Sunday, July 31, 2011

Snack Time Success Stories Linky Party!

Mrs. Bainbridge is hosting a Snack Time Success Stories Linky Party!
Over the years, my snack time method has evolved.  I began my career with no snack (our lunch time was really early!).  Then I moved on to having students bring their own "healthy" snack, but I always had students who forgot their snack or brought something horrible, like candy or doughnuts.  Since they were first graders, I felt like too much of a meanie to just say "too bad" so I ended up buying about a zillion bags of animal crackers that year for the students who had either forgotten their snack or brought something too unhealthy.
Then I moved on to a monthly snack calendar, which I still use.  Each student is assigned one day per month, and if there are extra days, I cover them or we have "leftover days."  I send home a note in my parent packet at the beginning of the year explaining our snack procedure, asking about dietary restrictions, and also giving parents the option to not participate (I have never had anyone take this option though!).  I have even included a list of approved snacks for the past few years, and asked parents who would like to send something that is not on the list to please contact me.  I know this sounds a little control freak-ish, but our school is trying hard to move toward healthier eating, and it is a long list of healthy and inexpensive options.  It has worked really well for me.  Do parents always send something from the list?  No, and that's ok.  I had a parent this year who was an *amazing* baker and if she wanted to send baked goods for every snack, that was just fine with me (in fact, I may or may not have begged for suggested some sweet treats from her this year!).  I believe in teaching students that it is healthy to indulge in a treat now and then.  But it does give parents some ideas for snacks that are kid friendly and healthy, and mostly eliminates the Little Debbies and cookies on a daily basis.  If you take a look at my list and think of something that I can add to it, let me know!  I'm always looking for new options :)
The part of my snack that I am most excited about though, is the procedure.  FINALLY, after 10 years of teaching, I feel like I have a good system - and I copied it from my son's Montessori classroom!  I always loved observing in his preschool, watching the little 18 month old students serve themselves snack.  They had learned the procedures and were so well trained that there was virtually no mess, and no fuss.  They served themselves snack, ate it, and cleaned up - without any help from the teacher.  I had an AHA moment - if children under two can serve themselves snack, why can't my first graders?  So, that's what I moved to this past year, and I absolutely loved it.  
We didn't have a set snack time where all of my students were eating; rather, during their Daily 5 "Read to Self" choice (which had to be done daily), they were allowed to serve themselves snack and eat it while they read.  I would place the snacks on a designated table, and the students knew where to get their snack from.  If it was pre-packaged they knew to take one; if it was something like goldfish or pretzels I would put Dixie cups and hand sanitizer out and the students could scoop one cupful.  They were responsible for cleaning up after themselves when they were finished, as well as reading AND eating (if they weren't reading, they knew they'd have to get rid of their snack - this was threat enough to inspire multi-tasking!).  If we had an especially messy or involved snack (like cupcakes, or meatballs - we had both!), we would just revert back to eating all at the same time for that day to avoid damaging our books, carpet, etc.  
Like I said, I loved my snack procedure for so many reasons.  Most importantly, it took much less time, as the students were reading and eating at the simultaneously.  I used to allot 10 minutes for snack, which never seemed like enough time.  Now, students had their whole Read to Self time to eat, and could choose when they were hungry to complete their Read to Self choice.  It also put the responsibility for the snack on the students, rather than on me, so I was free to work with groups instead of monitor how many goldfish crackers each student was taking.  I really did not have any problems with students taking too much, or trying to get seconds - and I think if that happened, the other students would have let me know :)
I know this is a long post, but I hope it helps inspire some of you to turn the responsibility of snack over to your students.  With good modeling at the beginning of the year, I am sure you can teach your students to self-serve and save yourself TONS of time!  If you have a unique snack idea, or just want to read more about other snack procedures, visit Mrs. Bainbridge's linky party!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Getting Creative With My Cricut!

