Sunday, June 29, 2014

Firework Photo Journal on LeapFrog Learning Path


My Firework Photo Journal has been posted on the LeapFrog Learning Path site.  

Have your kids paint up a firework journal to get in the 4th of July spirit.  Then, after the 4th, print out a few favorite photos to add to the journal.  This is a great way to encourage your kids to keep writing over the summer!  Check out the LeapFrog Learning Path site to see the full how-to.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Farmer's Market

Farmer's Market season is finally here!  We have one at our neighborhood park every Friday evening.  I think it's the highlight of my kids' week.  Ok, lets be honest - it's the highlight of my week too.  At 3:00, every Friday, from June - September my kids take off on bikes or scooters with dollars in hand.  

There haven't been many booths yet, and only one veggie stand so far.  But I know more will be coming.  It's only the beginning of the growing season around here.  The cherries have been wonderful!  


Since there was only one veggie stand, the line to pay was really long. It was worth it though.  We also bought a half flat of berries and shared them with a neighbor.



I always think it's funny when my daughter gets that "hey, what a coincidence" look on her face when suddenly there is a stack of books about the farmers market on a table somewhere.  I think she truly believes that they appeared there by accident.  Well, it's no accident.  Strategically placed books, on topics of interest, always draw her in.  She claims she doesn't like reading, but can't seem to resist my picture book collection.


Whether you are heading to the beach, camping, or to the farmer's market this summer, don't forget to find some great books on the topic.  Strategically place them around your house so your kids will "find" them.  Maybe you'll even hear the same comments I do, "Hey, look at this!  These books are about the farmer's market and WE just went to the farmer's market.  Huh."

What a coincidence!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Favorite Camping Books

When we started our classroom camping unit, I looked around my classroom for camping related books.  I also purchased a few new books to go along with the unit.  Here are a few of my favorites!

The Discover Series CAMPING book is a very simple book, showing a picture of a camping related item and a word to go along with it on each page.  We did a lot of writing during Camp Read A Lot and several kids wrote camping related stories.  This book was a favorite resource because kids could use it to spell words they needed to use in their stories.


My daughter was a big fan of the Olivia series when she was younger, so we have lots of these books.  The kids loved this book because they could read it on their own too.


Oh, how I miss the days when my kids were little enough to enjoy watching Caillou!  There is always a great message in the Caillou stories.


Ok, this next book is my FAVORITE camping book!  I think we should write our own adaptation of the story and call it Mrs. Ross Goes Camping.  We wouldn't need to change the main idea of the story too much.  Mrs. Ross does not like bugs, wild animals, sleeping outdoors, or walking to the stinky bathrooms - and Scaredy Squirrel feels the same!


I love everything about this next book.  Camping by Nancy Hundal, is a perfect story of  seeing the joy in camping and it has beautiful illustrations.  The illustrations remind me of Ted Rand's work and he's an illustrator that I absolutely love!  This one is a MUST BUY!


Finally, we have a terrific alphabet book with camping related words.  The kids really enjoyed this one and one of my first grade friends even tried to make her own ABC book and used this one as her inspiration.


If you have favorite camping books that were not listed here, please leave the name of the book in the comments.  These books are great to read before you take a camping trip this summer!

Happy reading (and camping)!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Camp Read A Lot

Whew!  Camp Read A Lot is coming to a close and the kids have had a GREAT time.  Thank you SO much to parents who helped make our campers happy this week.  Our week started off on Monday morning with one of our parents checking kids in at the Camper Registration Desk.  A huge highlight was the camper mail that parents sent in.

As many of you know, I play a tiny bit of guitar... but nothing like one of our student's moms!  Our special guest had the kids rocking out with their air guitars and put my really slow- hold on until I find the right chord- rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider to shame!

The kids had a great time reading in our tents too.  I was so happy that one of our parents was able to bring in an extra tent because it was certainly a highlight of the week.  We had a different theme each day of the week.  Kids were able to sing campfire songs, read lots of different books about camping, do science and math activities around camping, write camping poems, and even go on a "hike" to find the perfect reading spot on our playground.

One highlight was reading under the stars.  We turned out the lights and did our buddy reading with flashlights.  I'm so thankful to have a great buddy class who will share fun camping ideas with us!  It made our week so much more special for the kids. 


You can't go camping without some really fun camping snacks too!  A HUGE thank you goes out to my parents of allergy students.  I really appreciate you sending alternatives so kids would not feel left out, but that we could make accommodations so everyone could be involved.

Campfire cupcakes were a huge hit!


Making S'mores allowed for a great connection to writing.  It was a perfect tie in to our Sequence of Events and How-To writing.


We also enjoyed trail mix on our hike around the school.  Over all, I'd have to say it was one of the best weeks of the school year.  Often times, at this time of year, kids are just done.  They are tired and ready for the year to be over.  Having Camp Read A Lot this week has been perfect.  Kids were excited to come to school each day and thrilled to find out about our new adventure for the day.  Thanks for your help, parents!!

