Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sunday Rewind - Tis The Season

Yes Tis The Season – the season of exhaustion joy when the littles are full of anticipation of the red suited gentleman visiting them.  They are sure they have been “good” this year.

I try to limit myself to one art project each week but this time of the year there are sooooo many cute projects.  We started off this season of celebration by making a count down Santa.  Each day the kids can add a cotton ball as a type of advent calendar.  They were adorable.  This was the perfect lead in to our writing letters to Santa.

I work to make this a learning experience not just a lengthy list of gadgets, devices, and tiny bits of plastic that our kiddos are hoping Santa will leave under their tree.  In the letters, the kids introduce themselves, ask Santa a few questions, thank Santa for the gifts from last year, request a gift for this year, warn Santa about any potential problems at their houses, and tell him what they are doing for him.

I believe gratitude has to be taught, modeled, and reinforced throughout the year.  I am always a little shocked surprised at the number of children that can’t remember what they received for Christmas the year before.

We spent a week writing letters to Santa. My teaching partner had shared this wonderful writing project from Jessica Meacham’s blog.  You can read her original post here. We both loved it so much we have incorporated it into our December writing. 
The letters were darling and had a depth that letters in the past were lacking.
We even learned how to address an envelope.

Now that our letters are off to the North Pole, we can work on making a few fun Christmas projects.

One of my favorites is this green construction paper wreath.  It is beautiful in its simplicity.

We are also making a Rudolf with an “I like” pattern poem writing to go along with it.

I like
I like……..
I like …….
I like……..
I like……..
I like……..
But I don’t like…….

The poem can be seasonal
and related to the winter
holidays or make it more

Together, they make a great bulletin board display.

Our final project will be a gift to our parents.  Each student will make a Santa ornament.  This year I went with plastic fillable ornaments instead of the class ones.  Nothing makes me more nervous than glass balls in the hands of 6 year olds so I switched to plastic this year. 

The filling is red construction paper strips that the kids wrap around a pencil and then stuff into the ornament.  The belt is self stick felt.  The kids paint on the belt with gold sparkle paint. 

I love keepsake ornaments and I always smile as I decorate my own tree and see the many ornaments  that I have received from my own children, friends, colleagues, and former students. The mister and I do a lot of "Do you remember when...?" 

What special things are you doing in your classrooms this month?

Tis the Season - I wish for you a season full of joy, gratitude, and blessings.

~Clara @ Teaching 365

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Rewind - Informational Writing with First Graders

Yep! You read it correctly. These past 3 weeks we have been working 
on informational writing in first grade.  I believe that for students to be successful they need the opportunity to experience the process with increasing independence each time.  Model, model, model the expectations right in front of them. 

Fall is the perfect time for those great topics such as spiders, owls, pumpkins, and bats. After writing 3 pieces with lots of scaffolding and support, my littles need to write a piece all by themselves. 
 I used a lot of this packet as a resource. Available here.

Well all by themselves may be a slight exaggeration because we do follow a process including researching, reading books aloud, taking notes, and choosing facts for an individual graphic organizer.  Gradually they assume more and more responsibility for the writing.

During this prewriting time students receive lots of support and I try to provide them with as much background information as I can. Students work together. I provide support to those students that need it.

Our final writing lesson and activity was to organize our facts that we have collected from our reading and research and organize them into some sort of understandable order. We came up with 5 categories, which I typed up and taped, to the top of large sheets of paper.

Next I literally cut apart the facts we had been recording all week and distributed them to the students. We discussed them and the kiddos glued them where they think they best fit. 
 If they could justify their reasoning, up it went.

Our Cut and Paste Charts of Facts

 It was a proud teacher moment to see the amazing vocabulary words the kids have picked up during this unit.

Diligently adding information to the graphic organizer.  Kids in the background revisiting the charts.
The graphic organizer the students are using can be found here.

Free Graphic Organizer 

On Friday, the kids chose the facts they wanted to include on their personal graphic organizers. They revisited the large charts and made their lists. We put it away and now on Monday we will revisit their graphic organizers. This will be their last chance to gather more facts, ask for help or clarify any questions they have.

Now for the final product!!! On their own, they must use their graphic organizer and write an informational piece on bats. This is our first big independent writing assignment and I can only hope that the practice and process we have gone through will be enough to help my littles meet this CCSS for writing in first grade.

Wish me (and the kiddos) luck! Breathe, breathe, breathe.  I will share the results next week☺

~ Clara @ Teaching 365

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Rewind - Meeting The "Sisters" at the California Reading Association Conference

When I first found out that two of the people that changed how I approach teaching language arts in my first grade classroom were going to be the keynote speakers at the California Reading Association Conference, I knew that I had to go.  

