Monday, October 31, 2011

Party Time!

As I said on Facebook earlier today - I've never had a wedding, but I imagine that this Halloween party was pretty close. By that I mean that I planned forever for it, I hardly ate anything, and it went by in a flash!!

Today was my first ever Halloween classroom party. The only time I've been in the classroom for Halloween was 3 years ago during a clinical in college, so it was a whole new world for me today! I wasn't sure how much room parent help I'd have, so I planned everything but the craft.

I ended up having two parent helpers and one grandparent helper (two of which I wasn't expecting) and so everything was incredibly under control.
We did four stations. The first one was my room parent's craft that she thought of and brought everything in for (yay!). The kids decorated oranges like pumpkins with frosting. They also put a green pipe cleaner in the top to be the stem. They loved it! And tomorrow when the frosting has dried, we will have a delicious treat!
The second station was pumpkin playdough! My kids LOVE playdough, as you may remember from the first day of school, so I thought they'd like this. I got the idea for the pumpkin version from this post at Frogs, Bees, and Under the Seas. The kids loved that it smelled like pumpkin. And they were SO EXCITED when I said that they could take home their playdough balls.
The third station was the Tricks and Treats game I got from Mrs. Bainbridge. This was another hit! One of my room parents ran this game so I did not see firsthand how well it worked but when I came around to tell everyone to switch stations, everyone leaving that station was beaming. I think it was the candy. :)

And last, we did the Jumping Like a Spider activity from The Wise and Witty Teacher. We weren't able to get through all of it (because the other stations went so fast thanks to my awesome helpers) but I think it was good for the kids to get up and jump around for a while! I found out that I have some future Olympic long jumpers in my room!!
And let me tell you about the food situation. My one room mom had been talking to me and she said that she was going to bring mostly healthy food and one treat. I said, "Great!" It was surprising to me when, this morning, I had THREE students bring in cupcakes. Three!!!!!! Way too many cupcakes, people!!! Luckily, my room mom brought tons of good food to make up for it (I hope). I just wanted to eat the whole table!!
And how about that steamy punch??? That was definitely a highlight. Yay room moms!!

One last picture - we have a set of three siblings at school, and one's in my room. They all brought super cute and creative cupcakes. Here is my student's cupcakes!

I wish I could show you all the cute costumes! I had a few Batwomen, police officers, and butterflies. I also had an AWESOME Cleopatra, complete with heavy makeup! Loved it.

So I survived my first party! And I'll definitely do party stations like that again in the future. :) How was your Halloween?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday

I have been way too tired to blog lately! Hopefully I can come back with this edition of WILW.
I'm loving that my class does funny stuff that makes me laugh all day long. They are a handful, I can't lie about that, and I need to beef up my classroom management, but they make every day manageable with the funny things they say and do,

I'm loving something specific that happened yesterday. We have a milk break in the morning every day, and so I have my daily chocolate milk (which really gets me through the morning sometimes) at 9:30. Yesterday I didn't finish my carton and apparently I set it on the corner of my desk. At the end of the day, some of the kids told me that there was milk in our Rubbermaid milk carton holder. I was like, "Who didn't finish their milk??? Milk break was like 5 hours ago!!" Then they said it was mine. ....................... Oops. But one of my very sweet girls ran the carton holder to the bathroom, scrubbed it out, and dried it for me! That really made my day because I didn't even ask her!

I'm loving that I spent time after school with my next-door neighbor classroom friend!! We had a lot of fun!

I'm loving the mummy activity I borrowed from Jenn at Finally in First. We read Where's My Mummy?, which the kids LOVED. They were beside themselves that the baby mummy was afraid of a mouse and not all of the other scary things in the forest.
Afterwards, we did the same activity that Jenn posted about. I didn't have manila paper, but I went to a going-out-of-business sale yesterday and got some textured linen colored paper that worked great!

I'm loving the traceable letters that I borrowed from the upper grade teachers!! It wasn't really that fun to cut out the letters but they look so nice!

I'm loving that my family went down to Purdue this weekend to see my brother and to watch the homecoming football game against U of I! I love my broski and it was a fun weekend.
I'm loving the pumpkin life cycle activity that I read about at Fabulous in First. Instead of making the little pocket, we made life cycle necklaces. Even my boys LOVED them. The printable life cycle was really cute.
I'm loving my ESL class this semester. My teacher is awesome! Last week, we learned about TPR in an amazing way. My teacher speaks Japanese, so she taught us a Japanese lesson using TPR so we could see how it felt to be language learners and to see if the strategy really worked. Also, my teacher teaches a 1/2 split class right now, just like me!

