Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Fun

The last few weeks have been filled with first grade fun.  We made several  holiday crafts including a rudolph, a wreath, and a dancing Santa.  The kids had so much fun.  And... we still had lots of time for practicing our reading skills and math facts.

We made Santa ornaments for our parent Christmas gifts.  I had seen the project floating around Pinterest and decided to take the plunge.  The kids loved them and they turned out so cute.  The only downside was using glass ornaments.  We had a few breaks.  Next year I will try to find some plastic ones that won't be so fragile.

Here are some pictures of a few of our other holiday activities:

We decorated Christmas trees.  The kids made them 24 different ways and they were all adorable.Go Niners.

 We wrote letters to Santa and the first graders did a great job with their letter writing.  I made copies to share with their parents before sending them off to Santa.  Later in the month Elves visited our classroom and hand delivered Santa's replies to their requests.  Gotta love those middle school language arts teachers that are willing to help with a little holiday magic.

When the new year begins, it is back to Common Core, a new science unit on Weather, lots of phonics and reading practice, and telling time and graphing in Math.  We are working with  new pacing guides for both language arts and math.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year full of learning and first grade fun.

~ Clara

First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Desk or no desk? - that is the question.

After many weeks of trying to make a final decision, I did it.  I got rid of my teacher's desk!!!  
It was a huge old school desk, metal, with 13 years of use.  I wanted to gain space for the
munchkins and boy did it.  This year in first grade, each class has 24 students.  
I need all the room I can manage for students to use, and move, and create, and learn, and grow. I will replace the desk with a reading table that was already in the room and voila, 
at least 30 square feet more useable space.  I converted two of the drawers in an existing cabinet to "desk drawers" to store my school supplies such a paper clips, etc. 
 I added a small book case behind my new work area to organize my daily bins, 
teacher's manuals, read alouds, and things I normally would keep on my desktop.  
I am so excited to try out the new arrangement on Monday.  

How do you arrange your work area in your classroom?  Do you have a table or desk you use?  I will post before and after pics soon.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Daily Five - How is it going?

Read to Self - 20 minutes - whew we made it.

Work on Writing - nearing 15 minutes.  The kids love their journals and have made amazing improvement in their writing already.  I am amazed.

Word Work - Surprise, surprise - going well!
 After rereading the sections in the Daily Five book multiple times, long discussions with my teaching partner and gathering materials, we dived in. My awesome partner made cards with the spelling lists for the kids to use for Word Work.

Some of the materials at the word work center are:
Rainbow Write with Mr. Sketch markers
Magnet Letters 
Scrabble Tiles 
Alphabet Stamps 
Wikki Sticks
Alphabet beads

After trying two other systems that were not effective, efficient, or kid friendly, I bought a set of bins with clip on lids that can both house the materials for storage and 
can be moved easily by kids to their work spots in the room.  Can you say happy teacher?

Listen to Reading - After many challenges to get this going, I can finally get the listening station going using the IPads in my classroom. I will download audio books onto my Mac and then sync it to the IPads using Dropbox.  By using a Belkin Rockstar headphone splitter, two students can listen at the same time. Whew... Magic! You can attach up to 5 sets of headphones to one IPAD.  Woohoo:)

Read to Someone is the last part of Daily Five that needs modeling, practice, and stamina building. Who knew that choosing partners could be so challenging for six year olds? We have a long ways to go on this one for developing independence.

How does Read to Someone work in your classroom? I could definitely use some insight.

By the end of this week, I will have all five parts of Daily Five going and it is only October 13.  Definitely cause of a mini celebration for this milestone in first grade.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Classroom Setup 2013

We just finished our third week of school.  Finally my firsties are beginning to settle into the routines of first grade.  How many times a day can a six year ask if it is lunchtime yet or if it is time to go home yet?  I smile and say that I will tell you when it is time.  It is a huge transition for our kids from our half day kindergarten program to a full day in first grade.