Happy camping!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Camping Fun

In honor of the "unofficial start of summer" (aka Memorial Day Weekend) we're having some camping fun, right in the classroom!  
 
 
Comfy pillows and blankets, a little table, a lamp, and a few camping books have set a nice backdrop for reading and relaxing.

 
We have lots of happy campers in the classroom today!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Favorite Teacher Books

When someone asks me about my favorite books for teachers, I find myself stumped.  It's like asking which one of my children I love the most.  Well, a friend sent me a Facebook message and was wondering about great resources for kindergarten teachers.  She is moving from the intermediate grades down to kindergarten next year and looking for some good summer reading materials.  (I know she'll do great because she was a great second grade teacher, back when we worked together!)

I started looking through my bookshelf and had a hard time picking, but here are my greatest inspirations.  First up, is anything written by Katie Wood Ray.  When I first started teaching Regie Routman was my go-to author.  Over the years I've drifted a bit toward Katie Wood Ray.  This may make me sound like a nerdy teacher, but I get goosebumps when I read her books.  I want to be her.  About the Authors is a must-buy for any teacher in early primary.


I've always been totally fascinated by the transition from pre-k to kindergarten.  I wrote an ebook a few years ago about my experience as a mom and teacher, and how that transition went for our family.  Literacy Beginnings was a great resource to help understand where kids are coming from and figure out how to supplement curriculum for those kids who never attended a pre-k program.


Playful Learning and The Language of Art are right up there on the very tippy-top of my list for must reads!!!  These two books are great for parents as well.  I love, love, love the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education and these books are incredibly inspiring.  


Is That A Fact? is a good resource for teaching non-fiction writing.  I use this in late winter or early spring when we need to change things up a bit in Writer's Workshop.


The Write Start was written by an occupational therapist who wrote a book to help parents and teachers know how to support young writers at home and in the classroom.  It has very simple activities for kids to try and supports the developmental process kids go through as they learn to write.


Already Ready and In Pictures and In Words are two books by Katie Wood Ray that are also on my MUST BUY list for teachers of very young children.  I think these two could be put in the category of "Bible of Early Childhood Education"... seriously.  They are that good.


Here's one by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Clover that is SO cool!  It's actually available on iPad only.  It's an ebook that is loaded with short videos of Matt and Katie conferring with young writers.


These last two books are kindergarten specific.  I bought them when I was moving from second grade to kindergarten.  They really helped me wrap my head around the essence of kindergarten.  



To sum it up, if I had to pick, I'd buy Playful Learning, In Pictures and In Words, and About the Authors as my first choices.  Then, I'd buy the kindergarten-specific books if a move to kindergarten happened to be in my future.  The rest of the Katie Wood Ray library and The Language of Art would be on my must buy list as well, but there is only so much time to read in the summer.  

Happy reading friends!


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Let Brainworks Begin!

Yesterday's post was all about Brainworks.  Here's a peak into the creation  of book covers for our research books.


We used a collage technique, thinking about the shapes we see in our animals' bodies.  I had my doubts about giving this a try, mainly because I know that if I had to made a zebra out of cut paper it would look like a black and white cat - if I was lucky enough to make it look that good!


Kids always impress me when they are given the opportunity to be creative!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Brainworks

For the past few weeks, the students in our school have been working on their Brainworks projects. Brainworks was created many years ago by one of our teachers who wanted to develop a way for students to show their learning by demonstrating through a project that is based on the way their brain works.  We know that there are many different ways for students to show their learning.  Some students learn best by writing books, others need to move and act things out, some may learn best through music, and others just need hands-on projects.

The kids in our class spent several weeks researching a zoo animal, writing and illustrating a book about their animal, and then creating a project to demonstrate their learning.  The projects I have seen in other classrooms are STUNNING!  I wish I had gone around and taken more photos, but pictures of my class will have to do.  Wednesday and Thursday, kids spent time presenting their projects to kids in other classes and their families.  Our Brainworks museum was a huge hit and it was so much fun to hear the kids telling other people about their learning.  I can't take any credit at all for these projects or the process.  This was all the work of the teachers who developed this idea, the teachers who have had their classes participate in it for many years, the teachers who helped me through the process, and of course the KIDS who came up with the ideas to show their learning.

Here's a zebra habitat and several clay models.

My little friend who created this blue and gold macaw had some help from a second grade teacher who assisted in fulfilling his vision.

One little friend wanted a wall hanging, so we broke out the sewing machine and whipped it up!

The girls who came up with a monkey beanbag toss had their idea from the very start.  I'm guessing they had seen something like this last year and really wanted to create it on their own.  They sewed their own beanbags and made a gameboard and cards to demonstrate their learning.

