Thursday, July 30, 2015

Back to School Giveaway! Don't Miss This!!

It is almost time for the hustle and bustle of a new school year to begin.  I don't know about you but I am VERY excited to meet my new little wonders.  If your like me, there are a TON of items on that TPT wishlist that you are wanting to buy before heading back into your classroom.  Would you like a little help paying for all that TPT goodness?
Well, our Firstie Friends Collaborative Group has gotten together to make your TPT dreams come true!   Our Back to School Giveaway is here to save the day!
FF Back to School Giveaway- Get it here FIRST.png

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Money Saving Tips & Tricks: Weekend Warriors: July Edition

It's that time again for our monthly Weekend Warriors Celebration!  Woo-Hoo!  As we get ready to head back to school, we are sharing some money saving tips and tricks to spice up your classroom!

Save tons of $$$ with this simple dish strainer portable device charging station!
 Use a dish draining rack as a charging station.

Teach 123 has this great download which includes this fabulous money-saving idea:
Don't write out name tags on your fancy nameplates until AFTER school begins.  Michelle suggests having a sentence strip available during Open House/Meet the Teacher night so each student can write down the name they wish to be called for the year.  Many students have nicknames that look nothing like the official name on the class roster. 
 BACK TO SCHOOL TIPS:  Most teachers will usually spend the first week going over rules, procedures, and do get-to-know activities.  Some of you may refer to this time period as Boot Camp. Today's post has tips for saving your voice, help with stress, and other tips.   #ad #BackToSchool

Keep glue-soaked sponges in plastic Cool Whip or yogurt containers as a non-messy way to distribute glue.

 Keep glue-soaked sponges in plastic Cool Whip or yogurt containers as a non-messy way to distribute glue.
Click here for source info and a VIDEO how-to!

I absolutely ADORE hands-on food activities to explore new content learning!
Invite parents to pre-cut slices of fruits and send in for projects like this!

Snacktime to teach the solar system...

Can't afford those FANCY beads?  Try this!

Instead of beads, use 1 cup of pasta, 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, and 2-3 drops food coloring.


Instead of beads, use 1 cup of pasta, 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, and 2-3 drops food coloring.

And for a little added bonus, Playdough to Plato has 15 MORE fabulous teacher tips on ways to save money in your classroom!  Click here or on the image below to check out these fab finds!
15 Genius Teacher Tips
Do you have any bargain finds and fab ideas for back to school?
Be sure to join us with your money saving tips and tricks by adding your link below.
Have a fantastic weekend friends!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Study: No More Phonics and Spelling Worksheets!