My classroom is starting to feel more like home.  I only moved across campus but it might as well be another country with the differences between fourth grade and first grade.  The good news is that I love it even more than I thought I would.  The amount of materials in first grade to be stored and organized for ready use is a little overwhelming at times.  I consider myself an organized teacher, but I have done and redone some things a few different ways before it felt right.

I have an awesome team of first grade teachers to work with.  All different - all talented - all helpful.  I am truly blessed.  I also have the privilege of working in the same grade level with one of my teacher friends for the first time and we are having a blast figuring out first grade together.

Here is my classroom.  It is a moving, breathing organism as I try different things and experience success and challenges along the way.  Enjoy the before and after tour.

 Clean floors and furniture all in the room

 Table groups arranged.
Empty bulletin boards ready to be covered with fabric and decorated.

My plan was to come into school one day a week for the summer and ease into the new year.  That was a no go as my room was used for storage while carpet was installed and other cleaning was being done in the first grade pod.  Then the wet wax... yadda, yadda, yadda.  So I couldn't begin until a few days before school began.

My boxes have been moved to my new classroom.  I have started unpacking in this pic and every surface is covered with my boxes and books.

 Endless piles to sort through.

Books, books, books.

Handsome hubby came and helped cover the bulletin boards with fabric. The colors are teal and purple.

Picture books sorted into themes.

Using the vertical space above the cabinets for the book bins.  I plan to rotate the bins into the class library.  My current plan is to have 12 bins out at a time.  12 is the magic number because they will fit nicely into the space I have for classroom library.

Calendar Bulletin Board

Teacher Area - Needs a little more work.

Cubbie labels - Binder clips with names added
This sure makes adding new kiddos easier.  Just move the clips and voila - done!

Welcome to first grade banner for the window using Eric Carle letters and animals

Caterpillar mobile to compliment the Eric Carle theme thanks to helping husband for helping me pull this one off.

Ready for the first day of school.  Whew... barely made it. View from front of classroom gathering area

View from doorway

Here's hoping for an awesome year of
Growing, Changing, and Learning in First Grade!
I welcome your comments below.

Teaching 365 with Sunflowers and Ladybugs in First Grade

~ Clara

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Daily Five Part 4- Read to Someone

Read to Someone in Chapter 5 of The Daily Five by Gail Bushey and Joan Moser, The Sisters, offer step by step guidelines.  If you haven’t yet read the book, get it and read it.  I am sure to keep it close by for ready reference as I begin first grade this year.

There is a tremendous amount of information in the book beyond what I am blogging about here. 

The purpose of Read to Someone is to increase the amount of time kids spend hearing fluent and expressive reading by others.

In order to be successful with these two dailies, the kiddos have to be able to:
1.  Listen carefully to their peers
2.  Offer appropriate assistance
3.  Share materials fairly

Focus lessons for these dailies include EEKK, Voice Level, and Check for Understanding.

EEKK – Teaches the kids to sit elbow to elbow and knee to knee to share a book they will read together. The kids may be reading the same book or two different books.

I will use this chart to help reinforce EEKK with the kids.

Voice Level – As any teacher that has tried partner reading knows, noise levels can be problematic. It is important to train the kiddos to use soft voices.  A quote from page 64 of the book states that “the loudest voice in the room is the one that regulates the noise level.” Model, practice, repeat!!! Using soft voices is important to the success of Read to Someone but can be very challenging.

Check for Understanding– Good readers retell what they read. This lesson helps the kiddos check for understanding of the book they are reading. The listener asks questions such as Who or What.  They may retell the story, “I just heard you read…”. This holds both students accountable for the reading and increases comprehension of the story.  Some teachers make a check mark with the questions on it as a visual reminder to the partners to read and listen carefully.

I love this graphic from I plan to make something similar for my class to use during Read to Someone.

How do you handle Read to Someone in your classroom?  I would love to hear tips for success as well as challenges.

