Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I wanted to pop in and share my quick, easy, and inexpensive parent gifts from this year. 

I bought the tile from Home Depot for about 15 cents a piece. I used red and green acrylic paint from Michaels for the kids to make fingerprint polka dots or lights {I let them choose which one they wanted to do}. My kiddos added the writing with a Sharpie. Then, we sprayed the tile with clear lacquer. This year I have one sweetie that is a Jehovah's Witness. For her, I let her turn her fingerprints into ladybugs so that she could still participate. I think they all turned out so super cute!

Today I finished wrapping the last of the tiles so that my kiddos could take them home after our class holiday party. I'm one of those people who likes to buy different wrapping paper every year, so I used  my leftover wrapping paper, bows, and tags from a couple of years ago on this project. Don't you just love when you can get extra use out of something you don't use anymore!

My school's focus this year is on improving writing instruction across the curriculum. One thing we have been encouraged to implement in our classroom is Writing Workshop. While I do love using it in my classroom, I often find that the one component that is the most difficult for me to keep up with is the closing. Silly I know, but by the end of writing I always feel like I am out of time and, while I know how valuable the closing to a lesson is, it's the one thing that I find myself leaving out. Does anyone else struggle with fitting it all in too? When I do manage to remember the closing, I choose two students who were working really hard to present their writing in our "Share Chair". Really it's just my chair that I usually sit in during read alouds, so they are always excited to be able to sit in the teacher's chair. I give them these visors to wear while they share to add to the novelty. When they finish reading their writing, the class gives them two glows {compliments} and a grow {a way to improve}. 

For Christmas, I used a reindeer visor that I found at Home Depot for our Share Chair. Oh the cuteness! I hope to find more for other seasons/holidays too!

What do you do to add novelty into your lessons?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Science Experiments in the Classroom

Do your kiddos love hands on science experiments as much as mine do?! Let's face it, our little learners love to play. Science experiments are fun! If you do it just right, kids think they are doing nothing more than playing. What they really are doing is experiencing learning with real world application. 

As much as I love doing experiments in class, sometimes they just.don' I don't have a hot plate to bring to school to melt my chocolate to show how matter changes from one state to another. I don't have an incubator to show my kiddos the life cycle of a chicken. I don't have tiny little race cars to show students the relationship between force and motion. So what do teachers do?... They improvise! If you ever feel like me and have that constant battle between wanting students to experience things in real life and having little to no materials to make that happen here are a couple of things I do instead...

Perform experiments at home and take pictures {or videotape yourself if you're brave}. 

I took these pictures at home, then created a quick Power Point to show my class. As I went through the Power Point, students recorded what they saw and made predictions of what would happen next based on prior knowledge they had. The kiddos were super excited {and surprised} to see me pull out the finished product for them to sample!

Use YouTube! Here is a video that I use to show how trees change from one season to the next.

Neither of these ideas are new, but are just some of the things I use in my classroom to!

Teacher confession: Sometimes it overwhelms me trying to figure out how to manage and gather the supplies. At my school, teachers don't get supplies for experiments. Anything we need to perform an experiment has to be bought by the teacher. I'm super lucky in that I have wonderful parents that are willing to donate supplies and/or volunteer their time to our classroom! I use SignUp Genius to help me organize my supplies. It is so easy to use and helps me to stay organized!

Now, I did have the opportunity to perform many experiments with my class. Thanks to parents for donating supplies and coming in to help us with our experiments, our week of matter fun went off without a hitch!

{All experiments come from Hope King's matter unit that you can find here.}

Monday, December 1, 2014

Retelling Fiction Text and a Freebie

Fiction text are so much fun to read, but when it comes down to having your little learners retell what they just read or *GASP* write a summary of what they just read, all the fun just gets sucked out! Am I right, or am I right?! Ha! 

In all seriousness, retelling and summarizing can be a daunting task for a first or second grader. By the end of our study, my second graders were rocking retelling, but that does't mean that there weren't a few lessons that I began to think there is no way they are going to be able to do this on.their.own. Independently and consistently are two words that come up repeatedly on our standards based report card. Those two words can be scary when all you want to do is give your kiddos guidance and support. 

So what do I do to help my kiddos master retelling and summarizing independently and consistently? 

Of course I start off with modeling over and over and over what the expectations are, but I know you already know that so here is one tip that I have to help get your kiddos off on the right track... Start small!

I always begin the year with questioning and I spend many a lesson on each of the six question starters {who, what, when, where, why, and how}. By doing this, by the time I get to retelling, my kids are use to identifying and analyzing characters, setting, problem, and solution. 

I also use a retelling rope to help my kids visualize this process. Here is my pirate style version. No reason for pirates other than this clip art from Creative Clips is just too.darn.cute! 

My retelling rope is next to the "I "mustache" you a question!" poster. 

This is one of my student's retelling ropes. The knot at the top symbolizes the problem and the bow symbolizes the solution. 

I also make an anchor chart to go along with it just in case some of my friends forget what each picture represents.

After reading several books as a class, I let my students choose books from their book bucket to retell on their own. 

First I let them work with a partner to retell their story aloud so they can listen to their retelling and self-monitor if they are missing any important information from their story. Then, I have them record their thoughts on a retelling graphic organizer.

If you'd like a copy of my pirate retelling rope, click here.

{Graphics: Creative Clips, Fonts: KG Fonts}

After my students have a firm grasp on retelling, we move into summarizing the beginning, middle, and end of a story. 

I just used a graphic organizer I had found from another packet, but you could always have your kids write their summary in their reading journal. 

If you'd like a copy of the BME chart labels you can find them here.

{Font: KG Fonts}

What do you do to teach your kiddos how to retell and summarize?