A few things we've learned...

As many of you know, one of the most amazing things about this blogging world, is how much is out there to learn. New lessons, new ideas, new projects, new classroom decor, new recipes, new eye shadows (Thank you Cara!)... the possibilities are endless! From all of this new learning comes a new found drive to really make our teaching better. We've gained so much from this, and it really has helped us focus our teaching, and to create explicit, meaningful lessons. We do our best to make miracles, with very little sometimes. Today we wanted to share just a few favorites that we've been using, that were definitely inspired from the blogging world.

In these uncertain financial times, districts have had to tighten their budgets. You cut a bit here, a little there, and the next thing you know, you are currently using (or not using) an adopted reading curriculum that is... (gasp) 17 YEARS OLD! Yes, it may still have some good pieces here and there, but it's 17 years old. Which means we were never trained on it, we don't have all of it, and it's so outdated it's often painful to use. So although we dabble in it, mostly we create our own stuff. This year we created a new Word Family Structure, to make sure that we are hitting all of the important word famillies that our first graders need to know, while keeping it fun, and functional in other areas of the classroom. We've created these sets to include a sweet little story about a unique character for each sound we learn. There is a blackline master, and worksheet for each as well. When we introduce the word family to the first graders, we build the words using the letter cards that we made and this table top pocket chart.

If you'd like to take a peak at a sample word family lesson, click on the picture below. You'll get the King set for free! If you like it, make sure to take a look at the others we have at on our store.

Our kiddos have loved using these. They are also great to have out for word work during Daily 5. Check out a few pictures of our kids using them.

Make sure to check out our Word Family packs at Teachers Pay Teachers!
Word Family Pack Volume 1: at, op, an & it
Word Family Pack Volume 2: ed, ig, on & in
Word Family Pack Volume 3: am, at, op & ug

Be sure to keep your eye out for Volume 4, coming soon!

The other big activity that we've implemented after following all of your fabulous blogs is math journals. We use these as a way to reinforce the concepts taught during our lessons, and our kids can't get enough of these! We've made sure they are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and get harder as the year goes on. We get lots of comments and questions about these at our store, so we wanted to let you know that February is now up!
Our focus for February is Subtraction to 20, and place value. March will be up in the next week or so, so make sure to check it out. Click on the picture to head on over and take a look!

We also have these at our store for September -January, so take a look.

We know we haven't been blogging as much lately, but the families have needed some attention. We are still working on some exciting things that will be ready soon, so stay tuned. We have a fabulous space unit that should be up by the weekend, and of course we'll have to have a giveaway! And hopefully soon we can share our 2 year old Owl party that Erin did for her little girl. Such good ideas (LOVE Pinterest), and some fun printables. One of these days...

Have a good rest of the week!

It's never too late for snowman fun!

Although there isn't any snow where we're at, it's still winter and we have been busy incorporating our Snowman Fun {book based math & literacy activities} unit into our daily schedule. This unit is filled with snowman math/literacy activities. Six of the math & literacy activities are based on the following books:

Along with the six activities based upon the books above, there are several additional math & literacy activities also included in this 48 page unit. Here is a peek at what's inside:
Literacy and math activities include:

*How to build a snowman writing activity

*Snowball fact family math activity

*Snowmen at Night adjective, noun, & verb sort

*Missing addend snowmen math activity

*If my snowman caught a cold (creative writing activity)

*Favorite ice cream data collection activity with questions & a graph.

*Snowman adjective writing

*Snowman adjective, noun, & verb sort

*Snowflake/snowman addition & subtraction equation match (with sums and differences 11-15)

*Snowman stick activity with measuring worksheet

*Snowman doughnut treat directions with ingredients list & pictures

So if you'd like to add a few more snowman activities to your resources, just stop on by our TpT store and check our Snowman Fun Unit! It's on sale now, along with our Winter Wonderland Game Pack!

It's a little late, but... {update}

Ever feel like there just isn't enough time in the day? We apologize that this post wasn't up earlier, but it was a crazy 3 day weekend. One of our mini-fanatics had a 2nd birthday party this weekend (which we will post about later with some fun ideas and stuff to share) and it took up the whole weekend. But, we are focusing on Martin Luther King this week, so we thought better late than never. Use it now, or save it for next year. We begin by reading several books, but these are our a few of our favorites.
Our school district belongs to a database of educational movies called Learn 360, where we found a video version of Martin's Big Words made by Scholastic, which was incredibly powerful to watch. Michael Clark Duncan narrates it, and his voice does such an amazing job recreating this story. We also found it on You Tube, although the quality isn't quite as good, but still worth watching. Find the video {HERE}.

After reading about the March on Washington, and the "I have a dream" speech, we like to show a little clip of the speech, so that the kids can hear how powerful Martin's voice was. Here's a few links to watch.