It was all I had hoped for and more.  It seemed I was just in the right place at the right time over and over again throughout the conference.  Along with my teaching partner Jinny, we had personal time with The 2 Sistersteachers Gail Boushey and Joan Moser- authors of The Daily Five and Cafe books.  No less than three times we crossed paths and it was a mountaintop experience for a first grade teacher. 

Their new edition of Daily Five answered many of the challenges that I had been working through with my own class of 6 year olds.  
 ... and yes we had a photo op. Here I am in between two of my idols in the realm of teaching.

Chit chatting with the ladies before they begin their keynote address on Friday night.
 The Sisters presenting about the changes in the Daily Five and 
the new edition of their book

Judy Lynch, well know local literacy coach and reading recovery teacher,
 sharing how to incorporate CCSS into your literacy lessons.
 Me - all smiles.

While I am still pinching myself today to make sure it wasn't all just a wonderful dream, I will be working on implementing the changes, albeit minor, in my Daily Five routines.  I learned so much in such a short amount of time that clarified both issues and concerns about areas that weren't going that smoothly or that I knew needed something a little different.  I just didn't know what.

Now I do!

I remember whispering to my first grade teaching partner 
that I felt like we were in the presence of royalty.  

It was a magical and inspiring weekend of networking with other teachers, being mesmerized by 16 different children's authors, and being introduced to the idea that you can use music to inspire kids writing. We got to collaborate with some of the best minds today regarding how children learn.

Author's Meet and Greet with David Schwartz, author of How Much is a Million and many other nonfiction texts.  

Mean Jean, The Recess Queen
Children's Author - Alexis O'Neill

And now the most important part of any mountaintop experience, the return to the valley with new ideas, energized and ready to get crackin' on them before they evaporate.  

I can't wait to get back to school on Monday and dig in.

~ Clara @Teaching 365

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sunday Rewind - Back to School Planning

Like most of you, I have been getting my classroom ready for the new school year. I moved into a portable classroom and the storage options have been challenging to say the least.

Finally, I have bulletin boards up (thanks to my handsome hubby) with clean, crisp, new fabric.  I know, I know.  Many people use paper, but I just love the fabric - no ripping and it can be used more than more year.  If I find a fabric piece I love I keep it in the rotation.

This year I went with an owl and chevron theme.  While not everything will be covered in owls, I do like to include a little cuteness to start the new year.  I went with a color theme of shades of blue with a little green and yellow thrown in for good measure. I am hoping for a calm feeling in the room for my 24 firsties (and me).

One plus of the portable classroom is that it is more of a rectangle than a square.  I have 3 distinct areas in the room for great learning to occur. I love the gathering area with a new colorful literacy rug (yes my administrator came through and purchased a new one for me) where we will spend lots of time learning together. I love the smell of new carpet.

The second area, the middle of the classroom, is a desk area.  I have the desks in long rectangles that will mimic tables. This allows each student to have a personal space with room for their many supplies and belongings.  It is also where direct instruction takes place and I can use the document camera and presenter to model concepts and provide demonstrations for my kiddos.

The third area is a small group, intervention area with a reading table and my teacher's desk.  Last year I didn't have a desk but decided to bring it back to use for storage.  It is also a place where I can stash all my teacher goodies, laptop, purse, etc. This back corner of the room also houses my bookcase filled with binders and teaching manuals as well as my filing cabinet.

I am looking forward to the new year and am blessed to return to the job I love.  Here's wishing all of you a great start to your new school year.

Pictures coming soon:)

~ Clara @ Teaching 365
First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Rewind - Organize Now - Less Frustration in the Fall

Like most teachers, I have been reflecting and planning for the next school year.  Even though I have taken some time out to enjoy leisurely breakfasts out with the Mister, I still manage to work on at least one little "ol project each day.

This week I have been prepping a set of fall math centers from Reagan Tunstall.  She is amazing and makes creating Common Core aligned centers a snap.  This packet is called Back to School - 10 Math Centers.  If you want to check it out, click HERE.

If you aren't following her blog, just stop and do it now.  Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits.  

The thing I wanted to share is how I organize my centers to make them kid ready and easy to access when I want them.

Like most teachers, I print, laminate the pieces, and then cut them out. No mystery there.  The awesomeness comes in... Ta Da... with the great poly envelopes to organize them into.  All the pieces fit in and it is ready to go.  I can even add copies of the recording sheets if there is one.

Easy to see what is inside because they are clear.