Welcome Friends!
As I begin my 14th year of teaching first grade, I already feel that I have observed the full swing of the pendulum regarding best practices in balanced literacy.  An enormous goal of mine this summer was to READ and RESEARCH ways to improve Word Study in my classroom.  More specifically, reducing long Phonics lessons and creating word study that is unique for each student in my classroom.  Phonics in particular has taken on many different forms in my classroom over the past 14 years.  I began teaching using the Four Blocks methodology by Pat Cunningham
 One fun piece of that was incorporating her Daily Systematic Sequential Phonics They Use into daily lessons.
I value the HEART that was put into creating this foundation into early literacy and decoding skills.  As the years went by, and I began refining my teaching practices, my teacher gut knew something was missing.  Students could make the words.  Students could sort the words.  Students could build bigger words.  But when it came time to for a spelling test, students were not recalling patterns and relationships of those same words we worked so hard on all week long.
The lessons were long, I was exhausted, and I was running out of ideas.  At or around teaching year #4,  I happen to catch a few sessions with Tim Rasinski and my lightbulb was flickering with hope!  Tim presented me with a fresh and fun new way of reaching MORE students with daily word study.  I began to incorporate daily phonics poetry into my lessons.
I also use Tim's Fast Start for Early Readers Program every week for homework and my parents LOVE it!  
Parents applaud Tim's  explicit parent directions so my families at home can have a similar style of "phonics language" that mirrors what I am using in the classroom.
Another HUGE favorite with the kids is Word Ladders!
Tim created this first version a few years back for Grades 1-2.
Last week, I saw that he has a new K-1 version so I grabbed it fast off of Amazon and it should be here any day!  This is perfect for the first semester in first grade!
Of course, my Word Study was getting better, but one MAJOR problem still existed.  I was still teaching a "one size fits all" model.  I know my firsties better than anyone and I became increasingly frustrated that I did not know HOW to find time to differentiate word study even further, so that each child had a selected list of words to focus on each week.  So much has changed in the last 14 years, yet my district has not implemented any new  best practices (or teaching materials) in regards to word study development.  My district however, supports me in an incredible way with allowing me the freedom to explore and try knew things!  It might come out of my own pocket, but their support is very much appreciated!
   My sweet Kinder team have already "whispered in my ear" and given me the heads up that I have an ENORMOUS range of reading levels in my new class and if that is already the case, I need to individualize and differentiate as much as possible. I began hearing that teacher voice saying YOU CAN DO THIS!
When in need, Pinterest and Amazon are my go-to departments!
I began scrolling through Amazon for professional teaching resources..... And BAM!  This little baby pops up!
With zero hesitation, I bought it because who doesn't LOVE Nell Duke, Marcia Invernizzi and Jennifer Palmer!
My advice:
Don't walk, RUN to Amazon and buy this book!
It is a FAST and EASY read.  Only 80 pages, but it is JAM-PACKED with Word Study goodness.
I felt like SHE-RA saying "I HAVE THE POWER!!!!"
This book will completely change your mind about following prescribed spelling lists!  My district level first grade team has struggled with "spelling lists" for years and hopefully we can take this new learning and create something much more meaningful.

The book begins by debunking the Factory Model of teaching spelling and phonics.  We are encouraged to STOP the assembly line and take time to think aloud.  Are we just entertaining our kids with catchy songs and chants?  Or do we have full engagement that leads to transference?  What does EACH CHILD KNOW and How can we Teach from there?
Guess what?  One Size DOES NOT Fit All and there IS a Better Way!
In section 2, the authors challenge us to LET our students SHOW US what they already know and what we should be teaching each of them.  We should embrace student diversity in Word Knowledge!  We are presented with awesome examples of student assessments which should happen the first week of school.  Once students have been assessed on what they ALREADY KNOW, the authors present ways to meet diverse needs through differentiated small group instruction.  Section 2 also debunks all the myths about English Spelling which I found to be so powerful!
I should be teaching for TRANSFER and providing teacher talk that promotes thoughtful analysis of words.

What are the Critical Principles for Word Study?
*Look for what students "use but confuse"
*A step forward is the first step backward
*Use words students can READ
*Compare words "that do" with words "that don't"
*Sort words by sound, sight, and meaning
*Begin with obvious contrasts first
*Don't hide expectations
*Avoid teaching spelling RULES
*Work for fluency and flexibility
*Link word study to reading and writing

In Section 3, Jennifer Palmer presents "What are students ready to learn?" and follows up with how using the right assessment tool can reveal much more than we ever imagined!  Jen compares encoding skills to decoding skills and how that looks different for each student in our classroom.  
So, What Does Word Study Look Like?  Jen shares helpful tips on how to:
*create groups
*setting up work stations
*alternate configurations
*word sorts
*word study notebooks
*word lists and charts
*word walls
*interactive writing
*independent writing

 Now what?
Well, I searched out each author a bit more and found that Maria is also the co-author of the infamous "Words Their Way!"
This new edition is on pre-order at Amazon!  
The release date is August 21, 2015.
I am also purchasing these companions!

This will be a valuable investment for my new learning as well as my students!  So as I await my new arrival,
I have created a little planning template to ponder as I get started for the school year... This is just a preliminary plan.  Tweeking will come once we get things started I'm sure!
 The page numbers referenced above come from the sort examples from "No More Phonics and Spelling Worksheets!"

