Monday, December 30, 2013

Rejuvenate Your Room: Turning Over a New Leaf

This break has been SO needed, both personally and professionally. It's frustrating when I hear how "easy" it must be to be a teacher, because we all know that isn't true. We earned this break! As much as I needed this break for personal reasons, all of us teachers know this isn't a complete "break"--meaning, we still spend a lot of time thinking about our classroom, kiddos, and the like. This, my friends, is what makes us teachers---amazing teachers, at that!

Time to turn over a new leaf, my teacher pals! Thumbs up if you've been thinking about some classroom structures that need rejuvenation. Oh, you have? Me too! But, let's be honest--who really has time for a classroom upheaval mid-year? Not this girl! 

Since we teachers are helpers, my friends and I put our heads together to find a way to help fellow teachers during this mid-year slump. May I present to you, a classroom management makeover! These items will help you make an effortless, easy, seamless transition into the new year for you and your littles: 

Before you run and hide at the thought of classroom stuff, you HAVE to check out this pain-free and pocket-friendly solution!! I am so excited about this bundle because it includes new management techniques, behavior interventions, decor, forms, and all sorts of other organizational must haves!  It's only $10.99 and includes over 600 pages of items that can be quickly and easily implemented when you return to your classroom! I, personally, can't wait to get moving on these bad boys!

One of the things I feel have really helped to smooth my classroom routine is an attendance check-in binder. The kids sign in every day using a "password" or "question" that pertains to our unit of study. Every morning, once my students put their belongings away, they head to the back desk to pick up their Early Bird (morning work) and sign in. Sometimes, the sign-in requires a sight word to be copied next to their name. Other days, the sign-in requires a question to be answered; for example, "what is 2+7?" 

I LOVE this method, as it is an easy check-in method for me, since we log attendance every day via our computer system. This binder MUCH quicker than an oral role call and I love it! To account for human error, I also employ an "attendance helper" as one of my classroom jobs. I have a fantastic classroom job chart courtesy of Tale of 2 K Teachers that includes attendance helper. Following announcements, this student circulates around the table groups and reports back to me about any missing students. A quick cross-reference to the attendance binder lets me know who is not with us on any given day! Error proof and easy :) 

But this is just one product from the bundle.  There are 14 others!  Here's a quick peek, but you can surely click on an image to read about each one!

It's only for a limited time, so you won't want to miss out!  

I don't know about you all, but when I get this down time I really like to catch up on work things!  So much easier to do now when I can give up an hour here or there than staying an extra hour after work.  Not to mention the mental exhaustion!  

Here's to a smooth, stress-free transition and hoping you all enjoy the rest of your holiday!

Leave a comment below about one thing you want to change in your classroom and be entered to win one additional product from the listed participating stores!  {Oh, and you can pin something too for an extra entry!}

Erin :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

On the 7th Day of Christmas...

On the 7th day of Christmas, The Watering Hole gave to me:

But first, here's my answer to the 12 Holiday Questions:

1. What's your favorite Holiday song?

This is a tough one, but I'm going to have to go with Silent Night. On a serious note, it is such a beautiful song, and I have fond memories caroling when I was younger.  On a not so serious note, it reminds me of our Christmas Eve service at church every year. My brother Colin never fails to disappoint, as he dresses to the nines for the service and always sings in a high falsetto voice during the candle-lit version of Silent Night. We take turns every year sitting next to him, as it is a major exercise in self-control.

2. What's your favorite holiday memory?

Funny story. I was the oldest of four kids, so I believed in Santa WAY longer than is normally acceptable. My 5th grade (!!) teacher spilled the beans, and it took me a few days to process before I admitted the faux pas (and my new-found disbelief) to my parents. One night, I told my dad we needed to "talk," and, based on my expression, he ushered my into the living room behind closed doors. I very seriously told him, "I don't believe in Santa anymore." With a huge sigh, my dad said, "Phew! I thought you were going to tell me you were pregnant." Funny guy, that Bret Bevis is.