An added bonus is that they will fit into my filing cabinet sideways.  I can store lots of prepped centers this way.

This fall I am moving into a portable classroom with limited storage, no cabinets, etc. (That is another whole blog post.) so this will give me a way to keep them handy but out of sight.

If you would like to try them, I ordered mine mostly from but they can also be found in most office supply stores.  The second piece of goodness is that they can be cleaned if needed with just a baby wipe or other damp towel.  (Sticky kid fingers:)

It's the little things that help make our teaching days go more smoothly, right.

Here is one math center ready to go for fall.

All put away ready to file

~Clara @First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Rewind - Daily Five Work on Writing

Work on Writing is a very important part of Daily Five.  Rewind - In retrospect, I need to provide more choices for this component of Daily Five.  For the majority of this past year, the kids wrote in their journals for Daily Five.  While they did show a lot of growth in their writing, it would have been even better if they had more choices about different types of writing to choose from. 

I Can Write a from A Cupcake for the Teacher

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. You can check it out here Writing Center Starter Kit. Having some fun stationary, postcards, letter templates, cards, and notes is sure to add some life to the Work on Writing component of Daily Five.

With the implementation of Common Core Writing Standards this year, I am thinking that I will also need to have another writing time during the day to teach the different genres to my first graders.  I love teaching writing but sometimes struggle to get in the direct instruction and mini lessons needed for the kids to be successful. I am hoping to do a better job of backwards planning for writing time in my lesson planning this year.

What will you need to get started with Daily Five in your classroom? Mel D from Seusstastic has a great set of materials you can use to begin Daily Five I charts (I for independence) with your class and they are free.  Check them out here Mel D's super fantastic freebies. She is one of my favorite bloggers and shares amazing materials - many for free.

There is a great book study going on now in Blog Land around The Daily Five 2nd edition.  It is a quick read and will answer your questions about the how, when, and why of Daily Five.  Join in and reap the benefits of other teachers' insights and experiences.  

The  Freebielicious blog site is a great place to begin with lots of links to other teachers' blogs to share in this journey.  I would love the hear how you use the Daily Five and Work on Writing in your classroom.

~ Clara - First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs
Teaching 365

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Rewind - Daily Five Revisited - Read to Self

I have just finished my first year back as a first grade teacher and my how things have changed.   I taught 3rd and 4th grade for the last 12 years.  Returning to first grade has been a goal of mine - it was where I began my teaching career.

On to Daily Five - Right away I knew I needed some way to provide authentic reading and writing experiences to my kiddos.  Daily Five was just the thing I had been looking for.  The results are in and as the saying goes - The data shows the results.  The kids made amazing progress both in reading and writing.  

And now for the rewind - All across Blog land, I have been reading along with others the new Daily Five, 2nd edition.  It has just confirmed what I had discovered on my own this past year.  IT IS FLEXIBLE!!!  As the beginning of the year, I tried to stay true to the recommendations and teaching in the first edition... But.. I found that my class needed some modifications to be successful

I began with read to self.  You can read my original post here - Read to Self.  The thing that has stayed the same is that this is a must do everyday.  No exceptions.  In the new edition of Daily Five this is addressed nicely as the sisters restate that Read to Self is one of the required dailies.

My experience was such that there wasn't enough time most days to have 5 rounds.  On a great day we might have 4 rounds.  I am happy to hear and have validated that it is "officially" okay to have only 3 rounds a day.  After the kids build up their stamina, that equates to about a 90 minute literacy block.  Within that they complete 3 rounds of Daily Five in addition to the
whole group mini lessons I sprinkle in.

Here is one of my little cuties
sitting in a hula hoop with her
book bin totally engaged:)
Book Bins
A sure fire tip for success with Read to Self is having a book bin for each child.  This eliminates the need for "book shopping" daily.  They have 5-7 books, sometimes more, in their book bin.  I developed a rotation for "book shopping" which allows each child to have a day designated as their book shopping-book exchange day.  No one is assigned to Friday so we have a built in make-up day for anyone that missed their turn or just needs more books. There are aways exceptions if a child truly has read all of their books - several times - and needs new ones, they find a time to shop.  If they are finishing quickly, that is a signal to me to start them reading easy chapter books and
introduce them to Accelerated Reader.

Over the next few weeks I will be reading along with the rest of Blog land the new Daily Five, 2nd Edition and sharing how The Daily Five has impacted the teaching and learning in my first grade classroom.

Happy Reading Everyone!!!

~ Clara @First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs
Teaching 365

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday Rewind - Moving Classrooms Again!!!

