Sunday, December 11, 2016

Reindeer Theme Day Activities with Lots of Freebies!

Ahh....December. So we are here again. Let's keep it real here, folks- we are in survival mode until holiday break. I'm hoping I can make your life a bit easier with some ideas, freebies, and tips to help get you through. 

I try to stay as on-routine and on-schedule as possible, since any deviation from it just makes the kiddos that much more dysregulated. Each year we have a gingerbread activity theme day as a grade level and I also incorporate a reindeer-themed day. 

We also explore various holidays and customs and how various cultures and families celebrate the holidays, but for these 2 days it's all about the cookie and the animal.  

Let the reindeer games begin...
Reindeer themed keepsake gifts kids can make for the holidays.
Pinterest is a great source when you are looking for gift ideas for parents. Pinterest's new search algorithm is a great tool for narrowing down your search.  Searching "reindeer themed parent gifts" yield some great results:

These thumbprint reindeer ornaments require very little materials (paint, Sharpie, and a matte ornament and they are simply adorable! You can find them here.

Another variation of a reindeer ornament is this adorableness. You can find it here. A bit less risky, if you are concerned a little hand may push too hard on the glass ornament and break it, causing possibly injury. Entirely possible, in December.  I like how you could use a plastic ball ornament for this one. Michael's had some on sale last week for $.97.  Needless to say, I didn't make it in time. So....we are risking life and limb with the thumbprint option. That could be a whole separate post, I tell ya!

If crafts are not your thing, this cute hot chocolate in a mason jar idea may fit the bill.  This could also be a good idea for your own child's teachers, your mail carrier, hair dresser, sanitation workers, and so on. 

You can never go wrong with sending along a picture of the child, especially when they fingerprint the edges of the frame!  I mean, how cute is this? A wooden frame, brown ink pad, sequins, a Sharpie marker, and some glue and you have a meaningful gift that can last a lifetime. You can find this here.

This would make a great gift for co-workers. I made my first grade team a mason jar of M&M's last year (and called them "chill pills") and they still talk about how much they enjoy it. They also take about how long it lasted them (almost the whole year). I don't get that at all because that jar wouldn't last me 10 minutes...but...anywhoose..... 

Here's the link for reindeer noses because who doesn't need chocolate right now....or anytime for that matter?

And lastly, if you need a cute bag to send the adorable gift they made home in, this is just darling don't you think?  You can find it here.

So now that you have your parent gift figured out, we need to get the kiddos engaged with a project.

If you have an interactive whiteboard or SMARTboard, head on over to YouTube and warm up the fireplace.

Now, we're ready to get our craft on....
With a pot from the dollar store, and just a few other supplies you most likely have on hand, your kiddos can make this independently and it's so cute. You can find it here.

Do you remember popsicle sticks and "woodie's" from summer camp?  You can make adorable reindeer with them too!  You can find this here.
I love doing this with my students and seeing how different they all come out! You can find these here.

Want more? Elyse from Proud to be Primary has even more reindeer activities to choose from!  You can find them here!

Marissa, from Inspired Owl's Corner has this great reindeer non-fiction research booklet in her store. It gives students practice with independent research and writing while keeping them engaged.  Students can use nonfiction reindeer books, reading passages that you give them, or the internet as resources to find information about reindeer. Simply print back-to-back, fold into a booklet, and staple. Best of all, it's FREE! You can find it here.


Do you do an "Elf on the Shelf" in your home? I don't do an elf in my classroom since I try to be culturally/holiday aware.  I do use a reindeer.  The reindeer acts in the same method as the elf, except that he is an animal rather than a mystical fairy of sorts.  Students learn about reindeer in our class through close reads, videos, class discussions, nonfiction texts and more.  The reindeer visits our classroom daily and we write and journal during his stay.

Using a Stuffed Animal Reindeer in the Classroom. Do you need to keep your students motivated and on task during the holiday season? How about using something a little different than the elf? A stuffed animal reindeer in your classroom is sure to keep your students interested, invested and they will learn about reindeers too!