3. What's your favorite holiday indulgence?

Appetizers! Every year on Christmas Eve, we feast on appetizers before we open presents. Mozzarella sticks, spinach dip, shrimp cocktail, cheese & crackers--you name it, it's there! Mmmmm, I can't wait! Bring it on, calories!

4. What's your favorite holiday food?

I could say "see above," but in the interest of redundancy, I will say that my favorite holiday food is the peppermint ice cream that hits the shelves every December. I couldn't eat it it all year round, as it would lose its charm, but it definitely holds a special spot in my freezer (and my heart!) every holiday season. Stuff is DELISH.

5. What's your favorite holiday craft?

Funny you ask! I am up to my elbows in Pinterest crafts for gifts. I can't reveal them just yet, but I do highly encourage you to check out Pinterest when in need of gifts. It is my FAVORITE! For student holiday projects, please see #9 :)

6. What's your favorite holiday tradition?
Oh gosh. This is a toughie! There are a ton to choose from, and this one might seem insignificant, but this really is a special one for me. Every day after Christmas, my mom and I go to Pat Catan's (craft store, for you non-north-easterners) and load up on clearance Christmas items. I'm all about sales, but I'm even more about my mom, and we just have a b-l-a-s-t. Lots of hemming and hawing ("Do I really NEED this?") and just a great time overall. For those of you who aren't privileged enough to know Pat Catan's----I'm sorry. I am so, so sorry.

7. What's your favorite holiday movie?

Does Home Alone count? I can't get enough of this movie, and look forward to its return every holiday season. There's something about the way Kevin McAllister eats cheese pizza, applies aftershave, and defeats criminals that just gets me every time. Keep the change, ya filthy animal!

8. What do you get your class for a holiday gift?

Honestly, I change this one up every year depending on my kiddos. One year, I created personalized bookmarks based on their interests. This year, my class is obsessed with this plastic pointer we use for big books, so I'm thinking a trip to the Dollar Tree is in order so I can wipe out their entire selection. Easy and fun!

9. What's your favorite holiday thing to teach?

Christmas Around the World! I have my own 1st grade teacher to thank for this. Mrs. Gerard helped us make the CUTEST wreaths featuring all of the holidays we learned about. They were so wonderful, in fact, that my mom still hangs mine every year and to this day, it is my favorite Christmas decoration :)

10. What's your favorite holiday book?
As cliche as it sounds, I love How the Grinch Stole Christmas. To be totally honest, I am SO not a fan of Dr. Seuss books for read-aloud purposes, as they are very word-heavy and confusing and LONG. Phonetically, they are great. With that being said, I love, love, love the Grinch for its message it sends. One of my favorite reading/DRA-related themes to teach is the author's message, and this book is amazing from so many angles, even if your little ones don't celebrate Christmas!

11. What's your favorite holiday product?

I'm loving my monthly interactive poetry notebooks this year, and the December notebook is no exception! I love writing poetry, so not only is it a creative outlet for me, but it also is fun for the kids! I love the combination of poetry, task cards, and activities for each poem.

12. What do you want Santa to bring you this year?

TPT gift cards, of course! This is not just a plug, it is the truth. For proof, here is the Christmas list I sent to my mom:
I just realized how teacher-heavy my list is! On that note, (ahem, Santa!!) another snow day or two wouldn't hurt, either ;)

And now for the giveaway...enter below for a chance to win my best-selling Guided Reading Gurus Fiction & Non-fiction packs!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In the spirit of Christmas I have also included a freebie just for you! Click the image below to get my Doubles Fact Puzzles:

If you haven't checked out the previous giveaways make sure you go enter to win: Simply Kinder, Melonheadz, A Tale of 2 K Teachers, Clever Classroom, and Smedley's Smorgasboard of Kindergarten!

Don't forget to come back on day 14 for a chance to win EVERYTHING in the giveaways hosted by all of my lovely blogging friends!