I was super inspired by the cute things made by Ashley of The Polka Dot Patch!  I am entered in the giveaway to win some vinyl lettering - but I know my usual luck (not good!) so I decided to try making some lettering of my own.  I bought some vinyl at Hobby Lobby (love that store!) and dug out my trusty Cricut.  The process could not have been easier or more fun!  My 4 year old even helped me :).  Here are the finished products:
My very own clipboard tub!
Finally!  No more ugly frosting containers :)
I bought the containers for super cheap at Big Lots, and all total it took me less than an hour to create and stick the letters and dots.  Honestly, the hardest part was trying to scatter the polka dots randomly - those who know me know that I am more of a pattern kind of girl!  Thank you so much for the inspiration, Ashley!  Now look at everything a little differently - and think "hmm...can I put vinyl on that?" :)
All of that blue will look great in my classroom, and reminded me of some little blue creatures that Owen and I went to see on Friday...
The movie was very cute, and definitely brought back some childhood memories.  Although, there were many Smurfs that I don't remember from the cartoon back in the day, like Panicky, Gutsy, and Narrator Smurf.  Maybe they are new to the Smurf Village?
And to add to the randomness of this post (first vinyl, then Smurfs), I wanted to let you in on what I am currently working on.  I have seen several posts about "Sub Binders" and "Sub Tubs" and I am a BIG fan of those.  I have definitely experienced days when I have been too sick to drag myself into school to prep for a sub, or Owen has thrown up on me as we were walking out the door.  In addition to information for the sub (schedule, procedures, etc) I like to have several book-based lesson plans on hand.  I base all of the lessons for the day on the book.  I then place the book and all of the copies and activities ready to go inside a large ziploc baggie.  My colleagues know where these are located and can just put one out in a pinch (and they have also borrowed one in a pinch!).  The thematic worksheets from "The Mailbox" magazine are great for these baggies, but I am working on creating some of my own as well!  Look for those soon - just in time for back to school (and back to germs) season :)
Finally, a HUGE thank you to Kathy of First Grade a la Carte.  I actually won a giveaway and received her fabulous addition games to use in my math workstations this fall!  I am so excited!  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Engineering is Elementary

Wow!  I just spent the last two days training teachers from across the county where I teach in the program "Engineering is Elementary."  What an amazing opportunity!  If you haven't heard of this program, also known as EiE, check it out here.
I was offered the opportunity to attend a training for trainers late this past school year, and I have to confess that before attending the training I didn't know much about engineering, and I certainly had not thought of teaching it to my first graders!  After spending two days learning about the process and experiencing two units, I was hooked!
EiE is a great extension to the math, science and literature curriculum that you currently teach.  It integrates multi-cultural literature, problem solving, science, and hands-on experiments in a fun way for students (and no, I don't get paid to sell the program!).  It takes students through the engineering design process in a simplified form.  The Museum of Science in Boston has worked to develop the many units for K-6 (in our county).  If you get a moment, this program is definitely worth checking out!  For those of you who are local to Lenawee County, I will post when the next training is available.  I know you will love it (and not just because I teach it!) :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Year Resolution Linky Party

I'm linking up with Clutter Free Classroom once again for another linky party!

Clutter-Free Classroom
This Linky is all about New Year resolutions.  But, it's not January!  Well, like all teachers, the "New Year" for me begins in September!  I can SO relate to making a list of resolutions as long as my arm to begin the new year with!  I won't bore you with the long version - instead, I'll choose my top 5!
1.  Use my *new* SMART board to its fullest potential!  

This is a fun resolution :)  I have been begging for a SMART board for years, and my dream is finally coming true!  I have already been hard at work on creating presentations for our Everyday Math curriculum, as well as our Houghton Mifflin reading, and calendar.  I want to maximize its use for sure!
2.  Give Debbie Diller's Math Workstations a try.  

I ordered her book and have started reading it.  I also followed the book club postings on several blogs throughout the summer.  Here's a little confession...I hate teaching math.  I'm almost embarrassed to say it (hence the smaller type), but I could teach reading and writing ALL DAY and never touch math.  I'm hoping this will help!
3.  Be consistent with conferencing - this includes reading, writing, and math!  

I have a snazzy notebook all set up, and I am usually very good about meeting with students regularly at the beginning of the year.  Then, things get crazy and it becomes more sporadic - I want to make sure to meet with every student regularly!
4.  Maximize my time at school.  This year, my own little sweet pea will be joining me at my school in our Young 5's program!  That means no more private preschool tuition & after school care bills (YAY!!!), but also less quiet work time after school.  So...I am going to need to be very efficient and organized with my time during specials and breaks.  Otherwise, this little tornado will be ripping my room to shreds after school every day (all in the name of "help").
5.  Find balance.  That sounds a little Zen, but it is a goal of mine. 

Balance between home and school, between working and playing, between having fun and learning, between Starbucks & coffee from home...balance is good.  Let's hope I can achieve it.

So there they are - my resolutions for the 2011-2012 school year!  Head on over to Clutter Free Classroom to read more resolutions and share your own!

Flippy Give Away!

Mrs. Bainbridge, one of my favorite webpages/bloggers, is having a flippy give away!
What is a flippy, you might ask?  Head on over to her blog, Mrs. Bainbridge's Class, to find out!  While you're there, browse through her awesome blog and even enter for the chance to win a set of flippies!  Good luck (although I'd really like to win!).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Shiver Me Letters!