We then do this great activity with our firsties. We found this somewhere last year, and couldn't find it again this year, so if you know where it came from, please let us know, and we can give credit and include a link to it. This is great for reinforcing positive behaviors that we'd like to see in our students.
Next we talk about Martin's dreams, and have the kids tell us MLK's dream in their own words, which is always so sweet. We haven't done it yet, so don't have any to share. The kids also write a dream that they have for the world, and every year these are just priceless! We mount these to a 12x18 piece of construction paper, and include the craftivity from TLC Lessons.

Next we do this reading, and fill in the missing words to really see if the kids have understood the basics of Martin Luther King. We then finish up by having the kiddos fill out the MLK 4-square sheet.

Click {HERE} to download these activities.
Update: Oops! There was an error in the first pack. Re-download to get the correct version!

We also thought that now would be a great time to do one of our favorite writing activities. We begin by reading this fabulous book, The Colors of Us.
We then go to Home Depot, or Lowes or any paint store, and collect a bunch of those paint sample cards, mostly in browns, oranges, and whites. You want to get the ones that have several shades on each card. We then cut those up, so that each rectangle is one color. You know how paint colors have the most incredible names? Like indian summer, or paradise island. We have the kids do this writing activity where they pick a shade that they think is closest to their skin color (which is often hilarious seeing what their version of the color of their skin is), and then write it. For instance, "I am the color of cornsilk. It makes me feel ________." The kids draw a self portrait using the multi-cultural crayons, and glue on their paint sample. We then put them all together to create a class book called "The Colors of Us." It always turns out so cute! We can't wait to post pictures after we've done it, hopefully later this week.

Thanks for sticking with us, we know it was a long post tonight! We are busy working on our next units {snowmen and space} which hopefully will be done by the weekend. Hope ya'll have a great rest of the week!

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

adjectives, verbs, and nouns oh my!

We use several writing programs in our classroom, but our main program that we use is Step Up to Writing. We like how this program helps our first graders understand what a sentence is and what parts of speech make up a sentence.
Step Up provides us with several lessons for teaching these parts of speech. This week we have really focused much of our writing instruction on adjectives, nouns, and verbs. We created anchor charts with our first graders for each of these parts of speech, and watched a few cute videos/songs. Our first graders really enjoyed this noun song {HERE} and they loved watching this verb show {HERE}.
We are have also been practicing identifying adjectives, nouns, and verbs, in our read alouds and have created word sorts for our kiddos.

Below is a January word sort freebie we'd love to share with you.
You can get it {HERE}

Some whole group sentence building activities have also been going on in our classrooms. We use 4 cards (see the picture below): who, action, what, and when and our kids take turns adding words to create a sentence. For example, the child with the who card might begin the sentence with the words "A cat". Then the child with the action card might state say the word "ate". The child with the what card might say, "it's food". The child with the when card might say, "in the morning". Finally each child would hold up their card again at a faster pace and put the words together. The sentence would sound like, "The cat ate it's food in the morning". Our kids LOVE creating sentences together like this, and we like how it's a great cooperative way to learn and have fun too! Oh and one last tip, the cards don't necessarily have to go in the order below. You could have the when card first.
Below are some cards that we created to use for this activity and we'd love to share them with you too! We created them in color and black and white, and have also created a set of smaller cards that could be used at a literacy center for sentence building. Just click below the picture to download!
Cards can be downloaded {HERE}

Have a fabulous weekend, and we'll be back in a few days with a Martin Luther King freebie and some crafty items!

New year, new classroom pet, and a freebie too!

Well I took my classroom fish home during Thanksgiving break and she was not doing too well. So I decided to keep her home through Christmas break, but Cupcake didn't make it. A new Betta fish was purchased and is doing well in our first grade classroom. I wanted my first graders to have the opportunity to name him, and turn this into a lesson as well. This was a perfect opportunity to discuss voting again and have my kiddos participate in voting.
Since this was a spur of the moment lesson, I didn't have time to run to the store and find a cutesy container to use as a ballot box. So I created my own using a small shoebox, bulletin board paper, and some clip art.
I read aloud a few pages from this book (the only one I could find at the library), but am going to purchase this one (looks like a great read aloud for first grade).
To make the vote feel official, I created small ballots for my students to use while voting. The votes were counted, and Swimmy is the name of our newest fish!

Hopefully he will live as long as Cupcake, she made it for 3 years!
Are you interested in creating a ballot box or needing some small ballots for your students to use while voting? Just click {HERE} for our ballot box topper and blank ballots.
Have a great rest of your weekend!
So sorry it's been so long. We had a short (3 days) but busy week, and finally have a full week coming up, so we should have more tips and freebies next week!