few tables to standing height, and leaving a few tables at chair height. Each step that I will be outlining involved a lot of class meetings and discussions about how to monitor what your body needs, and that everyone's body needs something different, and this one was no exception. After a couple of weeks, when everyone had had the opportunity to try out the different tables, most had settled into an understanding of what was best for them.

(Notice the stacks of chairs in the back of the room? Yeah, we don't use them anymore.)



Step 2 - Acquire

The next step in our journey was to acquire some new seating options. This can be an expensive step in an alternative seating journey, but thanks to the age of the internet, I did it with very little out of my own pockets. The only thing I bought myself was a set of 5 sturdy laundry baskets. They were $7 each at Walmart, and I was anxious to get started, so I went for it! I don't often shop at Walmart, but when I do, it's for cheap laundry baskets and school supplies.


Next on my list of desired seating options were wobble stools, balance cushions, and bouncy bands. Those were the more expensive pieces, just one stool is over $60. Definitely above my budget... Donor's Choose to the rescue! If you have not used this website yet, you have been missing out. I had 8 Kore Wobble Stools, 5 balance cushions, and 5 Bouncy Bands funded in less than a week's time! When I posted my project on Donor's Choose there was a matching code where every donation up to $100 was matched by Donor's Choose, and they do matching codes often if you keep your eyes and ears open. I got permission from my principal to send a letter home to the families of my students, posted a link to my friends and family on Facebook, and boom! It was fully funded in under a week. (A lot of people have luck with anonymous donors as well.) About a week later, the new seating choices were delivered to my classroom. =)






Now, if you don't have immediate luck on Donor's Choose, and haven't won the lottery, there are some cheaper options out there. Bathmats and pillows are something I've seen used, but I prefer hard plastics over cloth because of a debilitating fear of lice. I've heard good things about Scoop Rocker chairs, as seen here (http://www.overstock.com/Sports-Toys/American-Plastic-Toys-Scoop-Rocker-Pack-of-6/10458964/product.html).


Step 3 - Acquaint

This step addresses the biggest question I get about flexible seating; How do you introduce this concept and the different seating options to your students? Don't they fight over the stuff?

My answer - Take. It. Slow.

I acquainted my students with one thing at a time. And each introduction was sandwiched with class discussions. I like to call this routine the "Expectation Sandwich". First, we circle up and talk about what is about to happen. What are the expectations? How will we appropriately use this space or this tool? Then, everyone gets a chance to try that particular seating option out properly. Finally, we have another circle discussion about how that particular seating choice is helpful, who it is helpful for, and how we know it is helping.

In the expectation sandwich discussions, a big piece of the conversation (multiple times a day in the beginning) is that everyone is different, and everybody's body needs something different. Some of us feel just fine working in chairs at tables, some of our bodies prefer to lay on the floor with clipboards. Some of us like to stand up to help us focus, some of us like to sit on the floor. Some of us like to wiggle and move as we work, some of us like to be cozy and tucked into in a small space. I even had a mom come tell me after school one day that her daughter told her about our new alternative seating options, "I don't use the wiggle stools much because my body doesn't really need it as much as some of my friends." Perfection.

In the beginning, yes, there may be a certain level of excitement due to the novelty. But if you can be very methodical in acquainting the children with the seating choices, and very patient in reminding them about how to choose their spots, the novelty will wear off, and it just becomes the regular day-to-day routine. Kids settle into the areas and options that they prefer, and there is now, in my classroom, absolutely zero conflict or disruption caused by flexible seating.





The change that alternative seating has made in my classroom has been invaluable. My students have learned how to self-regulate and listen to their bodies. They have been given the gift of choice, the choice to do what is best for them. They are more focused, more centered, and more productive.

This is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can make shifts in your own classroom for next year, so go for it! Remember - Adjust, Acquire, Acquaint. And how can I forget my #1 most important rule/motto with the kids about alternative seating - "They are tools, not toys!"


Please feel free to hammer me with questions!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

How To Make Your Students Better Writers

It's a large claim, I realize that. But I have found the secret to making my students better writers. Let me explain...



Writing is my favorite subject to teach. For years though, I struggled with getting my kids to edit and revise to improve their writing. I would rock my mini lessons and my model writing, they would rock in their understandings, they would knock out some decent drafts, and then the writing process would stall out. They could not get past the stage of drafting independently, they relied on me to tell them how they could improve their writing. And I was one teacher with, this year, 29 students... so they were waiting a lot.