Hello friends!  I hope you are staying cool during this giant heat wave!  Owen and I have been mostly indoors, with the exception of a super fun trip to a water park with friends.  That has given me plenty of time to work on a Pirate ABC pack freebie for you!
As you may remember, I am going with a pirate theme in my classroom for the upcoming year.  In my last Scholastic order of the year, I just happened to have ordered the book "Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC" written by June Sobel and illustrated by Henry Cole (this was even before I had decided on a pirate theme!).
I *love* this book!  The illustrations are adorable, and it is a great review of the alphabet for the beginning of the year.  Plus, it will help set the stage for our pirate decor.  BUT...even if you're not decorating like a pirate, your students will still love this book, and hopefully the activities that I've created to go with it!  So, here it is!

Shiver Me Letters
I hope you enjoy these activities and can use them with your students.  If you download, all I ask is that you please follow my blog (more freebies are coming, I promise!), leave a comment, and/or pass the word along to others!  I appreciate your support :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Recipe Linky Party

Once again, I am linking up with Clutter Free Classrooms for her week of Linky Parties!

Clutter-Free Classroom
Today's assignment is to share a recipe that you make often during the school year - bonus points for freezer friendly or crockpot recipes.
Well, you're in luck - and I'm getting all kinds of bonus points today!  I do NOT enjoy cooking, so the crockpot is my BFF during the school year (and the summer, whenever we do not grill!).  I'll share two of my favorite recipes, but here's a little something I have learned...boneless frozen meat (chicken breasts, pork chops, roast, etc.) plus 1 cup of water and seasoning of your choice = yum.  I have not made one combination yet that I haven't liked.  Some of my faves are chicken & taco seasoning to make quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, or taco salad; chicken with garlic salt & seasoning salt - remove from crockpot & shred, add bbq sauce for sandwiches; roast with beef stew seasoning. I don't do a lot of chopping, braising, browning, or anything else for my crockpot recipes.  Mostly open & dump :)
The first recipe is one that freezes well - just omit the baking at the end if you'd like to prepare ahead and freeze.  It makes a LOT so unless you have big eaters or a giant family you can make 1 batch & split it into two 8x8 pans.
Pizza Casserole
1 lb. ground chuck
1 26 oz jar spaghetti sauce
1 cup elbow noodles (uncooked)
2 - 8 oz bags shredded mozzarella
50 pepperoni slices

Cook elbow noodles as directed on package. Brown the ground chuck and drain off the grease. Mix together the cooked elbow noodles, ground chuck, and spaghetti sauce. Put half of the mixture in a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with cooking spray. Top with one of the 8 oz bags of cheese and half of the pepperoni. Then, put the other half of the mixture over the previous layer. Top with the other 8 oz bag of cheese and remaining pepperoni. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

This is delicious! Very filling, makes a lot, and re-heats well. It reminds me of lasagna and pizza at the same time :)

The second recipe is a perfect one for a cool evening - my son LOVES this one.  It tastes just like the chicken tortilla soup at Max & Erma's.  You don't make it in the crockpot, but since I shared all of my meat cooking secrets above, I thought that was ok :)
Tortilla Soup
1 can nacho cheese soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can enchilada sauce (mild)
1 soup can full of milk

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, whisk until smooth, heat until warm. Add more chicken if desired (Owen doesn't like chunks, so I don't!). Serve with sour cream & tortilla chips.

I told you - easy! Truly, just open & dump. I usually serve it with a cheese quesadilla, or a salad of some sort. It also reheats well.

I can't wait to read some of the other recipes in the Linky! I love my stand-by's, but it is always nice to add in some long as the recipes are easy! Head on over to Clutter Free Classroom and link up!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Favorite Children's Author Linky Party