Happy Holidays!

Erin :)


Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's Here...13 Days of Christmas Extravaganza!

Get ready for the 12 13 Days of Christmas Giveaway brought to you by.....
13 Amazing Bloggers!

So here's how this is going to work...

Everyday, a new blogger is going to post a blog entry about their giveaway AND a FREEBIE just for you!

They are also going to answer 12 fun questions about their holiday favorites - feel free to ask your own questions in the comments.

Then, they will give you directions on how to enter their own giveaway!

But that's not all...on day 14 there will be an opportunity to win ALL of the previous 13 days' prizes in one big giveaway! How exciting!!!

ALL WINNERS will be announced on day 15!

Get excited because this is going to be one great giveaway frenzy!

To give you a heads up, make sure to head on over to Simply Kinder tomorrow where all of the fun begins!

Happy Sunday, have a great week!

Erin :)


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Letter Larry

Writing letters is a huge staple in our first grade classroom, not to mention one of the most FUN activities we do! This year, I have really focused on upping the fun factor in my classroom--not to say it hasn't ALWAYS been fun ;). I am really into creating songs and characters to help ingrain skills in my students. One of my favorite ideas so far this year is a close friend of this guy--remember him? Well shortly after Sam came to play, we had the pleasure of meeting Letter Larry:

Larry is a letter carrier by day, and a letter-writing guru by night. He is SO into letters, in fact, that he dons a special letter outfit every day to remind us how to write the perfect letter.

Introducing the students to letter-writing was a multi-step process. First, we talked about reasons we can write letters (to say "thank you," to ask a question, etc.). Then, we talked about who we can write letters to. This was so much fun! First, we made a class list of people in and out of school to whom we can write.

Then, the students created their own address books. They wrote the names of other students in the building and the names of their teachers. This got them so pumped to start writing! Click below for a free copy of the address book we used:

You will have to copy these lovelies back-to-back and do a little finagling to get them in the right order. It's so worth it! My kids keep these books in their year-round writing folders and often use them in our newly-anointed letter-writing station. It's a hit!

Perhaps my FAVORITE part of our Letter Larry unit is the song I created to teach the parts of a letter. 

And there you have it, folks. As much as I LOVE sharing my singing with the world (please, sense the sarcasm here), what I really wanted to do was post a video of my kiddos singing. However, it would infringe on their privacy and the sound quality wasn't the best with 22 voices at once. We also incorporated Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes movements that correspond to our head, neck, body, and both feet that showcase each part of the letter (see Letter Larry for reference). It is a blast, and they LOVE to try doing it as fast as possible. Great fun for them, an even greater workout for me ;)

Similar to Star Sentence Sam, we also use a rubric when we write letters. It looks like this:

Click on the rubric to grab your free copy!

It is definitely text-heavy, but the visual aspect of it (the side-by-side sample letter) seems to work well with all levels of learners in my classroom. I love examples!

A sweet story to share--for those of you who do not know, my husband is a third grade teacher in the very same school (how that came to be is a story for later). One of my little boys wrote Mr. Waters a letter, and later in the day, we had a surprise visitor from this handsome postman--
who looked suspiciously like my sweet husband ;) In any case, the kids got a huge kick out of his giant "mail bag" (AKA the recess equipment) and my little letter-writer got a very special delivery---a response from Mr. Waters! The look on his face was priceless :) Up until now, the kids were thrilled to be writing letters, but when they realized that a letter could also warrant a response----they went WILD with the letter writing. Thank goodness for a good postman ;)

If you love the idea of Letter Larry, head on over to my TPT store where I have a full Letter Larry pack that includes a fill-in mini-book about writing letters, various letter-writing templates, and much more! Also, be sure to check back later to find out what happened when Sam & Larry teamed up and sent our classroom on quite the letter and sentence adventure!