This week my goal is to sort my classroom library books and get them ready to go into book bins so the kiddos will have books to choose from for their Read to Someone time.

~ Clara @ First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs

Please leave your comments below.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Daily Five - Word Work

Here is an update on Word Work in my classroom.  The kids are loving the materials and I am loving how much they are practicing their Words to Learn.  The Words to learn in my classroom are 10 beginning spelling words plus 5 new sight words each week.

The kids are practicing their spelling words and having fun at the same time.  They take it very seriously.  Have you implemented Daily Five in your classroom?  I would love to hear how it is going for you.

Daily 5, By Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  
Step 1 - If you don't have the book, get it.  I have read it through twice now and it has changed my perspective on how I will implement literacy centers in my first grade classroom this fall.  If you are at all interested in The Daily 5, get it, read it.

Work Work - Fun ways to have the kiddos practice spelling skills.  "The Sisters" in the book Daily 5, explain the importance of Word Work for reading and writing development.  Some of the goals of Word Work are:

  • Experimenting with words for learning and practicing a spelling pattern
  • Memorizing high frequency words
  • Generalizing spelling patterns
  • Adding to our knowledge and curiosity of unique and interesting words
                                   (The Daily Five, page 85)

Materials:  A key consideration for Word Work is identifying the materials students will use for their practice.  While there are tons of choices, The Sisters recommend selecting materials and then keeping it consistent for the year.  This supports their proposition of providing authentic reading and writing experiences for your students.  If the materials keep changing, the kiddos may become focused on the novelty of the materials rather than the Word Work.

A list  of materials I am working on for the kids to practice Word Work includes the following:

  • Whiteboards
  • Magnetic letters
  • Scrabble tiles
  • Wikki Stix
  • Letter stamps
  • Mr. Sketch colored markers
  • Tactile letters, Foam letters, Upwords game (perhaps as one rotating activity)
  • Just added:  alphabet beads for stringing their words

I plan to use the process outlined in the book, Daily 5, to introduce Word Work.  The Sisters make the point that the kids will need time to "explore and play" with the materials for Word Work in order to use them for tools for spelling practice.

Now that I have gathered the materials for Word Work, I need to have a kid friendly storage system that allows easy access to the materials but also keeps them organized.  The kiddos should be able to set up, work with the materials, and clean up independently.  A tall order...

My amazing teaching partner has made cards with our Words to Learn for each week.  Let the fun begin!

How do you organize your materials for Daily 5 Word Work?  What materials have been successful for use with the kiddos?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave your comments below.

~ Clara @ First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs

Monday, July 22, 2013

Daily Five - Work on Writing

Work on Writing is the next piece of Daily Five I plan to implement.  "The Sisters" - Gail Boushey and Joan Mosher, in their more recent writings recommend adding this element next after Read to Self.  This is a change from the order presented in the book, The Daily Five.

This change emphasizes the utmost importance of BOTH reading and writing. This makes sense to me as they are so closely related.

Be sure to read the book for more complete details about Work on Writing.  It is an amazing resource.  

Quote from page 80 of the book, "Intensive work (and play) in writing and word study also supports reading development.  The two components of Daily Five, Work on Writing and Word Work, help students hone their skills as writers and their knowledge of words."

How does Work on Writing for D5 differ from Writer's Workshop?  The main difference between the two is that during Writer's Workshop, I choose what the students are writing about such as a grade level genre piece or a specific writing strategy.  During D5 the kiddos may choose to continue working on their pieces started during Writer's Workshop however during the D5 it is their choice of what to write. That choice is the key.

Work on Writing follows the same gradual release model of instruction that will be repeated as you introduce each of the components of Daily 5 - Introduce, Brainstorm I-Chart, Model, Practice, Repeat, Build Stamina.  Refer to Chapter 6 of the book for excellent descriptions of what this looks like in a classroom.