I found an extremely helpful post published by Second Grade Window.  Emily and Heidi have all kinds of forms and ready-made Spelling Lists to get you ready for student assessment with word study.  They also have done an extensive blog post IN DETAIL on how to get Words Their Way started in the classroom.  BRAVO ladies!  Click here or on the image below to visit their blog and grab these amazing freebies!
A Teacher's Guide to Words Their Way
I know once the school year gets underway and I have given my first round of student assessments, I will be back with a follow-up post to let you know how things are going.  
I hope this book study has motivated you to reflect on your own current practices in regards to teaching Spelling and Vocabulary.  Thanks so much for stopping by!
Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

iTeach First Conference #Vegas2015

The iTeach First Conference in Vegas was, in a word,
AMAZING!  I was so incredibly fortunate to attend all 4 days of the conference and my brain is spiraling out of control with new and fun ideas!  The convention was held here at the Venetian, which was, GIGANTIC!  

As you can probably guess, my adventures in and out of this hotel was a riot.  I got lost.  Twice.  In the hotel..  But there was never any worry because there were so many teachers there, I just flocked towards them and made new friends!
SDE gave us some SWAG to wear during the conferences! This was genius because looking for a red bag when you are lost is an easy way to NOT admit your lost but a beacon of hope to get you to the convention center on time! 
I attended 15 sessions throughout the 4 days and every single presenter did a phenomenal job!  Of course, as teachers, we have favorites, so here are a couple of mine!
Katie Knight ROCKED her fluency session! She presented a TON of great ideas on building Fluency in the classroom.

 I wasn't sure she would recognize me for the first time; we have been blogging friends for a few years now, and this was the very first time I would see her in person!  I felt like a kid going to Disney for the first time!  Goosebumps and all!  
I also was so thrilled to hear Reagan Tunstall present SEVERAL times in one day! 
Reagan did an awesome job on our science "make it and take it" workshop!  We made a Force & Motion flip book which of course is going to be a huge it in my classroom this year!  
Magnets and Force and Motion Interactive Activities

Then she gave us this little freebie to post in our classrooms!  Grab yours by clicking on the image below!

Next up with another HUGE favorite!  The lovely and very talented Jen Jones from Hello Literacy!

There are no longer 5 big pieces of the Literacy pie! 
 Now there are 7!  
I LOVED Jen's first seminar so much that I stayed for 2 more sessions  which included Critical Thinking in the Primary Grades AND Building Vocabulary in First Grade.  All I can say is, WOW.  Jen has thought of everything and the handouts and rubrics she has created to help teachers grow in their understanding of this new shift to higher level thinking is OUTSTANDING!  A++++ Jen!

Now everyone knows this adorable face!  It's the one and only
Lisa shared an abundance of knowledge on Shared Reading and how to keep it simple and easy in the classroom!  I had butterflies taking this photo.....  Finally.  After 3 years of online friendship, I get to HUG and squeeze my inspiration!!!!  
There was a GINORMOUS TPT blogger meetup and more than 1,100 teachers attended!
I was so lucky to have these Firstie Friends as my Entourage!
Pictured from left to right: myself, Kelly Witt from First Grade Fairytales, Wendy McCarty from First Grade Fireworks, and Cassie Thompson from Adventures in Teaching.
I adore this photo and will cherish it always!  Kelly is that kind of friend that no matter how much time goes by, you can sit down and catch up like it was yesterday!  I love this girl to pieces!

All the teachers went home with a SWAG BAG stocked full of awesome gifts!  Take a look!
Ellison has a NEW machine that I am dying for!!!  
Scentos, Notepads, stickers, and free clip art!!! 
Not one, but TWO bulletin board sets by Carson Delosa.
For the raffle, I was lucky number 70 and WON
this gift certificate for a SKINIT!  My laptop will now look super-fab!
Of course, GO NOODLE went over the top and I managed to grab some FAB SWAG which included this adorable t-shirt, two headbands, sunglasses, and an id necklace!
Oh YEAH!!!!
Needless to say, the wealth of knowledge I came home with is blowing my mind!  Literally.  But the friendships I have made with these sweet teachers is by far the most incredible part of this journey!
Thank you to everyone who contributed and gave me so much to implement in my classroom this year!
HUGS to you all!
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