Thanks for visiting this little blog--I hope you stop by again soon!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Currently... is December 1st, which means another link-up with Farley! Check out my current musings via her fabulous "Currently" link-up image:
Also, speaking of December, just a reminder to visit the TPT sale tomorrow and Tuesday (12/2 and 12/3!) to load up on some SUPER sales. TPT will be giving 10% off with the code CYBER and I will be adding an extra 20% off to all of the items in my store. I highly suggest you check out two of my most favorite items:

Happy shopping, friends! 

Erin :)


Friday, November 29, 2013

Fresh Baked Fractions: A Sweet Math Treat!

Teaching fractions--to first graders?! You heard me correctly. I am always up for a challenge, so when fractions were added to our teaching standards a couple of years ago, I knew I had to get the creative juices flowing. As it turns out, the kids fall in LOVE with fractions every year. I have a sneaking suspicion that the correlation between fractions and many fraction-able foods is no small coincidence--let's take a look at one of many fraction treats we enjoy in the classroom:

For this activity, you will need soft-baked chocolate chip cookies (or another cookie of your choosing--but soft-baked works best for easy cutting!), plastic knives for each student, and an appetite for cookies--lots and lots of cookies! Okay, in reality, each student received two. But since you're the teacher, feel free to take as many as you would like ;)

There are many different activities you can do with cookies and fractions but on this specific day, we munched and matched using this sheet, which is part of my Fresh Baked Fractions pack:
We started by cutting the most simple of fractions. First, we cut our cookies into halves:
As we cut, we matched the picture to the fraction on our page. We discovered that by cutting the cookie in half AGAIN, we magically created fourths! Each time we cut a fraction, we matched it on the page. Once we cut fourths, we moved onto our new cookie to dive into a more tricky task---cutting thirds. 
This photo captures the valiant effort of one of my kiddos. Sometimes, it's tough being in first grade! Once one of my little "smart cookies" pointed out that the cookie cut into thirds resembled a peace sign, it became a bit easier for us. Then came...sixths. Now, sixths are not included in the first grade standards but since we had already cut thirds, we thought, "Why the heck not?" and agreed to cut this "challenge fraction" verryyyy carefully. It became a bit crumbly, but we did it!

Then came the fun part--eating! The kids gobbled up those cookies faster than you could say "fractions." All in all, a fun, fantastic activity. But then again, when food is involved, how can it NOT be fun? What fraction activities do you do in your room? I'd love to hear about them!

If you'd like more cookie fraction activities (write the room, pocket chart math, and MORE!), check out my Fresh Baked Fractions pack in my TPT store

Thanks so much for stopping by! Now, go get yourself some cookies and a glass of milk---I know you want some ;)

Erin :)


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Exciting News :)

Are you a K-2 teacher or parent looking for a lot of resources you can use all year round? Look no further! This week, I have teamed up with some AMAZING ladies to offer you a bundle of teaching products that truly can't be beat in price or quality.

I am SO very excited to be a part of the bundle with Educents!  In this pack, you will get 982 pages at a 74% discount!! 

I know you will love my Mega Puzzles Pack featuring 170 pages of math & literacy themed jigsaw puzzles. That's 700 puzzles total!


There are many other products in our bundle to get your kids learning!  
Centers, printables, vocabulary, book studies, interactive notebooks, and so much more!

For other great products and resources, hop on over to A Tale of Two K Teachers, where my good friend and colleague Christina shares tons of great ideas and freebies--you won't be disappointed!

A Tale of Two K Teachers

But that's not all!   Since you are on my blog I would like to give you a chance to win something extra for free!  Check out the Rafflecopter at the bottom of my page to see how to win ANY product from my TPT store of your choosing! Good luck!

The deal won't last long so head over now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 18, 2013

Meet Star Sentence Sam

Hands down, my favorite thing to teach in 1st grade is reading and writing. Perhaps this is because I enjoy it so much personally, but there also is such an abundance of ways to make reading and writing fun for the little ones!
One of my new favorite things is to create anchor charts. I've always used anchor charts, but I've really beefed up my creation of them this year. Today, I'm introducing you to one of my favorite anchor charts/characters in our classroom. Meet....