Reindeer Games and all holiday resources are on sale this week in my store. You can find them here.

Wouldn't this make the cutest bulletin board display?  I'm thinking that either providing tracers or having the shapes pre-cut in a center, the kiddos could easily arrange the pieces and glue.  They could draw their own facial features to individualize.  Having a visual example of course, would be helpful.  Great way to review shapes too! Here's the link.

This FREE and fun game can be played by rolling dice and covering up the numbers seen.  You could use reindeer mini erasers! Find it here.

I love this place value hundreds chart game by Miss Giraffe. This could easily be played as a partner game.

How about some freebies?  We all could some of that this time of year, right?

Amy Labrasciano has these adorable Reindeer Toppers that you can use for a fun classroom craft. Your students can top off parent gifts, reindeer food, word work or any fun center. Find it here.

Need some help keeping behavior in check? Marissa, from Inspired Owl's Corner has a great free reindeer themed resource to help with that. Check it out here.

Do you want to keep the academics going but still have some light holiday fun?  This reindeer themed close reading resource is leveled and differentiated to fit your needs annnnd it's FREE! Find it here.

Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Morning Messages: What in the World Am I Going To Write Now?

Editable Morning Messages for your interactive whiteboard for kindergartners & first graders make for easy, no prep morning skill review! Using the premade messages  or edit to make your own for text. Don't worry about what to write again! Skills include: ABC order, sight words, addition, subtraction, 10 more, 10 less, counting on a number line, even/odd numbers, doubles facts, vowel sounds,  capitalization, punctuation & so much more! {K, 1st grade, ELA, math, responsive classroom}

 It's Tuesday morning I just got back from the copier, dropped a stack of papers on my desk, and I still have another pile to go. I'll have to run that pile through during my prep. I grabbed the purple scented Scentos markers (it's a purple kinda day) and so far I've gotten the date and "Dear Cla" written down on the chart paper that's glaring me down when I hear "Hi Mrs. Pettersen!" 

I look up at the clock "How in the world is it 8:25 already?" I swore I was going to write my morning message before I left yesterday afternoon but by the time I left yesterday afternoon I was running out the door- literally at 5:00 because I promised my son I would take him to the skateboard park before it got dark. Fail. It was dark before I even got to my car in the parking lot.  Sorry, Tyler. I'll try tomorrow.

Now I have one student telling me he lost a tooth, another one asking me where her homework goes (on day 46 of first grade) and a 5th saying "Hi Mrs. Pettersen" and I'm supposed to standing in the hallway greeting students as they arrive. But nope.  I'm on my knees STILL trying to write the AM message.  I realize I have NO idea what to write. Partly because I'm getting interrupted every 15 seconds and partly because...well....I have no idea what to write. "Today we have Art" is what I write everyday. Well...unless we have Gym. Then I write that.

I can't even. This is just ridiculous. I need more hours in the day. No I don't. I take that back. 

I used to bring the chart paper home and write the morning messages by hand every Sunday night and that worked out well. For about 2 weeks. Then the paper ripped and bent, I got lazy and didn't do it forgot to do it, my kids used half the paper to make "Keep Out" and "You Smell" signs on their bedroom doors, and there was the time the cat threw up on it.  True story.

So now... I make my morning messages on my laptop, save them to Google Drive and DONE!  I turn on my SMARTboard and that's it.  All I do in the morning is turn on my interactive whiteboard and my morning message is ready to go.

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

I was out once this month but because I had a folder titled "November Morning Messages" on my desktop, on my laptop, my sub just clicked on the folder and she had a morning message already prepared.  And the heaven's opened up!

Because it's on the SMARTboard, suddenly my kiddos are soooo invested.  They LOVE it!  They can't wait to go up to the board to answer the questions and participate.

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

For example, here they read the sentence and add the correct punctuation.

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

Since we use Fundations for our Phonics program, we review key skills such as glued or welded sounds like the /all/ sound in ball.  I love how they get the practice, not only the skill- but also their handwriting!