I want to focus on what those very first lessons will look like in my classroom.  How can I foster the independence necessary to make D5 a success in first grade?

Day 1 - Create I-Chart of expected behaviors
             Teacher model writing process
                   Tell a short story.
                   Model the writing on chart paper (Write 3 or 4
                   Model underlining words you don't know how to
                   spell.  Come back later for spelling.

Day 2 - Brainstorm - Practice where to sit and what materials to use.   (Notebook/journal, pencil or pen, drawing or sketching - I plan to put their notebook/journal and a pen or pencil in their book bins.)

Day 3 - What can we write about? Make a list of topics, a list of forms, and post the lists for the students to use when they are writing.

I plan to use the forms from this great resource from A Cupcake for the Teacher to make a writing bulletin board in our writing center.  I found her Writing Center Starter Kit on Tpt.  It has everything I will need to get started. Check it out.

Day 4 - Continue to teach different forms of writing in short focus lessons.  Begin practice sessions for 3 minutes.  Practice 1 -3 times as time allows.

Continue to follow the model of placing the kiddos around the room with their book bins, practice, signal, return to gathering place, check-in, revisit I-chart,  then practice again.  Add 1 minute each day until you build stamina to 20-30 minutes.
This bright carpet will be perfect for our gathering place.  I  can't wait to get into my new classroom and start setting it all up for first graders.

I know one of my biggest challenges will be to move away to the guided reading table and not use eye contact or proximity to manage the kids behavior in order to foster independence. Challenging but necessary.

How do you do Work on Writing with your class?  What challenges have you faced?  I would love to hear about your insights, suggestions, or successes.

~ Clara @ Teaching 365
First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2nd Grade Stuff: What Do the Kids DO During Daily 5?

Jaime at 2nd grade stuff has written a great post on how Daily Five works in her classroom. She answered many of the "how do you..."  questions I had. Below is a link to her post.

2nd Grade Stuff: What Do the Kids DO During Daily 5?: One of my most visited blog posts is a post entitled " The Centers That Have Saved My Classroom! ".  I originally wrote that blog...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Daily Five - Read to Self

Read to self may be the most important literacy learning in first grade.  In the past, my read to self time was DEAR, SSR, silent reading... a time when the kids chose a book, read it, and took an AR (Accelerated Reader) quiz to show they understood it.  This is quite different from the Read to Self described by "The Sisters" in The Daily Five.

I need to spend focused teaching time with the key concepts, materials,and routines to launch Read to Self with both mini-lessons and materials the kids will need.  

One of my big jobs to prepare for this part of Daily Five will be to organize book boxes for each of my students (25 first graders).

The kids will need an individual book box for their books.  It will have 3-8 picture books, magazines, and easy chapter books that I have selected for them to read. 

Here is a pic of the bins I will use.  Now I just need to label them and fill them.

I will post more pictures after I have it set up in my classroom. 

Mini-Lesson: 3 Ways to Read a Book
This lesson honors the kids level of reading development, whatever it may be.  In Daily Five, this lesson addresses the kids' belief that reading only means reading the words. 

What are the 3 ways?
Read the pictures
Read the words
Retell a familiar story

Mini Lesson: Good-fit Books
Using an anchor chart "I Pick" gives 5 ways to help choose a "good fit" book. Some time after this lesson, kids will choose their own books for their book boxes. For kids to grow as readers, they need to spend lots and lots of time reading with the majority of that time with "Good-fit" books.

 Daily Five - Model, practice, model, practice, model, practice,then repeat.

I will definitely need to go slow now to go fast later.  There is so much more in the Read to Self portion of the book.  Once again, get the book and read it, and then read it again. I am certain to keep it nearby as I continue my journey with Daily Five in my first grade class.