Star Sentence Sam!
In our classroom, a star sentence is a sentence that includes a capital letter at the beginning, spaces in between words, and a period at the end. I have also just introduced the expectation that word wall words are spelled correctly.
This guy has been SO super helpful in assisting my students with their sentence structure. Every so often, we will review the story of Sam (as outlined on the anchor chart). I have also created a mini-book that students fill in to tell the story of Star Sentence Sam. This helps to reinforce the expectation that students will begin their sentences with a capital letter, include spaces in between words, and end the sentence with a period. As simple as it may sound, this is truly a skill that takes all year for students to independently develop. Hopefully Sam will speed that up a bit! In addition to Sam, we keep this visual reminder up all year round by our writing center:

We also use this rubric while writing sentences. There is a larger version on chart paper that I use when we do shared writing. This little guy also appears in laminated form inside the students' writing folders. This way, they can reuse it all year round to check their writing:

Click on the image to get it yourself!

We also have implemented an incentive program to encourage "star sentences." 3-4 days out of the week, our morning work is a "Star Sentence Prompt," which is, essentially, a question or prompt that students answer by writing 1-3 sentences. At least once a week, I will randomly check the work for star sentences. Students who have created star sentences receive a star sticker on their desk name tags. Once a certain number of sticker are earned, they will win a larger star badge for their desk and also a small prize. Click on the image below to grab your own Star Sentence Prompt:
I like these prompts because they also reinforce supporting your ideas with reasons. In our class, we ALWAYS are asking "Why?" It helps a lot with the students' reading comprehension, particularly with skills measured by the DRA. Not to mention it is a valuable life skill :)

I hope you enjoyed meeting Star Sentence Sam! If you would like to view my entire Star Sentence Sam pack, you can view it here.

Erin :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Grateful for Giveaways! 100 TPT Followers

Hello, my beautiful readers! After three months of hard work, I've reached a very important milestone--100 followers on Teachers Pay Teachers! While it might seem like peanuts to some of the bigger sellers, the past 3 months have been so exciting and I've loved every minute of it! To celebrate this momentous occasion, I will be hosting a giveaway on the ole blog. Up for grabs are 20 AMAZING ITEMS that can be yours--for free! Please check out the items and follow the Rafflecopter at the bottom. The giveaway will start at midnight on 11/16, in a couple hours! You have an entire week to enter! Best of luck :)

1. Mega-Pack of Jigsaw Puzzles (Over 700 Math & Literacy Puzzles--18 concepts covered!)

2. Winner's Choice from The Beach Teacher

3. A Little Sugar, A Lot of Spice: Math & Literacy Stations from Christina Mauro of A Tale of 2 K Teachers

4. Dolch Sight Words & Word Wall Headers by Teresa Tretbar

5. Winner's Choice by Carol Borough

6. Santa Tally Marks Matching Game by Marcia Murphy

7. Kevin Henkes Author Study by Carol Mercier

8. Winner's Choice by Mama Pearson (up to $5.00)

9. Reindeer Games by Katie Roltgen

10. Time Savers for Literacy Centers by Elina

11. Thanksgiving Sentence Scramble by Jennifer James

12. Reward Coupons by Monica from Fourth Grade Frenzy

13. Phonological Awareness Bundle by Melissa Moran

14. Number Sense Pocket Chart Pieces, Centers, & Posters by Christine Maxwell

15. Kindergarten November Centers by Kate Ruffolo

16. Sight Word Practice by Ivy Taul

17. Cause & Effect Practice by Kalena Baker

18. Fall Math & Literacy Centers by Kelly Burlinski

19.Magazine Scavenger Hunt Activities by Virginia Conrad

20. Synonyms Matching Game, Poster, & Bulletin Board Set by Melissa Michael

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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