Komodo Dragon Soccer was a huge hit.  One of my boys couldn't decide on a project, so he made one at school and one at home.  This was the game he made at home.  Kids playing the game were able to move their game piece when they answered a question correctly.

Several kids made models of their animals with Model Magic. This is another Komodo Dragon.

When I was talking to the creator of this project, she immediately knew she wanted to make a Clay Monkey Pot.  I had no idea what this would be or how it would show her learning, but we gave her supplies and she made it happen!  She had teacher help with the hot glue gun though. (Thanks, Sam for helping with this!)

Tapir baseball was also a fun project for kids to learn facts about tapirs.

These projects were just the tip of the iceberg.  There were 20+ projects in each of our first and second grade classes.  Third and fourth grade will be finishing up their projects and begin presenting as soon as their Standardized Testing is finished.  I'm always amazed at the work the kids do, the support the teachers provide, and  creativity and learning that happens during Brainworks!  

Happy learning!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Books We're Reading Now

I spend way too much time at the bookstore.  The University of Washington, in Mill Creek, is probably my favorite at the moment.  The have an AWESOME discount table!  If you're looking to expand your kids' book collections at home, this is a great place to shop.  The discount books change every month or so, which is why I have to stop by frequently  

Here are a few of the books I picked up last week.


The yellow sticker on the children's books mean SALE! Many of the books on the discount table are hardback books, which are a great investment when you're a teacher.

I bought Mama Doc Medicine for me to read.  I love to read, but I'm not a fan of grown-up-fiction.  I'd much rather spend my time reading a good "teacher book" or how-to books.  Seattle Mama Doc, Wendy Sue Swanson, is my kids' pediatrician at the Everett Clinic and she's fabulous!  She writes a blog for Seattle Children's Hospital and I'm thrilled that she has written a book.  I've been skipping over the infant chapters because, sadly, I can't convince my hubby that it's a good idea to have just one more teeny tiny baby. (They hardly take up any space! Right?)

My daughter has been enjoying the new books at home.  I'm excited to see what the kids in my class think of these!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Properties of Solids


We've been working in our new science unit for the past few weeks.  First graders in our district study from the FOSS kit on Solids and Liquids.  We've started by exploring matter and properties.
 
Everything in our world is made of matter.  All matter takes up space and has mass.  Matter can exist in 3 states - solid, liquid, and gas.  We have learned that each state of matter exhibits its own properties.  Properties are those characteristics of matter that can be used to describe it.
 
So far, this is the list of properties that we have come up with to describe solids.

 
 
Most recently, we have explored hardness of solids.  Hardness refers to the capability of a solid to resist being scratched or dented. In the beginning of this lesson, kids were asked to talk with a partner about what they thought the word hardness meant.  Then, they were given 20 different objects that they had explored before.  Their job was to set them out in order of hardness.  Coincidentally, we had also studied ordinal numbers in math that same day.  I heard kids using the the language of ordinal numbers- first, second, third, and so on. 


 
After kids had the chance to work with their partner and determine hardness, we came back together as a group.  Kids shared their thinking, talked about how they tested their idea, and even politely disagreed with their friends at times.  In the end, we decided that sometimes scientists might not be able to come up with the exact-perfect-correct answer.  Sometimes, scientists just need to take what they have learned, hold those ideas in their mind, and refer back to it when they try something new. 
 
Oh, how we love science in first grade!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Properties of Shapes

In the math unit that we just finished up, we explored properties of shapes, combined different shapes to make new shapes, and discussed what would happen if we rotate shapes.
 
We used our workbooks to explore our pattern blocks, making hexagons with the various blocks.
 

 
Then we explored how shapes can fit together.
 

 
Some kids were able to "see" how the shapes fit together, while others really struggled.  A little one on one help was needed in the situation below.

 
The work we did with shapes and their properties was not a big part of the unit, but the kids really enjoyed it and I'm sure we will revisit it during the next few months.
 

 
The unit we have recently started includes work in fractions, circle graphs, symmetry, and clocks.  Wow!  Those are some big concepts for First Graders!
 
Enjoy Spring Break!
 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Comparing and Contrasting in First Grade

It all started with a reading lesson in Compare and Contrast today. When authors compare, they show how things are alike.  When authors contrast, they show how things are different. We read about butterflies and moths, and then did some comparing and contrasting.



It just happened (almost like I planned it this way) that we began a new science unit today.  Wouldn't you know it, the lesson was about comparing and contrasting two solid objects.  We took our new-found vocabulary words and put them to good use in our science chart and Venn diagram..



The kids also worked in their science journals.  Here is one of our works-in-progress.  This little scientist was so proud that she used one of our clue words that we had talked about in our reading lesson.  The word 'but' can signal that we are contrasting items.  (By the way, she told me that she couldn't color the spoon white because white doesn't show up on white paper.  So she colored the white spoon blue and labeled it white.  I guess that's one way to do it!)

I love the way our reading and science units just blended seamlessly today.