Friday, November 16, 2012

This week:"Who's new at the Critter Cafe?"

Do you, CAFE?  If so, get ready for some excitement!
For the past 50 days or so, I have been pumpin' iron (insert laugh) and building my teaching stamina with the launch of our new Critter Cafe in first grade. My friends, I absolutely ADORE this approach to CAFE.  Why?  I've had 50 days and seen measurable growth as my little firsties make faster, stronger, more meaningful connections (compared to last year's group with no beanies).  Linking strategies to beanies and beanies to strategies has been around awhile but, I needed more! So I expanded and created more critters to cover all 38 strategies on the menu!  From this point on, I hope to write a weekly post that gives you an up-close look at How the Critters Work at the Cafe' and what anchor activities we're using to connect our learning with these awesome beanie critters! 

We did make ONE change to the Critter Cafe menu board- 
It did look like this---

Then this week, as I transitioned students from declaring personal reading goals from notebooks to the board, the kids were having an extremely difficult time reaching the height of the headers.  (insert sad face.)  So, I  swiftly changed the board around to work more efficiently for the kiddos!  So here it what the Cafe menu looks like now!


Here you see a student declaring his Comprehension goal for the week and pinning his monkey tracker to the corresponding header.

Student #2 declaring her Accuracy goal for the week.
I laminated these cute monkeys and with our student numbering system already in place, students will pin their monkey tracker on the menu board to remind them of what reading strategy to practice during the week.  

Who's new at the Critter Cafe this week?  
LIPS FISH and Purpose Pig

Day 1-launch new critter inside the Mystery Critter Box and make predictions!

Introduce Purpose Pig and what she can do when she reads with our strategy poster.

Choose a student to write the strategy card and add to Menu Board. 

Our focus story this week revolved around FISH so we read informational and fictional stories to determine the author's purpose.   Purpose Pig wanted us to know that understanding the author's purpose can be as easy as PIE!  Great week for strategy learning! 

 If you just can't wait until then, please hop on over to Mrs. Bartel's School Family and visit my new teaching friend Alyce!  She just posted about her wonderful week using C.C. Cow from the Critter Cafe!  Click here to read all about it.

If you are interested in the Critter Cafe, email me!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Teaching Tip Linky Party

Back to Back Linky Parties!  WooHoo!  Today I am following Miss Kindergarten's Teaching Tip Linky and have a few suggestions that you might find useful! 

1.  All things WHOLE BRAIN TEACHING!  I have my treasured You Tube videos on an earlier post (click HERE) and I still watch them frequently to refresh my approach and add a little extra Classity Class to my day!  WBT has really made a difference in my students behavior and expectations and I am so grateful for that this year! There is still so much I want to spread throughout my day, but just the Class Rules and 10-finger WOOHOO gestures really motivate my kiddos!  I am inspired by the teaching resources available at Third Grade Thoughts and she had a great post recently about connecting WBT to CAFE strategies!  I completely agree with that and since starting our First Grade Critter CAFE this year, students are making actions & gestures with their hands to connect each beanie critter with strategy learning.  We love it and it really does help build stamina with new concepts!  (I want to post more on this very soon!)  In the meantime, follow this link to join the Whole Brain Teaching website stocked full of freebies to all its members!

2.  Meaningful Morning Meetings are so important and can make or break your day in first grade.   Currently, I start morning meeting very quietly, with CHIMES to signal the gathering.  (I might also add that CHIMES are the favorite transitional signal in my classroom!  My kiddos can't move without them!)  Our Celebrity of the Week then leads the teaching of Class Rules, then we have our morning announcements (message).  I have incorporated our Essential Questions for the day into our message. We gather whole group on the carpet for our meeting.  With 26 students, we are packed on the floor so change is in the air!   I am re-structuring my meeting time beginning mid-December to include a CIRCLE of FRIENDS and more involvement with a quick character-building exercise each day!  I'll be sure to share that with you when it's ready!

3.  PARENT Helpers for EVERYTHING!  Feel less like a secretary and more like a teacher again!  On open house night, I have those parents interested in volunteering stay after a bit and introduce them to their new roles as my Parent Helper.  I walk them through the job and they stick with that one job for the entire year.  Some jobs are weekly, monthly, and as needed.
Currently, I have weekly helpers for copying, checking sight word lists, and one-minute fluency checks.  
I have one helper that comes in every-other week to make books, staple, laminate, and cut the lamination!
I have another helper that visits to dust and sanitize EVERYTHING once a month!  Let me just say that I ADORE my parent volunteers!

These are practical suggestions but extremely important to running a successful and sane classroom!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let's Talk Turkey Linky Party


My Rowdy in First Grade friend  reminded me to join Gina at Beach, Sand and Lesson Plans who is hosting a "Let's Talk Turkey Linky Party!"  How could I possibly pass this up?  Let me share just a few of my favorites, old and new, for the grand finale week before Thanksgiving!

