Jul 26, 2015

Happy Back to School Giveaway!

Have you read "Of Primary Importance" yet?  A friend of mine a few years ago suggested I read this one since I solely teach writing. And friends... it's a great read!  But as all great reads go for teachers, this one is no different.  It got my wheels a turnin'.  At first I started to reflect on how much independence and freedom I give my kiddos in writers workshop.  My feelings were that I give them pretty much, but.... I could do better.  This for me is starting with what I put in my bins that live on student desks.  My thoughts are..... pens, pencils (blah), markers (the Papermate kind), stapler, erasers, dry erase markers, Post-Its and correction tape to name a few.

A few weeks ago Em was surprised with an email from The Pencil Grip asking us to check out some of their products.  Last week a box arrived filled with lots of goodies that we think will help our writers! 

First up.... a STAPLELESS STAPLER!  You read that right, friends.  No staples.  This means no refilling, staple jams, pinched fingers (I've done that too may times), nada.  I can not wait to teach our firsties how to use this amazing tool. On.the.first.day.

Have you ever had students with cuh-razy grips on their pencils and every writing utensil they come in contact with?  We had a *few* of these firsties last year.  One who had a quad pencil grip!  I don't know how she did it with such beautiful handwriting, but we're hoping this three step pencil grips will help those firsties that are struggling holding their pens/pencils/markers/etc. which in turn leads to them not wanting to write as much because they are working so hard to just maneuver their writing utensil.  These guys will definitely make it into our writing bins!

With that being said, The Pencil Grip also sent us two different types of stylus' that I would definitely add to our bins.  One we absolutely LOVED!  It was so different from the other stylus they sent because it was thicker and weightier.  We LOVED how we could feel that weight on our hands and thought it would be great for our firsties.  It also slid across the iPad so nicely.  We could see both being used on the iPad for firsties to "try" their words before writing them.  We're thinking it'll take a little more of the pressure off them to feel like they have to write it perfectly.

Last up..... pencil sharpeners.  Having these guys in our bins this year will a lifesaver!  I don't know about you, but I don't let my firsties use my electrical one because quite frankly.... they always break it and I need that guy to work....overtime.  These pencil sharpeners will save time for me, I'm just hoping I can teach my firsties to not be using for all of writers workshop or sharpening their pencils into little nubs.  I'm loving the one with the lid because it'll keep the mess inside and it's cute! 

We were so excited about these new additions to the Writer's Workshop bins that The Pencil Grip company is allowing us to give these products away to 8 reading...yes...EIGHT!!! Each winner will get the following bag of goodies:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jul 22, 2015

Working Towards Vivacious Vocabuarly

 Vocabulary...that is going to be my focus this year.  It is not a strength.  I'm not sure there has been a point in my career where it was.  I've tried different strategies...some I liked and some I didn't.  But it cannot be said that it was ever a strength.

But my hope is that this time next year, my tune will be a bit different!

When we looked at our core curriculum as a building, we discovered that vocabulary was something we needed to work on as a whole building.  So the framework team started digging through resources to find out what would work well for our building.  Isabel Beck's Text Talks was a good fit.  Have you seen it?

Now we cannot add another program into our day, but Isabel Beck lays out a great routine that will actually work with the books that we are already teaching.  You can check out a FREE sample of her lesson that goes along with "Ruby the Copycat" by clicking on the image below.


What I really love is her repeated use of the words, kid friendly language, usage across contexts, and incorrect usage.  She also assesses the students on the words that they have been working on.  It is a great routine and her program uses high interest books!

This is what we are going to work towards in my building.  My partners Karen, Kathy, and I decided that we wanted to try it out in a manageable way this year through the nursery rhymes that we are already using in our daily guided reading groups.  Instead of only focusing on Phonological Awareness aspects of they rhyme, we will discuss some of the "vivacious" vocabulary that can be found in them.

So here is what we did this summer:

First up, we gathered all of our nursery rhyme books (fractured, silly, originals):

Then we looked at each of the rhymes and determined what vocabulary words would fit the needs of our students.  And we came up with a list for the year.  Here is an example of a few weeks in January.  These are the poems (they may be original or fractured versions) that we will use at the beginning of our guided reading groups and the words that we will hone in on:

These particular words will be used throughout the week in a variety of contexts but introduced in small groups.  They will also be assessed in small group orally

I am really excited to find out how this works for us this year.  As we become more comfortable, we will add this routine into other aspects of our day but we needed to start somewhere.

As I have been thinking about vocabulary this summer, the book "Storm Is Coming!" popped into my brain.  Have you read this one?

I LOVE this book!  Basically, the animals are so scared because they do not know what the word "storm"even though they seem to understand rain, thunder, and lightening.  What a great way for us to introduce the importance of language and vocabulary!  

I hope you can help me along this "vivacious vocabulary" journey this year!

Jul 12, 2015

Sunday Scoop

As I looked at the calendar this week, it looks quite a bit busy.  That may be because I am trying to squeeze everything in before I take a vacation for a bit :)

I wanted to link up with Teaching Trio to help me look ahead at the week ahead.

 Just looking at this list...I must ask...has it rained pretty much everyday where you live?  It has rained A LOT! We have had to get pretty creative this summer.  But the sun would be a nice treat! :)

What are you up to this week?

Jul 10, 2015

Obsession with School T-Shirts

We may just borderline on obsessive when it comes to personalized shirts.