School is now over and the next adventure begins!!! Packing and moving - AGAIN!  
I have spent the last week working long hours to literally pack everything in my first grade classroom so it can be stored until August.  Yes stored.  The classroom I am moving into is an old portable with 4 blank walls and will need some major renovation before a classroom can be moved in. No cabinets, no shelving, no nothing.  I have requested a few pieces of furniture/shelving to get started. The good news is that the carpet is being replaced.  Good thing since it smelled like a moldy attic when I did a walk through.

It looks a a lot like the beginning of the school year - boxes, boxes, boxes.

So, I will get to create the space.  I read once that you should begin with an empty space or classroom and then move in pieces as you establish the need for them.  That should be fairly easy since the room is completely empty.  Student desks and chairs will be moved over from my old classroom. My teaching partner is also moving her 
classroom into the portable right next to me 
(looking for any small silver lining I can latch on to).

All of these changes came about because our school is beginning extended day kindergartens.  In the past we have had pairs of two kinder teachers teaching and sharing a classroom with half day schedules for the littles.  No more sharing classrooms with an am and pm class. That also means no partner to help teach.  

Big changes. I am trying to take the high road and not complain too much. However 3 moves in the last 4 years is a little daunting even for me who usually just rolls with it. Fortunately I have been able to stay  at my same school throughout all these changes. 

The upside is that I will have time to read and reflect focusing of two things in particular.
1.  Daily Five Rewind - How did it go after the first year  of implementing Daily Five?  What will I do differently next year?   What will I continue to do the same next year?

2.  Implementation of Common Core State Standards - I will be attending days of training throughout the summer directly tied to Proficiency Scales and our new electronic report card as it relates to Common Core.  Fun times!  

What changes are you experiencing this fall?  How have you dealt with portable classrooms in your teaching?

~ Clara @ Teaching 365
First Grade Sunflowers and Ladybugs

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Rewind - Teacher Appreciation Week and Parent Volunteers

This past month we had Teacher Appreciation Week at our school and my parents outdid themselves. Let's see --- Starbucks deliveries, Chipotle lunch, a banner decorating the front of the outside of my classroom, flowers, and a huge stash of gift cards to my favorite places. I have the most creative crew of parents this year.  The gift cards were tucked into a grapevine wreath.  What teacher doesn't love a few gift cards. The kids also brought in cute things that teachers love - Ticonderoga pencils and flowers. My favorites were the hand drawn cards where the kids assured me that I am the BEST.TEACHER.EVER.  At least until they get their awesome 2nd grade teachers.

Now it's my turn to show my appreciation to my parents for all of their hard work volunteering in my classroom this year.  I am blessed with a huge group of volunteers - 14!!! Yep 14!  They work with small groups of kids and prep mounds of materials for me - making copies, cutting out laminating, collating and stapling little decodable books.  You get the idea. Last year I made homemade salt scrub for my volunteers.  This year I think I will bake some yummy Peanut Butter Blossom cookies with Hershey's kisses on top. I found a cute parent volunteer tag here Parent Volunteer Gift Tag from The Teacher Wife.
Just about perfect to add to the cookie bags. 

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies - You can find the recipe on the back of a large bag of Hershey's Kisses.

How do you honor your parent volunteers?  I would love to hear your ideas.

~ Clara at Teaching 365

Sunflowers and Ladybugs in First Grade

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Rewind

We have 13 days left in this school year.  Can you say holy light speed?  The next 3 weeks are sure to be a whirlwind of end of year activities.  Let's see... Open House, Spring Sing, Field Day, and the End of the Year Party.  

Our Open House was this past Thursday.  I don't  know about your school, but where I work Open House is a time to show off your students' best work and is attended by almost all of our families.  It is also a time when potential students come to visit and see what is in store for the next year.  While it is very rewarding to hear the comments and compliments from the students' parents, it is also exhausting.  So a little down time this weekend is in order.

Here are some pictures of my favorite Open House projects.

Opinion Writing - What would be the best superpower to have?  I was proud of my firsties as this was one of their first assignments that they typed in the computer lab.  And yes they had help - some more than others - but the words are all theirs.

Spring Acrostic Poems with Tissue paper tulip art - The poems are underneath the tulips.

Parts of a Flower interactive science project 

Poetry in a Jar - My teaching partner came up with this awesome poetry project.  The kiddos choose a poem and then put items into the jar to illustrate the poem.  Very creative ideas!

How many days are left in your school year?  Are your remaining days filled with special events?  I would love to here about any fun things you do to keep the kids (and the teacher) interested the last few days of the year.

~Clara @ Sunflowers and Ladybugs in First Grade 

Teaching 365