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

All the slides are in PowerPoint and are editable so you type in your own text if you want to customize it to suit your own needs, and your own curriculum.  Just make sure you save it so you don't have to do it again. Don't make more work for yourself, right?

I have loved this so much and it has saved me so much time, that I am busy making editable morning messages for every month!  If you follow my store on TpT, whenever I upload a new resource it is on sale for 20% for the first 24 hours.  I just uploaded December Morning Messages yesterday.

Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

Pin for later
Morning Messages for kindergarten and first grade that are fully prepared with great ideas and content for ELA and Math review. Great for the morning meeting and the Responsive Classroom. Fully editable for customization. Turn on the interactive whiteboard and it's done!

Here's to the little things that make our lives a little bit easier!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

How To to Fit in Meaningful Literacy Work with a Limited Time Schedule

How to fit in Meaningful Literacy Work with a Limited Time Schedule

I knew I was not going to do worksheets for morning work this year with my first graders.  I have done this for many years in the past and I have found that 3 things happen:

1. Some kids finish early and bug me while I'm trying to do attendance and read notes...
2. Some kids never finish and bug me while I'm trying to do attendance and read notes...


I look like this during my prep trying to correct all that AM work.

I just can't. Not anymore. There's got to be a better way...

So then I saw some ideas on Pinterest for morning work using various manipulatives.  Many teachers call this "Morning Tubs." I pinned a lot of Morning Tub ideas to a Pinterest board I appropriately titled.....wait for it....

And so "Morning Tubs" worked out great for the first month of school as the kiddos were still trying to grasp the routine and get to know one another.  I did not assign students to tables or particular tasks because I really wanted them to use this time both to get to know one another and to freely explore the manipulatives offered.  This proved to be a big help, especially come math time when we didn't need to spend so much time modeling appropriate usage and "free exploration" time since students had a free explore time in the morning.

I definitely liked how my students were interacting and able to spend some time socializing in the morning when they first came in. I saw them on-task and engaged. It was wonderful to see them using the manipulatives in some really creative ways. Some students even showed me ways to use them that I hadn't even thought of! 

There was one drawback to the morning tubs though.  It was noisy.  Not in a bad way.  As I said, the students were engaged and having fun, but after about 5-10 minutes the noise level in the classroom would get louder and louder. I'm not one of those teachers that needs a silent classroom but... starting the day off at Mach 10 isn't going to work either. So this was a problem.

Another problem I was having is that my district has shifted to a balanced literacy approach. Well...this isn't really a problem. In fact, I think it's pretty amazing.  The problem lies in that some things we needed to remove from our instruction to make room for other things.  You know how that is...

It happens in education all the time. Sometimes the changes are great. Sometimes they are not so great. I think in many cases, it gets hard for us as teachers to constantly have to adjust to soooo many changes so frequently. 

Prior to shifting to balanced literacy we were using the Daily 5 model. I really liked some of the components of that. In particular, I liked the listening and word work practice. I think any time early readers can listen to reading and practice early reading skills through application it is so valuable. Now, with the adoption of our balanced literacy model there is just no time for it.  So....

here is where the problem lies.....

It's the problem that teachers face all across the country...all across the world...every day....ALL. THE. TIME.






what if there was?

What if I used that 20 minutes of time that my students need to socialize and have shown me that they can be engaged...

and made that...

quality literacy time?

It would need to be independent because I need to be freed up to do the multitude of tasks that we need to do in the morning. You know how that is....

the 7,496 things we need to get done before 9 AM.

I thought and thought it over and talked about it with a colleague.

I got up in the middle of the night and brainstormed ideas.

I did voice to text messages to myself in the car while commuting to work. 

I've been doing Literacy Morning Work for about 3 weeks now and let me tell you, folks....

I am never, ever, turning back. 

It has been life changing.

My students are so engaged and I feel so good about what they are doing and learning in those 20 minutes. It's a power punch of learning. 

I can't wait to share with you how it works and what it looks like in my classroom...

When students walk in they look for any notes they have to give me in their folders and put them in the "notes" bin. Then they look up at the SMARTboard for the Literacy Morning Work menu that tells them what literacy station they are working in. It looks like this:

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work.

