Sunday, November 30, 2014

QReative Writing, the QR Code Method

Creative writing--it's one of the few times where kids (and us adults) have free reign to write pretty much whatever we want.  BUT I'm pretty sure we've preconditioned so many kids to write like robots that when given opportunities to free-write they don't know what to do.  How many times have you heard a student say, "I don't know what to write about."

This goes for my own daughter and on a couple of lazy days during Thanksgiving break we tried to break the norm of creative writing by incorporating unknown QR code elements.  My thinking revolved around the idea that my own kids just need little bumps of engagement to get going and adding in the technology/QR code element is just the ticket.

Then I went to my quality control (that's my daughter) and asked her what she thought of the idea.  I could see her wheels spinning and she started telling me all kinds of ideas that should be included.

I created a die with codes for characters, setting, and a problem.  Then she (my second grader) had to write a story based around these ideas, but first she had to write out her rolls/scans on a graphic organizer.

Below is what she rolled and scanned:
Character:  Frosty the Snowman
Setting:  The Enchanted Forest
Problem:  There was not more hot chocolate.

This was the final story I got from her:

This was written during a break.  I didn't even bribe her with a new set of LEGOS.  I was even able to get my littlest kindergartener to do it to.  For a little differentiation I had her draw a picture of the three items she scanned.  She plowed through multiple stacks of paper using that method.

I love seeing this and watching my child grow as a writer.  It's a pretty good measuring stick.  I'm excited to use this in class and see what all my other students come up too.

Engagement is the absolute key for hooking my kids and students.  I think it would be a little preposterous to imagine that all kids come in ready to learn like one of Pavlov's dogs.  It doesn't work like that.  It never works like that.  It doesn't even work like that as an adult.  We want to be engaged and sometimes our imagination can't get the jump start it needs without a jumping-off point.  Sometimes engagement takes a little piece of technology or a idea-nugget from the teacher, either way works and either way is successful.

How do you engage your students for creative writing activities?

Grab a free sample below:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Make Your Rotations ROCK!!!

Have you all ever had that moment in class when you had finally had enough?? If you heard one more student go... "Where do I go now?" or "I don't know what to do?" were going to lose it!?! 

Well, about 5 or 6 years ago, I had reached my limit!!! I never liked teaching whole group that much except for writing mini-lessons or science/social studies since we had very little time. However, even though I didn't like whole group, I found myself doing a lot of it until I figured out what kind of teacher I was. I'm constantly changing, but it wasn't until I got my master's degree and had 2 of my close friends (EL teachers) pushing into my room during the day that I realized the teacher I wanted and was born to be. From that day on, I was determined to create a classroom environment that flowed and was smooth like a well oiled machine. I know it might sound funny that I didn't figure it out until my master's degree was complete. haha BUT, you guys, I seriously grew a back bone and had some new found confidence! My 2 friends that pushed into my classroom also introduced me to all the small group work. This was the same year that we started putting majority of the lower level EL students in my room since I speak Spanish, and our EL population was primarily Hispanic. I love this!! 

With this new found confidence and knowledge of what type of teacher I was, I began using a rotation system for both math and reading time. It took a few years to get it down to exactly the way I wanted, but now, I seriously could NOT LIVE WITHOUT IT!!! My classroom runs around this system! 

I wanted to give my students chances to explore, learn independently, challenge themselves, work together, and grow as problem solvers. I wanted to empower them to take charge of their learning and to see how they are just as big a part of their education as we (teachers and parents) are. So, my rotations system was created!!!

With this system, my kids are given several different learning experiences between technology, partner work, and independent work along with the small group time with me. I even have different rotations leveled by writing their Lit. circle number on their post-it which corresponds to the container with the appropriate passages for their levels. I made sure to use lots of picture cues for my EL learners, but also my gen. ed. learners. EL teaching methods are good teaching methods that can be used for ALL students. With the picture cues, I've matched those labels with the areas and materials for each rotation. Here's a glimpse into one part of it. :)

As with any procedures you do in your room, they have to be practiced explicitly. It can also be adjusted and customized for your schedule and framework!! That's the greatest part of the whole system! It is constantly changing!! With the post-its, it's super simple to move around kids because you can see it all right there. AND...this also helps with partnering kids up to set them all up for success! 

If you'd like to learn more about my rotations system and how you can use it in your room, hop on over to my blog to read more HERE!!! You can also click on my blog button below!! 
Thanks so much for stopping by!!! Have a great weekend!!!
Nicole :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Meet Mrs. Olson

Hey everyone!  My name is Angie Olson and I am so excited to introduce myself to you as the newest blogger that has been added to the Class*y Collaboration!  I'm a 2nd grade teacher from Minnesota.  I have been teaching for ten years and I have taught kindergarten, first, and second grade in those years.  I blog over at Mrs. Olson's Lucky Little Learners.  I love blogging about Interactive Math Notebooks as these have become my specialty!  Feel free to check out some of my favorite blog posts that I have written!  I have even done an interview with Sheila Jane teaching where I shared a bunch of Interactive Notebook Tips and Tricks!  I'd love to connect with you and if you use INB's in your classroom, let's chat!!!

On the personal side of things, I have a husband named Brandon and a 3 year old daughter named Molly.  We moved back to our hometown after being away for 12 years and it has been so nice to get reacquainted with old friends.  I am now teaching in the same school that I once attended as a child.  I love being able to teach with teachers who taught me.  It feels so good to give back to the community that helped to provide me with such a solid foundation!  Here are some photos of my family...

Now for the fun part!  In celebration of this recent collaborative opportunity, I'm sharing a sample of my Addition Interactive Math Notebook with YOU!  I'd love to hear what you think of it!  Simply click on the image below for a direct link to the product listing in my TPT Store!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas Cards Freebie!

Tis the Season for Fast & Easy Gift Ideas!
My first graders LOVE making cards for every occasion.  This year, due to the hustle and bustle of a jam-packed December schedule, I decided to make a fun Holiday Card Collection that students can make for their entire family!  Just print and go!  Students will have fun making cards all month long.
Click here or on the image below to grab this special freebie 
from my TPT store.
Happy Holidays!
Julie DiBenedetto
First Grade Critter Cafe'

Friday, November 21, 2014

Crystal Making

Hey everyone!

My class is finishing up their rocks and minerals unit for science and even though we follow a scripted curriculum for this unit, I had a few days that I could play around with.

I decided to surprise my class by letting them make crystals.

We made two kinds, one in a jar and one on a plate. 

The recipes are over on my blog. Your kids will have fun making these crystals too!

~Ms. T

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Clip Chart ADAPTED!!!

Hi there!!! Hope everyone is enjoying their week and getting excited for one of the best days of the year here in the US, Thanksgiving!!!

Today I wanted to share with you a struggle and a change I've made to fix that! One of my challenges is keeping up with my classroom management systems. I've always had systems that I've liked (clip chart, Class Dojo, etc.), but I always seem to either make the recording of it too complicated, time consuming, or just not feasible to keep up with when you have 50 million other things to do. Yes, I'm using a hyperbole hah to describe that (figurative language is always being taught in my room hah) because I just have the hardest time doing it all!

Aside from just recording everything, I started reading about different perspectives on the clip chart system (you can read more about this in the link below) which is the system I always end up going to back to. I read about the negative aspects of making kids clip down in front of everyone and all that.

So, after having a class discussion, we decided to DETACH the bottom of the clip chart from below the green down! I decided that with this, the kids who "fall" off the chart will give their clips to me to keep in my apron pocket. They can get back on the chart just as they would be able to clip up, but if their clip was still in my pocket then I make a phone call after school. Now, on the other end, if the kids get "off" the charts because of great behavior, I wear their clips on my clothes! This will also be a reason for me to call home for a good phone call! Now, I'm not saying I won't call home any other time, but this will help keep me accountable for making more parent contact!

Click on the picture below or HERE to learn more about the ins and outs of the clip chart system in my classroom and how I use SPARKLERS and REWARD COUPONS as incentives too that even work on counting coins!! :)
Thanks so much for stopping by!!! Leave a comment below to share how you all use the clip chart system in your rooms or if you do at all!! :)

Nicole :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pumpkin Life Cycle {FREEBIE}

Hello there!  It's Whitney from The Crazy Schoolteacher.  I have a fun pumpkin activity I want to share with you today.  I don't know about you, but I LOVE the teaching themes fall brings.  Maybe it is because I love fall or the fact that my favorite Starbucks drink comes back in the fall...who knows! :)  

My kids eat up every second of science they can get.  We spend the month of October learning about all things pumpkin.  One lesson that is always a favorite is the pumpkin life cycle.  

{TIP:  If you get to take a field trip to a pumpkin patch, this is a perfect activity to do when you get back to school!}

 I use the book, Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie to review the life cycle and introduce the fun craftivity.  I love the book and all of the wonderful photographs for the kids to look at.  If you do not have it I highly recommend ordering it from Amazon or your next Scholastic Book Club order.  

{Does your school get a Scholastic News?  This year they had a great one on the life cycle of a pumpkin.}

This fun and simple activity goes with any pumpkin activity that you may have.  I used it in combination with products from some of my fabulous bloggy friends.

Head on over to my tpt store to grab this activity for free!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Community Unit

 I think the universal unit that pretty much everyone does at some point in the year is a communities unit. I remember when I was teaching first grade, I wanted to do activities that were meaningful and went beyond just community helpers. I created a communities unit a few years ago for this reason. Today I've updated this unit with some new ideas I had. I wanted to align it more with the Common Core so I added some opinion writing and some research writing activities. There are lots of different activities in this unit to pick and choose from. The activities in this unit is appropriate for 1st-3rd grade.

Here are a few pictures I have from a few years ago:

We did a little research about the history of our community. StreetThen, we completed this Venn Diagram. 

This is one of my favorites. We brainstormed activities that we do in our community for each season. One of my students told us about pumpkin boat racing that goes on every fall. I love that picture! 

Here is a preview of what is included in this unit:

 This research part is new:

I also added these opinion writing activities: 

Or you can pick this unit up here:

I'll put it on sale for today. 

Aaannnd, I'd love to give away a copy right here! If you'd like to win this, leave me a comment with your email below. I'll pick a winner soon!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Turkey For You, Turkey For Me. I Think You Need A Freebie.

If you sung that title to the tune of "The Thanksgiving Song" by Adam Sandler then I commend you. It's a classic alright, and Jimmy Walker used to say "DYN-O-MITE!"

For everyone else, I'm sure you're just salivating to get you hands on a juicy turkey freebie referenced in the title.  If you're a reader of my blog you've already seen it.  If not, here's a little rehash:
I want my kids to be turkeys.  What?  I created a little turkey acronym for giving thanks and giving back to recognize those who have helped them (students/kids) and think of ways they can help each other.
Outside my door we're trying to fill up the wall with our giving thanks and giving back ideas.  Check it out...

Now for the FREE part!  
You can download the POSTER SET at my TPT Store.  

I've also created a full version with worksheets create-a-journal that tie it all together.

Now go out there and be turkeys.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Pilgrim Day

Hi everyone!  It's Megan from Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade!  Thanksgiving is coming!  Every year, I do a Pilgrim Days unit with my students and I am so excited to share what we do with you!  I hope you'll stop by my blog and take a look at all of the fun festivities we do to learn about life in the past! You will have the chance to win my Pilgrim Day pack, as well as a fun Pilgrim craft from a friend! Just click HERE to hop on over!