It started off as very innocent...but quickly spiraled out of control. We have personalized Superman shirts, Curious Firsties "Home" shirts, "I Love Math" shirts, "READ" shirts, "Writer's Eye" shirts....I think the list actually does go on.  Is that obsessive?  And we actually have about 5 more ideas for this upcoming year.  Oh my!

Well...another shirt came in the mail this summer:

Look familiar?  Even though this is the name of our blog...we call our first graders "Curious Firsites" all year long, so this is a shirt that they will be seeing on me this year!

Along with the shirt came a brochure from the company A+Images, Inc.  I was not aware of all that they had to offer.  When we make our personalized t-shirts we have used a variety of different methods because I did not realize that there were companies out there that specialized in "teachery shirts."

A+Images offers teacher shirts, custom shirts, and class shirts (their drawings can even become shirts!).  They offer screen printing, embroidery, vinyl, direct-to-garment, and rhinestones.  This seems to open up a whole new set of possibilities for my team!

To check out A+Images and how they can help you create some shirts for your upcoming year, click on any of the links above or the social media buttons below:


Do you have any shirt ideas?  I would love to hear them!

Jul 9, 2015

Adding More Constructive Struggle

Earlier this week I wrote about my Math Solution professional development.  During this training we learned about "constructive struggle" and how to add more of it into our math classrooms.  I wrote about this new learning at Classroom Tested Resources today.  Please head on over to check it out!


 Can't wait to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Jul 8, 2015

Using Jigsaw Puzzles for Critical Thinking

I had a scary jigsaw puzzle experience this year.

We had a big math event back in the spring where students got to go to different classrooms for a specific math activity.  One of the rooms had lots of different jigsaw puzzles.  I moved from room to room but found myself spending a lot of time in that room.  Many (MANY) of our students had no idea how to solve a puzzle like this.

I watched children trying to fit pieces together that did not remotely look like they would fit together.  Straight edges...no concept of what they were for.  Strategies...there really weren't any.

It freaked me out, to be honest.

But then I started questioning myself...why do I personally feel that jigsaw puzzles are important?  Why do I buy them for my own girls?  Why do I download jigsaw puzzle apps for them to play?  What do I feel that my students are missing out on?

And what I decided it comes down to for me is problem solving and critical thinking.

Many times when we hear problem solving and we think of math.  And YES, I need them to have those skills in math.  But problem solving and critical thinking are just as crucial in reading. I see it so often.  They come to words that they don't know and they MUST have those problem solving and critical thinking skills to attack and solve that word.

When I witnessed my students not using problems solving or critical thinking skills to put the puzzle together, I started to make some connections in my own brain.  Would working on jigsaw puzzles help my students to problem solve and critically think in other areas of learning (like reading)?


I don't know.  There is not a lot of research out there.  But in my own professional opinion (if that counts), yes, yes it does.  Students must come to problems with the confidence and thinking skills to solve it.  Puzzles help to cultivate this skill.  Students must analyze stories and pay attention to detail when reading.  Puzzles help to nurture this skill.  The list just continues...

I actually found a post about the 42 Benefits to Jigsaw Puzzles.  It was a great post and it confirmed my thoughts.

But now what?  I believe that there are transferable skills that come out of jigsaw puzzles and my students don't have these skills.  So we work on this.  During this upcoming year my school has already decided that we will host a game night once a week.  And puzzles will be a BIG part of these nights.  Families will have the opportunity to complete puzzles together, take puzzles home, and listen to the benefits of doing these puzzles with their children at home.

So what are your thoughts on the benefits of puzzles?  Do you think they can help students be better critical thinkers?

Check out more posts below on ways to help create critical thinkers in your classroom.

Jul 7, 2015

What I've Learned From Teaching

Summer is such a great time for link ups!  Today I am linking up with My Day in K and Teach, Talk, Inspire.

Today is the Top Ten things that I have learned from teaching.  This was not an easy task and I am not convinced that even like what I came up with.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE chocolate.  But I especially NEED NEED NEED chocolate after a busy morning and a learning-filled afternoon!  Let's face it...I need chocolate at all points in my day.

I can never have enough Post-its.  They are all over my teaching binder, guided reading table, guided math table, countertop at home...all over!  I am an old fashioned list girl and I need Post its to do it!

My first two years of teaching I saved my plan book and thought that I would look back.  Nope.  Every year brings its own set of kids, challenges, and lessons.  That is why I love this career so very much.
It is hard.  Not necessarily in a bad way.  And I don't think you realize how very hard and challenging it can be until you are in that classroom on your own.
I am pretty sure that every teacher knows what this means. So  many things are going on at one time in a classroom and things can change or not work (technology) in a split second.  Teaching has taught me to think fast.

As each challenge arises, I learn from it.  Whether it is from a student, in a professional book, from a colleague, or in a blog post that I read, each day bring new learning for me.
Never.  Ever. Whether I am at Target, on the playground with my kids, or eating dinner my teacher brain is always on.
I am not quite sure how to be a teacher without multi-tasking.  So many things have to be done in one single moment.  You learn very quickly that you must multi-task to make it through a day.

Yes, I am there to impart knowledge on this wonderful little kiddos.  But when it come down to it...my kids need a smile each morning and love.  This is what will stick with them the most.

The one thing I know for certain...I will never know everything about teaching.  My to-do list of learning will never end.  And if I ever do feel that I know everything, it is time for me to leave this wonderful career.