1.  My favorite Anchor texts:  
       Of course, I couldn't pick just one...or two.  In first grade, we do
     a table full of good books! YAY!  I would definitely suggest
      "The First Strawberries" if your looking for something sweet to 
     add to your collection! 

2.  Scholastic Weekly Reader:  
     I love my weekly Scholastic News!  One of my favorite ways to 
     incorporate informational texts each week!  The included lesson
     plan has CCSS laid out, great comprehension activities, and the
     kids' favorite-- Interactive Website Edition. YAY!

3.  Cross-Curricular Activities:
Tunstall's Teaching Tibits was so gracious this Thanksgiving!
She has this AMAZING freebie to offer us! Click here to check out her awesome post on Thanksgiving!
From this packet, my class will be doing the story books, Needs and Wants, and the I Am Thankful writing activity.

Can't wait to try Rikki's Roll a Turkey next week!  My kids LOVE dice games!  Thanks Rikki for a fantastic freebie!
Teach123 has another fantastic freebie called Thanksgiving Fun.  My kids will have so much fun, thank you!

How stinkin' cute are these Turkeys?
I can't image all the fun turkey ideas my kids
will have making this project!
 Thank you KindergartenMonkeyBusiness for a stellar art project!

4.  Note of Thanks:
     I always like to send a little note home with the kids telling them
     how very much I appreciate thier effort, kindness, and courage 
     to take new risks in first grade.  I hit the jackpot this year with 
     these adorable thank you notes, free from Erica Bohrer.  Much 
     love Erica for such sweet notes!  My kids are sure to love them!

Thank you for stopping by and hopefully you found something fun to add to your Turkey Day collection!

T-minus ?? to Thanksgiving break... HOORAY!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Press Rewind: Veteran's Day Keepsakes

Feeling a bit exhausted?  Me too my friends. I began to let myself go ON and ON today about how tired and over-worked I was feeling... Conferences, BLT, TBT, and scheduling nightmares..Lucky for me, my boo-hooing was short-lived as my selfishness reached it's limit pretty fast. How could I possibly complain about sleep, when somewhere out there, fighting in the dark, are the bravest, strongest, most sleep-deprived men and women, working around the clock to defend our country, keeping us safe from harm.....  I take it back.  ZERO complaints and HAPPY as a clam!  Thanks to a swift kick of compassion for others, I am suddenly experiencing a brief, second wind so let me share a special first grade tribute to our Veterans and Armed Forces!  


We gathered for a school-wide celebration on Friday, honoring local Veterans with a touching assembly.  Celebrating Veteran's Day is always bittersweet and a meaningful way to share our feelings and thoughts on the bigger things outside our little first grade world. I was so pleased to hear my little guys & gals making connections with freedom, rights, and most of all, telling me how "brave" and "heroic"they are going to be someday when they become pilots, commanders, and soldiers to protect our Red White, and Blue!  We then watched a short video clip on President Obama placing the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. That led into a thoughtful discussion of Patriotic Symbols (seen later in the video) at Arlington National Cemetery. Our Symbols pictograph included the American Flag, the Eagle crest on marquee, honor wreath, military uniform, moment of silence, tribute song.  I was lucky enough to stalk stumble upon a special giveaway from First Grade Fascination.  Rebecca so graciously shared her "Veteran's Day" Math and Literacy activities with me!  This unit is stocked full and perfect for first graders!   I am so happy to be a winner of such a great unit.  Thank you Rebecca!   

Of course we used the Pinterest-inspired solider anchor chart to get our thinking started!  We labeled the solider with proper nouns and adjectives!  

And speaking of Nouns, we did a fantastic NOUN sort which the kids absolutely LOVED!  (Thanks Jodi for this fun freebie!)

Jodi has more Veteran's day activities over at,  Fun in First Grade!

Then we wrote an Acrostic VETERAN poem during Work on Writing time.  

After that, we made our own little USA Soldiers.  



Even the Teacher grabbed her crayons and made her very own Soldier.  The kids just LOVE it when we do that!

If you would like a copy of my modest Veteran's Day Solider template, click HERE.

To Peace and Wisdom.

Happy Veteran's Day,

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Autumn Twilight"

"Fall into Autumn" with this watercolor art project!  

(Pictures are worth more than words today!)

The kids were so excited to see our exhibit in the hallway!

Materials used for this project:  Day 1-Use black sharpies to create the curly tree branches on white card stock.   

Day 2--Brush on fallish watercolors using one of the following patterns- stripes, patchwork, fog effect

Inspired by Pinterest and some fantastic GOOGLE IMAGES-

This was one of the EASIEST projects I've ever done with my little artists!  Definitely a keeper for next year!  If you would like a copy of the "Autumn Twilight" headers, click HERE.  

Have a great weekend!

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