This is a simple slide that I made in PowerPoint. My district follows letter days, rather than Monday-Friday days.  There are 5 literacy stations:  Word Work, Book Swap, iPads (Raz-Kids), Handwriting, and Listening. 

My students begin entering at 8:25 AM. Once they enter they check for notes and homework and hang up their belongings in their cubbies which are in our classroom.  They look up at this menu on the SMARTboard and find their station.  Word Work, Raz-Kids (iPads), and Handwriting are always at the classroom tables.  We have tables rather than desks in my classroom. The listening center is its own table that is only used for this purpose. Students begin their station as soon as they enter. I take attendance at 8:45.  I suppose I technically should have them clean up after I do that and get started on morning meeting but they have been so engaged and enjoying this so much I let them go until 9AM. So....20 minutes has become 30 minutes (by my choice). I'll describe the stations in more detail.

We are bringing it back to 1973 here with the tape cassette player.

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work.

Every time I look this I just giggle. I mean you remember these headphones? When you put them on you can't hear A THING.  I'm tempted to wear them all day at times.  Look at the size of those plugs!  If you and your 10 friends want to listen to a cassette story at the same time you can with the....splitter. Is that what it's called? I found all of this in our closet at school that was going to be thrown out- except for the cassette player. I found the tape player on Amazon and added my "oh-so-fancy" sticky dot stickers to help the kiddos decipher stop, go, and rewind.

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work.
4-5 Students use this station at a time. You need at least 2 copies of a book to make this work. Students share a book if need be.

If you are interested in recording your own voice you can do that pretty easily.

If you don't want to use a cassette player, you can easily use an iPod or any MP3 device and splitter such as this:

Here is a short video showing you how to recording your own voice and then various ways you can save it or share it with your students.

If you have an account with Reading A-Z or Raz-Kids you can print books for free too! So great!

I have students listen to the story 3 times. Mid-year they will start to complete a response to reading to reflect on what they have learned. This will be a future post. I will leave you in suspense....

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work. Students listen to reading.

We are very fortunate to have 5 iPads in our classroom. Students use the iPads during this time ONLY to use Raz-kids. They can use the iPad to explore the other apps at other times but not during Literacy Morning Work. If you are not familiar with Raz-Kids, it is a website that also has a mobile app that has over 400 eBooks for students. It offers both fiction and nonfiction, in various genres at various reading levels. Teachers can take online running records and students read and listen to texts and take comprehension quizzes. They earn points based on how much they read, listen, and comprehend.  My students know they may only use this time to read.  They have been taught that they become better readers by reading more and more. They use the points they have earned by reading and use them in the "rocket builder" during computer class and at home but not during Literacy Morning Work.  I set up the iPads closest to my desk so that when I am doing my morning tasks I can keep tabs on this but it hasn't been a problem thus far.

How to Use Literacy Stations for AM Work. Handwriting Station

As part of our balanced literacy program, we are using Fundations, a phonics-based reading and spelling curriculum. I am learning that my students really need additional practice with letter formation, even the "high-flyers".

Fundations teaches students how to form letters and students are given optional homework assignments to practice letter formation.

In class, as part of Literacy Morning Work, a handwriting station is proving beneficial. This is in addition to what we learn as part of our Fundations curriculum.  I'm finding my students need the extra boost.  

I purchased Handwriting-Make it Neat! Handwriting Practice, Instruction, and Fluency by Deedee Wills on Teachers Pay Teachers, which my student is using above in the handwriting station.

I made 5 copies of some of the pages and placed them in a page protector to use with dry erase markers. Students only work on one page per day. They practice a page 3 times. After several weeks when all of the pages have been completed, we will then practice with other mediums such as colored pencils, markers, pens, mechanical pencils, etc.  The reasoning is that each medium requires students to utilize a different amount of pressure when they write. Additionally, they will still need to use the pincher grasp when writing but they will learn that it will feel differently holding a marker than a mechanical pencil.