What I'm not loving is that I have homework for my class...... and report cards are due this week..... and conferences are next week.... and I haven't decided 100% on a costume for Halloween for my class!!!!
Oh wells. I'll make it work. :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

We Love Text Spelling

I need to take a break from checking two weeks' worth of first and second grade math papers... so I will share something fun that we did this week to practice our spelling words!

First, if you haven't heard of Teacher Tipster, you seriously are missing out. I probably could watch his videos all day... here is a little sample for you!

This week, I tried out my first Teacher Tipster tip! I saw this on someone's blog (I can't remember whose!!) and followed it back to the Printables section of the Teacher Tipster website. I printed out his Blackberry-like templates for the kids to practice their spelling words. I have a very chatty and noisy class, but you would have been amazed at the focus they had during Text Spelling this week.

If I could get them to be that engaged all day, I would just hug myself. Oh also in this picture, you can see one friend who had his phone taken away because he was whining that he didn't get the color he wanted. We don't whine in first and second grade. :)

I'm going to add this to the Word Work station of Daily Five, if I ever get around to introducing it... I really fell off the Daily Five train. Maybe I can get myself back on again!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

You Can't Say You Can't Play

We are having an issue in first and second grades.

Maybe not a major issue, but in my brain, and in the brains of my kiddos, it is pretty significant.

At least once a day, and I'm lucky if it's less than five times a day, one of my students comes up to me and says, "___________ says he's/she's not my friend." You can fill in the blank with pretty much any student, because none of them have been uninvolved in these situations. Mostly this happens after morning recess and lunch recess. And I am just at the end of my rope because I don't know what to do, other than pulling kids aside and saying, "Do you see how this person feels? Will you please play with this person outside next time?" It obviously is not working, as this continues and I continue to get more and more frustrated.

So, I decided to do a bit of reading, and over the weekend I read this little book, You Can't Say You Can't Play by Vivian Gussin Paley.
Have you read this, or heard about it? Vivian Gussin Paley was a Kindergarten teacher in the University of Chicago lab school when she wrote this book in the early 90s. She saw what I see - kids getting rejected by other kids during play time. After an incredibly long process, which she detailed heavily in the book, she and her students created the You Can't Say You Can't Play rule. It's pretty self-explanatory - if a kid asks you if he can play with you, you have to say yes.

I'm thinking this might be something that I should try out in my room because we are having some overactive tear ducts (and I feel like I'll be one of those criers soon). Do you have a policy like this in your school or classroom? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Going Postal

My students are moderately excited about our postcard exchange that will be happening this month. I don't think they really understand how SUPER AWESOME this is going to be. I think (and hope) this changes when our postcards come rolling in!

I was able to get all of my postcards for half-price (thank you, Chamber of Commerce!), and one afternoon when we had a few extra minutes, the students stamped and address-labeled the postcards. So if you're in the exchange and notice that your stamp is upside down... I promise it wasn't me, haha!
To kick off our postcard exchange, our class took a field trip to the post office. Before we left, we read two books that helped us get in the spirit. We read I Miss You Every Day and Mailing May.
I Miss You Every Day, by Simms Taback, is a cute story about a little girl that misses someone, so she packages herself up and mails herself. It gives a brief overview of the process of mailing something - from dropped it off the post office to putting in the truck, and so on. The illustrations were very cute, and we loved how the girl cut out eye holes and foot holes for herself. It was fun to find her in all of the pictures!
Mailing May, by Michael O. Tunnell, wasn't as big of a hit, but it was still a good book! This was a (mostly) nonfiction story about a girl in 1914 who wants to visit her grandma, but her parents can't afford the train ticket. Due to recent postal law changes, her parents are able to put stamps on her coat and "mail" her to her grandma's house. The pictures were lovely, the kids thought it was an awesome story, but it was a bit on the wordy side, and they didn't understand some of the vocabulary. With a little help from me, it was all good.

Then, we made an I Wonder/I Learned chart. I wanted the students to go on the trip ready to ask good questions. They also completed their own Wonder/Learned chart. Our post office is about two blocks from school, so we walked there together. We brought our postcards so we could make sure they made it into the mail!

The wonderful man at the post office was very patient with the students and answered many questions that he probably thought were crazy, such as: can girls and boys both deliver mail? What do you do with mail that you can't deliver if the address is too far away? He took us on a tour of the back area, which I thought was really interesting! I forgot to take pictures until we got outside to the lifting device, which he let the kids ride on as he lifted them up and down.
Everyone also got to sit in the mail truck!

Lastly, we officially mailed off our postcards. We took turns dropped the postcards in the slot and watching them fall into the basket. You would've thought this was the most fun thing they had ever done. They probably could have sat there all day watching mail come in!

And the post office was also nice enough to give each student a coloring book about the states! The kids were just beside themselves with excitement.