Once again, I am linking up with Clutter Free Classroom for a Linky Party!
Clutter-Free Classroom
Today's writing assignment is: Open Response
Respond to this prompt in a complete sentence. Who is your favorite children’s author? Add details to support your answer.
So, yesterday I wrote about my favorite illustrator(s) - I broke the rules and chose two instead of just one :)  Today's assignment is even, I am going to cheat again big time and do my top 5!  I really don't think there is an early elementary teacher who can choose *just one* favorite author.  So, here goes!
5.  Barbara Park
I know Junie B. is sassy.  I know she says "bad" words like stupid and dumb bunny.  But, I still love the Junie B. books by Barbara Park, and so do my students.  Every year I read at least some of the books, and some years I have read the whole series to my students.  She always inspires students to want to read, which is what is important!  There are very few books that can make me laugh out loud during a read-aloud - Junie B. is one of those books.
4.  Mo Willems
Mo could have (and should have!) made it onto my favorite illustrator post as well, but I was trying to follow the rules and only choose 2 illustrators.  So, it is only fair that I include him on my favorite author post!  I love his books for my classroom, as well as for my little one here at home.  This is a BIG favorite at our house:
His books are deceptively simple, but so entertaining and fun for kids of all ages.  We also love the Pigeon books, and the Elephant and Piggie series.  You can't go wrong with a Mo Willems book!
3.  Eric Carle
No list of children's book authors (or illustrators!) would be complete without Eric Carle.  His books are beautiful, simple, and always a class favorite.  I love that he writes about a wide variety of subjects and topics within his books - other than The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I think my favorite might be this one:
Or, this one...
2.  James Marshall
James Marshall is both a talented author and illustrator.  His George and Martha series was one of my very favorites as a child, and I love to read it to my students as well.  The short, sweet little stories seem like they could be written by children, and it really inspires students to try their hand at reading and writing "chapter books."
Another thing I love about James Marshall is that he writes and illustrates such a wide variety of books.  The Miss Nelson books, The Stupids, fairy tales - he does it all.  I love his humor and the detail he puts into his work.  
1.  Laura Numeroff
Who does NOT love the "If You Give a" series?!?  It all started with the little mouse, and has grown to include a pig, moose, cat, and coming soon - a dog!  Those books might be her best known series, but I also love her "What ________ Do Best" series, as well as some of her lesser known books such as "The Chicken Sisters" and "Dogs Don't Wear Sneakers."
This book comes out October 4th!  I can't wait.

So there it is - five of my favorite children's book authors.  I was going to say my top 5, but then I kept thinking of more and more authors as I was making this list (Kevin Henkes, Dr. Seuss, Mercer Mayer, H.A. Rey...).  For the sake of those reading this, I'll stop here.  I can't wait to see the authors that others choose as their favorites!  Who are some of your favorite children's authors?  Feel free to share - I'm always looking for new authors to add to my classroom library :)  And don't forget to link up with Clutter Free Classroom to share!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Favorite Picture Book Linky

I'm linking up with Clutter Free Classroom for a series of Linky parties!

Clutter-Free Classroom
Today's writing assignment is: Personal Narrative
Complete this sentence, “Based on the illustrations alone, my favorite picture book is _________.” Use photos or additional sentences to support your choice.

I love that she's giving us summer writing prompts!  It definitely helps when my brain is too hot to think of anything on my own :)
Although, this prompt is pretty tricky.  As a first grade teacher I LOVE picture books, and I am a fan of many illustrators as well.  I am going to be a cheater and share my two favorite books!
The first one is Owl Babies:
The illustrations in this book are adorable, and different from many other books because it is set at night - the background of all of the pages is black.  I remember my Mom reading this book to my younger siblings, and I just had to have it for my classroom.  It helps that the story is just precious too.  Here's another example of the beautiful illustrations inside the book:
Since I am being a cheater, here is my other favorite author/illustrator...those of you who know me at all will immediately know why I chose this book!

My own little sweet pea is named after this book!  And the funniest thing is, he has a blanket just like the Owen in the story.
How could you not love that face?  I love all of the Kevin Henkes books, but obviously "Owen" holds a special place in my heart.  The story is amazing, and I love how he includes speech comments from the characters.  Here's one of my favorite illustrations of the other Owen:
Just precious.  The students in my class always love hearing this story after they learn that my Owen's name was inspired by this book!  And of course, I read it often to my own Owen.
I am excited to read all of the posts on this Linky and hopefully add some great picture books to my classroom library!  Head on over to Clutter Free Classroom and join the fun!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Arr! Pirate Locker Tags

Ok, I have to admit I am a little nervous.  This is my first attempt at sharing anything that I've made.  I'm so inspired by all of the great bloggers out there, that I feel like I should try to "give back" and share something as well!
For the past few years, I have had a sailing theme in my classroom - with calming blues and nautical accents.  I love it, but I usually can only have the same theme for a year or two before I start getting restless.  So...I decided to turn sailing into pirates!  That way many of the fabrics and accents I have will work, and I can just add to the overall theme.  Plus, some of the pirate things out right now are so cute!  You can see a photo from 2 years ago below...
I'm thinking with a few pirate accents, some cute clip art and fabric, I'll be able to transform sailing into pirate with no problems.  I recently downloaded some adorable pirate clip art (Yo Ho Ho) from Just So Scrappy.  They have some great deals and amazing freebies, you should definitely check their site out!  I decided to attempt my own locker tags - I plan to fill in student names once class lists are finalized using a cute font (like smiley monster by Kevin & Amanda) or using my best "pirate" handwriting.  The frame area for the names *may* be a little small, I will have to see once I start adding the names.
Locker Tags
Please feel free to leave comments or feedback!  I appreciate any comments I receive :)  Also, if you like or download the locker tags, please consider following me - more goodies are coming, I promise!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Classroom Library Linky Party!