The "Minute To Win It" game in this resource by Deedee is really fun and an excellent game as the school year progresses for students to practice letter formation with more automaticity.  They do it independently using sand timers such as these:

Again, I have students complete this about 3 times. They know that "practice makes perfect."  We use felt, cut into squares as "erasers."

With the Lucy Calkins balanced literacy model, students are reading for 20-30 minutes independently and then another 20-25 minutes with a partner. That's a lot of reading!  What I first heard we were going to do this and that my first grade babies were going to be expected to read independently like this, I swear this was what my face looked like at our professional development....

Are they even serious?!

I was thinking...there is NO WAY! NO way first graders can read that long...especially in the beginning of the year. This is just nuts! Nuts, I tell you.

I was wrong. There it is. In writing. I. was. wrong.

They are doing it.  Everything I have heard and read about Lucy Calkins is true. She is a master at her craft because this approach is working. My first graders are reading and writing like they have never been before and I am just shocked.  I have been teaching for 20 years and I have never experienced anything like it before. I am sold.

Because my students are reading so much, they are going through books fast.  Every week they are reading, they switch out their books and get new ones.  I do have a few reading chapter books so some don't switch out as often. They use "book swap" time to read.

The Book Swap station takes place in our classroom library.

How to Teach Students to Self Select Books at their "just right" Reading Levels.

The books in our classroom library are organized both by genre and by reading level.

How to Teach Students to Self Select Books at their "just right" Reading Levels.

Students begin by getting their book bin and bringing it to the classroom library. Their book bin is filled with their books at their "just right" reading level: 2 dessert books (books entirely of their choice), their reading mat, and their book shopping list. The shopping helps them to determine books they can "shop" for. I laminate the shopping list and write book levels inside the circles with a dry erase marker since their reading levels change as they move up in levels. For example, the student's book bin pictured below can shop for 5 books at a level 1, two books at a level 2, two books at a level 3, and two dessert books. This student is choosing most of their books at their "just right" reading level, 2 just above their reading level, and 2 at their independent level.

How to Teach Students to Self Select Books at their "just right" Reading Levels.

I spent a lot of time modeling how to use the book shopping list at the beginning of the year as well as how to choose books, return them, use them appropriately, respect them, and so on. I'm glad I did because now students are able to return, sort, and swap out books independently. 

Once students are done choosing books, they can spend the remainder of the time reading their books. They are always happy to do so since having new books to read is rather motivational.

Word Work is meant to reinforce the literacy concepts that we have been working on during our large group with Fundations and our reading and writing work.  It is basic skill review.

Using literacy stations as morning work. Word work.

For example, this past week we reviewed the -at word family. I made this worksheet using the Fundations handwriting lines and students traced the -at words, built the words using plastic letters, and wrote the words with gel pens.

Each week the word work changes based upon whatever skills we are working on at the time.

For some great ideas for word work, I have pinned my favorites on one of my Pinterest boards titled simply "Word Work."  You can find it here.

If students finish Literacy Morning Work stations early and others are really engaged, they may read or work on their Kid's Quest. Kid's Quest is a monthly "magazine" designed to be an engaging and fun resource that keeps kids reading. It features thematic articles, activities,  "Did you know...?" facts, word searches, addition practice, and more. I have one for every month and my students really enjoy it. Students also can work on Kid's Quest if they finish work during the day early or when we come in from lunch recess for 10 minutes to unwind before returning to a lesson.

Do you need an engaging and fun resource for your early finishers? Do you need another option for homework? Would your students enjoy a quiet activity to help them unwind after recess?

Pin for Later:
How to fit in meaninful literacy with a limited time schedule in your kindergarten, first, second & third grade or homeschool. Ways you can incorporate literacy centers instead of morning work in the morning to make the most of your time. Students get key ELA skill review and practive while you take attendance and do various clerical skills you need to do in the morning. Literacy stations are designed to make students self-sufficient and be a review. Word work, listening, reading to self, selecting books, & handwriting make for a balanced literacy clasroom model {K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade}

What do you do for morning work in your classroom? What has worked well for you? How do you fit it all in?