Now, they don't wait for me anymore. They are masters of their writing process, they have found their voices as writers, and they are confident that their work is the best it can be.

Let me explain how we got to this beautiful place.



To start a writing lesson, I have a specific writing skill focus. In the beginning, I start with some conventions like using capital letters, punctuation, finger space, neat letter formation. Then I move into some more content based skills like using adjectives, vivid verbs, similes, dialogue, etc. to enhance writing.

I introduce the new skill, model it, then have my students begin the process of planning and drafting independently; their opportunity to "try on" the new skill.

The end of this drafting time is where my students used to come up to me with those words every teacher dreads hearing... "I'm done!" Oh darling, you are most certainly not.

Introducing... The edit and revise wall.


On this wall, my best and most favorite wall, are each of our writing skills (added as we learn them) in checklist form.

You might be saying, "Big deal. I have all my skills posted too. The kids NEVER look at them." But THIS wall is not just there, it is a guide that is used daily to lead kids through the editing and revising process.

Each skill card has an example, along with a marking to note the example. For instance, the adjective skill card below with the adjective underlined in red. During the editing/revising phase of the writing process, students independently re-read their writing, and mark each time they used an adjective by underlining them in red. As they read, with adjectives as their focus, they will think of new places to add adjectives, they will revise to use better adjectives, or they will notice that they haven't used adjectives and realize that they should probably add some to enhance their writing. This act of "marking up" their draft draws a new level of attention to their writing.



They continue down the list of skills on the edit and revise wall, editing, revising, and marking up their drafts until they are sure their writing is the best it can be, that they have done their absolute best to approximate use of all of the writing skills they know.

When it comes time for me to confer with my students, we take a look at a "marked up" piece of writing. Together we take notice of markings that there are few or none of, and students set a goal for themselves. We put a sticky note with their initials right up on the edit and revise wall next to the skill they need to work on, to serve as a reminder of their goals. Then the next time they draft, they have that skill, their goal, in the forefront of their mind.


Now, if a student tries to come to tell me that they are "done", (they know better by now!), all I have to do is point to the wall, and remind them that they have the skills to improve their writing on their own.

This process has been huge for my students. It pushes them to take ownership of their writing and of the writing process, and to take ownership of their goals. And subsequently, it has made them better writers.

For a more detailed look at my editing and revising skill cards, click here.



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Data collection in the 21st century.

Plickers is my new best friend. Plickers, you make individual data collection so easy. Goodbye grading paper exit tickets every day. Goodbye paper and pencil pre-assessments that I have to take home on the weekend and spend hours grading. Goodbye moans and groans when it's time to take a quiz. Hello Plickers!

Plickers describes themselves as, "... a powerfully simple tool that lets teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices." It is an app/website that collects individual student data in seconds and sets it right in front of your pretty little face. When I first visited the website, I didn't quite understand what that would actually look like, so let me do my best to explain it in my own words.


First, you create an account and set up your class list (or multiple classes) at https://plickers.com/


Then, type up (or insert pictures of) some multiple choice problems.


Prints out a set of QR codes, one per student. You can laminate them or print on cardstock so they can be used over and over.


Each 4-sided QR code has answer choices A, B, C, and D around the sides.

Students have an assigned QR code card, unique to them (numbered).

Next, you open the Plickers website to project problems for students.



Then, open Plickers app on your phone or iPad and select the first question.


The question is projected through the computer/projector.

Students turn and hold up their QR code with their answer (A-D) at the top.


Now, you click "scan" on the app, and scan across the room while the app magically finds student answers by scanning the direction of their QR code.

When all students have been scanned, you click the check mark button and... voila! Data!



Now you can make re-teach or enrichment groupings in the blink of an eye!



It is so easy, you guys. And so fun. And so amazing. And I love it so much I'm using conjunctions at the beginnings of my sentences.

Another really cool feature is that you can insert pictures as your questions, and then just type in the answer choices. I'm currently working on prepping some fractions questions for an upcoming math unit using screenshots of some of my fractions task cards! So. Easy.



This tool is seriously life changing. Once you make an account (easy), download the app (easy), and print some cards (easy), you are ready to gather all kinds of data. And you know how we teachers looooove data! (Your principal will really love it, you data driven diva.)

Oh, how have I not mentioned this yet... Plickers is 100% FREE!

I know. You can't even deal.

Go! Get set up NOW. You won't regret it.