How have you used The Daily Five and Read to Self in your classroom?  Challenges, successes?  I would love to hear your thoughts.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Daily Five - Reading the book The Daily Five - Part 1

It only seems natural that if you plan to try someone's ideas in your classroom, that first you should read the book.  "The Sisters", Gail Boushey and Joan Moser wrote a book detailing each part of this literacy process.  My first question to myself was, "What is Daily Five?"  I had been reading all over the web, Facebook, and Pinterest about it - Step one - Read the book!

Click here to view more details about the book. The Daily Five

"The Sisters" also have a website with extensive resources to support Daily Five along the journey.  I am considering buying a subscription to access all the wonderful videos and resources but many of them are free and accessible without a membership. 

The official Daily Five website

"The Daily Five is a series of literacy tasks which students complete daily while the teacher meets with small groups or confers with individuals. This book not only explains the philosophy behind the structure, but shows you how to carefully and systematically train your students to participate in each of the components." Quote from The 2 Sisters website. 

I would love to hear from you about your Daily Five journey. Right now I have more questions than answers. 

My next post will be about the first of the Daily Five routines, Read to Self. Those first days of school in first every grade are especially important to establishing routines.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Classroom Freebies: 100+ Behavior Reward Ideas

Each year I struggle with classroom rewards.  It seems I always return to the tickets and treasure box.  Check out this awesome post about using intrinsic and non-gift rewards for student recognition.  I need to try it.  How do you recognize great behavior in your classroom?  I would appreciate your input.

Classroom Freebies: 100+ Behavior Reward Ideas: Tired of the treasure box? Need a list of intrinsic or non-gift type rewards for great student behavior to use as incentives? Yo...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

First Week of School Picture Books

What picture books do you like to read the first week of school? These 3 are sure to be in my basket.

First Day Jitters is a favorite. It is sure to get a few laughs and relieve a little anxiety.

Chrysanthemum is sure to be a class favorite.  I love to use the kids names in lots of activities the first days of school and this will be a great addition.

Leo the Late Bloomer is one of my personal favorites.  I try to stress that we are all unique and this book brings that home in a great way.

Check out this fabulous linky to share your picture book favorites for the beginning of school. Thank you to DeAnne for doing this fabulous post as we sort through our books to start getting ready for a new year.

Click here to check it out: 
First Grade and Fabulous: Picture Books-A LInky Party

Clara  @ Teaching 365 - First Grade with Sunflowers and Ladybugs


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Friday, June 14, 2013

Daily Five - Summer Reading and Planning

I am moving to first grade this year and have decided to implement Daily 5.  Although it seems a little daunting, I believe from all I have read and all that teachers have shared that Daily 5 will provide the structure and direction that first graders need to develop into readers and writers. I have a great first grade colleague that is willing to join in the fun with me.

Daily Five, written by "The Sisters" is a great resource.  From Chapter One, I read that teachers have children "doing" lots of stuff in the literacy block.  I asked myself, "How is what I am planning on having children do creating young readers and writers?" With the goal of engaging my kiddos in meaningful reading and writing practice every single day, there is much to think about.

One of my first steps is to plan a learning environment to support the design of Daily Five.  I will need a meeting area that the Sisters call a "Gathering Place.  In first grade, that can be a carpeted area with open space on the floor.  I also need to plan for display areas for bulletin boards for CAFE and Daily Five anchor charts.

Here are some pictures of my first grade classroom - a blank canvas - ready to be transformed into a warm and safe learning place for first graders.  I am one of those teachers that needs my environment to be ready before I can really buckle down into some serious planning.  How about you?

 There is a wonderful carpet in the room that I can use for a Gathering Place.  Love the primary colors.

 A very long bulletin board stretches along the side wall of the classroom.  I may use it for Daily Five anchor charts and CAFE strategy display area.

In the end, I pulled down the old fabric from the walls from the previous teacher.  They were about 10 years old, very faded in spots, and I want a fresh new canvas to work with.

More pics to come to share my journey into Daily 5 with first graders and my new classroom design.

First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs