Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BTW. . .

For those of you looking for great deals, have you thought to go to Michael's (the Arts and Crafts store)?  I was over there picking up some supplies for a baking project and saw tons of great stuff!  Check out their clearance section (found some $2 Bingo games like rhyming in those bins).  It's also a great place to find stuff for your treasure box! They do have a little teacher/classroom section, but in my opinion the clearance section had better finds.

Slow blogging . . .

Well, there are only a few more days left of summer vacation before some of us head back to the classroom.  Normally I'd be in my classroom already getting a head start . . . setting up my classroom and organizing stuff.  This year, however, I am staying away until I officially have to go in.  I'm savoring my last few days as a stay-at-home mommie with my baby girl who just turned 1!  That's also why there really isn't anything you can download and no new items to purchase on TpT.  Unless I can get something done when she goes to sleep, I probably won't get anything up.  =(

In celebration of the beginning of a new school year, however, I will be throwing a sale on TpT!  Starting Sunday, everything will be 10% off for my Back-to-School sale!  Combine that with the TpT sale, and you could really rack up on some good stuff at a great price!  So don't forget to stop by my TpT and snag some deals!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Feedback, please! Just Wondering . . .

Teaching is such a fulfilling and wonderful job, but it is also soooooooo time consuming!  It's more like a way of life rather than an occupation.  Seriously!  So here's my question, and I would REALLY love to hear from you out there!

Before I got married and started a family, I was able to bring work home and work on it any time I wanted . . . and I DID!  (Does that sound pathetic?)  It seems to me that teachers are teachers at every hour of the day not just on the clock.  So my life was teaching, friends, and church.  (My family live kinda far so the "family" portion was mainly on the phone or vacation/holidays.) I had time to cook, exercise regularly, and stay very active in my church.

Now I have my husband, my baby, teaching, and church.  It's important for me to do things well, with a spirit of excellence and not just get it done.  So, how do I find that balance?  I try to get everything done at school so I don't have to bring things home.  After I'm done with work I want to be able to exercise, cook dinner, have time with my baby, have time with my husband, stay active and involved with friends and church and do all of that well!  (Oh, yeah . . . and a little time for myself would be nice too.)  Have you found a way to achieve that balance?  I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Behavior Mods

The Lesson Plan Diva is having a Linky Party!  She asks what kind of behavior plans do you use?

Well here goes . . .

I try to use various incentive programs to keep kids motivated and on track (such as my compliment tree, class compliments to earn class parties, etc.)  For the past 9 years I have used a chart I made which looks like a playground stuck to my file cabinet.  Every student has a mighty mini men clip holding his/her name (I hot glue a magnet to the back of the clip).  Every student starts on the playground.  For every occasion which I have to seriously reprimand a student, the student will move the clip to a different area on the playground.  The 1st talk moves them to the "Warning" section.  After that the clips are moved to a series of benches for 5 minutes time out, 10 minutes time out, and then 15 minutes time out in another classroom.  If anything continues after that point I call administration.

I usually don't have to ask too many students to move a clip, but sometimes there are students who need continuous monitoring as well as daily parental communication.  In these cases I may use a sticker chart taped to the student's desk.  A sticker is earned each time the goal is accomplished (such as staying on task, completing work, or any other area of difficulty the student is trying to overcome).  In more severe and continuous cases I have Daily Checklists I send home with the student.  The checklist is broken down into subjects/segments of the day.  We usually focus on 2-3 goals.  This checklist is discussed with the parents and it is up to the parent to check and sign the Daily Checklist each evening.  The parent is also to discuss the checklist with the student and determine small incentives and consequences for meeting or not meeting goals.  If the student achieves his/her goal of smiley faces (given for each segment of the day for each area of focus), the parent will reward the student with the incentive they agreed upon (special time with mom/dad/friend, computer time, trip to the dollar store, etc.).  If the goal is not met, it is up to the parent to follow through with the agreed upon consequence (early bedtime, loss of a privilege, etc.).  It's a lot of work, but it does work for some students.  It holds them accountable AND it makes the parents take a more active role in the behavior issues, following through up at home.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Celebrate 1 year!