Overall, it was a great day and an awesome field trip (not only because it was free)! I definitely recommend it if you're able to go to yours. The students learned a LOT and I think it really kicked off the exchange well. :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fun with Leaves!

This week, since Columbus Day is quickly approaching, it was only right that we learned about Columbus. However, I am very hesitant to do Columbus Day read-alouds, as I have a really hard time telling the first and second graders that Columbus was a cool guy and was bffs with the Native Americans.

Scholastic News came to the rescue with one of this month's issues for first grade!
If you have a subscription, you have access to their little preview videos, which are awesome. They're about 3 minutes long and are a great hook to start that week's issue. For some reason, my kids are obsessed with them and we usually watch each one at least 3 or 4 times. Anyway, the video for this issue focused on Columbus being an explorer, and it showed examples of other explorers - underwater explorers, cave explorers, and space explorers.

This issue was a reader's theater where I played Columbus and the students were the sailors. We learned that the sailors had to sleep on the deck while Columbus slept in a bed, that they had dirty water, that they were scared, and that their trip took 71 days, which is twice the amount of time we've been in school so far!! All good and factual information. Thanks Scholastic News!

The next day, I extended on the "explorers" theme and told the kids we were going to explore the neighborhood! We are lucky enough to back up to a nice quiet neighborhood, and I love to take walks, so this went well. I asked the kids to grab at least 3 different kinds of leaves for an activity later. They ended up each grabbing like 15, which was perfect. It was a BEAUTIFUL day in the Chicago suburbs, so it worked out perfectly!
After lunch, we did a variety of activities with our new gigantic leaf collections! We counted them and ordered the numbers. Then we sorted them by a variety of attributes that the students chose. I always hear about doing open sorts with students but I never have done it. It was awesome! Most of my students worked really, really well together without fighting (which is pretty rare in my class...). The attributes they chose were: color, size, number of points, pretty and unpretty (haha), and shape.
After everything was done, we debriefed about how we worked together. I told them how SUPER PROUD I was that I didn't see a lot of fighting or crying. We talked about what worked (people took turns, they listened to each other's ideas, no one said mean things) and things we needed to work on (some people were too bossy). I really haven't had them do a lot of group things like this so I was very happy to see that they really could work together.

I forgot to say that we also did leaf rubbings! They turned out nicely and I need to hang them up soon! They tell me I don't have enough Halloween decorations in my room................ so hard to please 6-year-olds.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Birth of Math Stations

This summer, I read Math Work Stations and sort of followed along with the book study that was going on in teacher blogland.
The book was great, Debbie Diller had some sweet ideas, and I was pumped to get started. However, it didn't take long for me to figure out that stations were going to be hard to implement because of my two grade levels in one classroom. I only have 20 minutes per week with each grade level separately, so I don't really have a lot of time to teach my students the games or stations that I want to set out.

Complaints aside, I know I need to do these because I don't know another way to keep my first graders engaged in meaningful work while I'm teaching the second graders, and vice versa. So last week I bought containers from Dollar Tree to house some of my newly born stations.

Today I showed a few new stations to the second graders during my 20 minutes of just-second-grade-time! And I have them all thanks to amazing bloggers.

First, I showed them Spin and Graph, which I just won from Kelli at Castles and Crayons
In this station, the students spin a spinner 10 times and make a bar graph of the results. Then they answer a few questions about them. I found that using a paper clip as the spinner worked well for me instead of the arrow. I'll probably have to adjust this for the second graders but they loved it so far!

Then, we played Boo Bump, courtesy of Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade!
They LOVED this, I can't even tell you how much. When it was time for the first graders to come back to our room, the second graders were not happy campers. My two girls who can't do P.E. right now (broken elbow and appendix surgery?) brought the whole tub to P.E. to keep themselves occupied. I have to give a shout out to Meredith for the heads-up about the Halloween erasers in the Target Dollar Spot! They complement Boo Bump perfectly because they're flat. The kids CAN NOT get enough of this game, which will hopefully be awesome for their math skills!

And I just threw it this now-favorite so we could all have something to do, Cupcake Facts, which I downloaded from Alisha at The Bubbly Blonde.
In this game, students match the addition problem on the cupcake top to the sum on the cupcake stump (yeah Seinfeld!). Since I don't have a color printer, I printed the super cute Halloween-themed cupcakes on colored cardstock. Unfortunately.... that makes the game a lot easier, since the pinks always get matched with the pinks. Note to self - print on the same color cardstock next time, haha!

And lastly, I just wanted to give a shout out (not that he needs one...) to the amazing Mo Willems because Happy Pig Day! was just released into bookstores today!
Can't wait to read it. :)
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