I am linking up with The Sweet Life of Third Grade for a classroom library linky party!  Before posting my pictures, I have a confession...I am addicted to books.  I have a GIANT library and I base my room arrangement around showcasing/utilizing it.  I love having our classroom gathering area surrounded by the low bookshelves filled with books!  I am a little nervous this year because I am getting a SMART board (yay!) but will be moving our gathering area so that the SMART board is also a focus.  I'm hoping our books can still surround us...
Here is a picture of our overall gathering area/library:
The white baskets on the top of the shelves are from Big Lots.  The blue crates on the bottom are from Wal-Mart, and so are the shelves.  The shelves are the 4 shelf plastic units, but instead of putting them all the way together I only assembled them to have 2 shelves.  This is the perfect height for first graders, they are easy to clean, light enough to move, and fit just about anywhere!  Plus, they were relatively cheap :) 
I have so many books that I only allow students to choose from the white baskets, and then I switch the books out several times during the year (seasons, holidays, themes, etc.).  Each white basket has a label on the front telling what type of books are in the basket, along with a sticker dot.  Then, each book in the basket has a corresponding sticker dot so students know where to put the books away.  I also leveled each book in my library using Fountas & Pinnell leveling, so students can select books that are appropriate for their reading levels.  It was a LOT of work, but so worth it.  I use the Daily 5, and it is so helpful for students when they are filling their book boxes.
Here is another shot of our library:

You can kind of see the labels in this picture.  You can also see the writing area (green shelf) with its basket of pictionaries and other writing books. 
Behind the curtain, I kept my calendar wall.  Our school is an HET school (Highly Effective Teaching) and we are encouraged to cover our calendar & other "distracting" items when they are not being used.  I liked the way the curtain looked closed, but I have to admit that I rarely closed it!

This coming year I will be using the SMART board for calendar, so this area can be used for something else - possibly our "Where in the World?" current events map, or the word wall.  It would be nice to be able to cover the words for spelling tests!
I hope viewing my library gives you some ideas - I LOVE getting to peek at others' classrooms!  If you like what you see, follow my blog!  I am working on some great SMART board activities and beginning of the year fun that I will be posting soon :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Learning fun with Owen

This summer I have linked up with one of my favorite blogs - Teach Mama - and I am participating in the Smart Summer Challenge.  This challenge focuses on the importance of parents as their child's first teacher, and also emphasizes how necessary and easy it is to sneak a little learning in each and every day.
Last summer, Owen was all about any learning activity I would set up for him.  We would "play school" and he loved it.  This summer, he's a little trickier to entice.  Being 4 years old, he has MANY opinions of his own, and doing "learning time" with Mom is not cool and not fun.  So I have had to be even sneakier with my teaching moments and learning activities.
Yesterday was hot and humid, so we had a lot of time indoors.  While Owen was playing with his Legos, I snuck off to the kitchen and taped 9 letter cards all around in random places (the refrigerator, chairs, drawers, etc.). 

A Q is hiding on a kitchen drawer...

An R is on our refrigerator door!
Then I set up the challenge - I told Owen that he was going on a scavenger hunt to find 9 letters in the kitchen.  He of course was excited, because he loves to look for hidden things (we are STILL playing "egg hunt" in our house with plastic Easter eggs!).  I gave him one of my steno notebooks with 9 simple boxes drawn on it, and told him it was his job to write a different hidden letter in each box as he found them.  He LOVED this activity so much that I ended up hiding the letters three more times!

Here is Owen's completed recording sheet.  I love his handwriting :)
When he finished, I asked him which letters he had found, and he read them off of the sheet to me.  I just *happened* to choose some letters that he occasionally forgets or mixes up.  When we were finished, he moved back to his Legos, and that was it.  I am thrilled that I found an activity that he enjoyed and that added a little letter practice to his day!
If the Smart Summer Challenge sounds interesting to you, head on over to Teach Mama and check it out - you won't be disappointed!  Feel free to leave a comment or share a sneaky learning activity of your own!


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