It's my daughter's 1st Birthday! Come celebrate with me on my TpT!  Everything is 10% off today only!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Conferring Record Labels

Today was day 2 at the Literacy Institute and I took the workshop on Conferring.  Great stuff!  When I first started Writing Workshop I was conferring as much as I could.  As the our focus got redirected over the years on other demands I did less and less conferring.  That's why I was really looking forward to this workshop - I really needed some help with management and guidance regarding conferring with my students.

Yesterday I created a weekly form to record the times you confer with students.  Today I saw a different way some teachers organize this.  Instead of a recording sheet, they set up a folder where each student gets a section.  (Some laminate sheets of construction paper for each student.)  Then they carry around a sheet of labels to write their notes on.  At the end of the day they peel the labels off and stick them in the folder in the student's section.

I think I might like this way better so I can keep all the student's conference records in the same place.  I guess I'll have to try them out to see what will work best for me.

I've taken the Weekly Conferring Records and placed them in a label format.  This sheet is set up for the Avery US Letter Format template 8460 for labels 1" x 2.63"

Click on the preview below to download the labels.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Inspiration is a Kick in the Butt

This week I am attending the Literacy Institute offered by my county.  They always have great workshops and keynote speakers.  Today was the 1st day and as usual I'm faced with the reality of how amazing these teachers are out there!  I start to realize all the areas that I've slipped in or could do better in.  I should be better and I know I can do better!  These presenters and teachers certainly are inspiring.  Hence the "kick in the butt"!  It's time to take what I know works and blend it with some of these new ideas that I'm discovering!

One area that I know I had been lacking in but honestly was just trying to keep my head above water in was "conferring" with students in Writing Workshop.  The first few years I started Writing Workshop I was having my little meetings with students and writing down feedback on post-it notes.  Then as the years passed and I schedules got changed, I ended up just trying to squeeze in some good Writing Workshop time and let the conferring side go a bit.  It became more verbal feedback but I'd lose track of who I talked to about what and when!  So this year I'm trying to be proactive.  I've created this "Conferring Recording Sheet" to put in a Conferring Folder.  This way I'll be able to keep track of who I've already met with and what we talked about!  There is a spot for the student's name, the star = a compliment about the writing, and TP = the Teaching Point you'd like the student to work on.

Click on the preview below to download this form for free.  I hope it helps you keep up with your conferring!  I certainly hope it will help me!

Oh, BTW . . . my daughter's 1st birthday is this THURSDAY, so I'll be having a sale to celebrate her birthday on my TpT!  Everything will be 10% off!  Don't forget to come shop!

Friday, July 15, 2011

ABC Order Center

You know how our little 1st graders have lots of energy?  Sometimes they just can't help it.  They find themselves walking around the room (or find reasons to get up and walk around the room).  So why not let them?

This Literacy Center allows them to roam around the room in search of hidden owls.  In this ABC Order center you will hide 10 owls around the room (posting them on walls, bulletins, furniture, etc.).  Each owl has a word on it.  Once the student finds all 10 owls, recording them on their papers the students will put the words in ABC order!

I have included 5 different sets of words that can be used one at a time, increasing the difficulty the next time the center is used (alphabetizing to the 2nd and 3rd letter).  The 5 sets can also be used as a differentiated center, posting different sets of owls (color coded by group) as a differentiated center.  In this version you'd only assign one colored set to students of one level while assigning a different harder/easier set to another set of students of a different level!

Click on the preview below to snag this center on my TpT!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Diva gives it away!

Then visit The Lesson Plan Diva to enter her 500 Follower Giveaway!  You can get my Syllable Zoo Center in her giveaway AND purchase her Year Long Language Arts Assessment packet!

Seriously . . . this is a giveaway you don't want to miss!  EVERYONE who follows the her blog and TpT and posts the giveaway to her blog wins 12 different lessons from our community of bloggers.  Then you also get a chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card.  Everyone walks away with a ton of great stuff but one person gets a gift card too!

Click on the icon below to go straight to the giveaway!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Year of Assessments!

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find myself scouring my resources looking for a good assessment for some hard evidence of whether my students have learned what they needed to learn.  Sometimes I feel like I need to "Frankenstein" resources to get a good comprehensive assessment.  Well, guess what?!?!  The Lesson Plan Diva and I have been working hard and we have created a package of an entire year's worth of assessments for both Language Arts and Math!  We even took into consideration the amount of time it takes for teachers to grade, so we've made each assessment 10 questions long for easy grading!  You won't even need that handy EZ-Grader!  =)

That's right!  I'm offering 28 pages of Math assessment goodness!  For each of the 12 units there's a 10 question test and an "Exemplar" style problem solving question for students to think creatively and explain their thinking to show that they are "Experts" in the skill tested.  (Not sure about other schools, but our school is HUGE on Exemplars!  I think they're wonderful . . . not nearly as intimidating as they seem.)

Visit my TpT to pick up the Year Long Math Assessment packet covering 12 units of Math. The Diva and I have got your 1st grade assessments covered all year long.  ;-)

And click on the preview below to get The Lesson Plan Diva's Language Arts Test packet!

(BTW - If you don't know about Exemplars or have questions, let me know.  I'd love for you to maximize the Problem Solving portion of the assessments.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Busy, Busy! FYI!

I've been busy, busy this week working on something exciting for 1st grade teachers that will last you the whole year through.  Trust me . . . it's very useful!  Stay tuned to find out what it is!

Also, if you were interested in my 42 page owl themed time unit but haven't purchased it yet from TpT . . . I've dropped the price so you may want to go check it out again!

Off to work on the that exciting new item!  I'll be back soon!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Accelerated Reader Frenzy!

Most schools that I know of promote using the Accelerated Reader (AR) program with the kids.  Some teachers make it mandatory to participate.  I've never really been one to push AR with my students.  In fact I never really made an effort to encourage my students to participate until they were reading an AR level 10 or 12 before this year.

This past year a teacher on my grade level said she made AR a center every week during Guided Reading.  It was one less center for her to think about.  When I was in a jam one week I decided to give it a try.  I checked out a basket full of AR books of varying levels to accommodate the different readers in my class.  I wasn't surprised that they were excited about it when I first introduced it.  They are usually pretty pumped about anything new, especially when it's presented in an exciting way.

My rules for the AR center were 1) Read the book at least 2 times.  2)  Fill out an AR Ticket before taking the test. My AR tickets helped me to keep track of who was reading what and how they were doing with the comprehension skills as assessed through the AR tests.  It also required my students to practice identifying the tite, author and illustrator of the book.  Click on the picture below to get a copy of my AR ticket.

I kept a basket next to the computer where students could turn in their completed AR tickets.
My fear for this center was that if we did it every week, the kids would grow tired of it and lose interest and we all know what happens when they lose interest!  Off task, goofing off, etc.  So I decided to make it a challenge for the students.  From time to time I would go through the basket and check up on my students.  They did not receive grades for AR tests, but the Tickets certainly gave me a quick informal assessment of their reading comprehension levels.  Any test scoring below an 80% was marked and returned to the student.  I went back into the program, erased the score, and gave them a second chance to reread the book and retake the test.  Then I made a chart on which I recorded any test the student scored 100% .  If a student earned 10 100% AR tests, he/she received a certificate to the 100% club and a trip to the treasure box.  (I got some really cute certificates at the Dollar Tree.)  They were very excited about this!  They were even really excited each time I changed out the basket of books with new titles.

By the end of the year I had 2 students who earned over 40 100% AR Tests!  You should have seen my students' faces when I announced how many they had earned.

If you're looking to get your students interested and motivated with AR, try this!  It's not really pressuring them into taking the tests, but it does  encourage them to do the tests and focus on reading comprehension.  It also rewards students who put forth the effort and the choice is still theirs.  Some challenge themselves with harder books and take several in one day.  Others may just take their time with 1.  Still a good way to start.
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