Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday: Autumn!

I'm linking up with Mrs. Jump's Class to share what we're reading this week to celebrate the arrival of fall.

Here's what Autumn looks like for my students:

Based on my students' strengths and needs, I've been looking for more ways to incorporate sensory play...in an appropriate way...into our standards-based first grade curriculum. This is very important, because if I don't offer the opportunity...my students will take it in a possibly less appropriate way :)

It's been a blast!

I've been busy aligning books (both guided reading and close reading), poetry, and themes. I also tossed in phonemic awareness, phonics, and sight words. Don't forget shared reading, readers theater, and writing prompts! Can you think of anything else?

Next, I took the above resources and decided on a weekly sensory bin theme. I went a little crazy at Michaels (thank you teacher discount!) and Pinterest (SO many awesome ideas!) and created bins to last through December. I bought two bins from Target to rotate and created a Social Story to reinforce proper use:

 The upcoming themes are already assembled in jumbo plastic bags in my basement...ready to be explored!

It was really difficult to narrow this week down to one autumn book...soooo, I had to choose 2 :)


Adorable rhyming book :)

I also pulled a few non-fiction readers to add to our autumn adventure. I've learned SO much this school year already & it's still September!

Please click here to read more SENSE-sational posts 
and here to see what I've found!

Stay tuned...I've found so many wonderful autumn resources for my students on TPT this past weekend, plus I'm updating my own fall favorites!

Have a terrific Tuesday!

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Scoop!

Happy Sunday!

I'm linking up with Teaching Trio to share my "exciting" Sunday ;)

I can explain the first box...I wrap up my weekend work by packing up what I need for the upcoming week's lessons. The bag(s) move to my front door by 5:00 pm and I call it a day. This is much easier said than done! "Packing the bags" means I have to make final decisions on what materials I'm going to use to hopefully provide the "a-ha" moments for my students. This week we're tackling silent letters in phonics, doubles addition facts in math, and we have a new close reading & guided reading book. I usually have WAY more activities than I need and actually find this Sunday chore a little nerve-wracking. Once the week gets underway, there are little fires to put out daily, so this Sunday ritual is the MAIN time to be making lesson preparation decisions.

This year, I've been lesson prepping during my lunch periods and so far, I've gotten it done! I have to submit lesson plans more than a week in advance. Because every week tends to change things (based on what my students' strengths and needs), the weekend is when I pull out the lesson and really think about what it will look like. It's not a perfect system, but it's what my school requires :)

I also like to "close up shop" in my office and other high-traffic areas (which is my entire house). This means I'll try to tidy up all the stacks of paper and my desk. I'll also fold my laundry, put away dry-cleaning, and pack my lunches. Any task that will make the work week run smoother!

I also need to just set a timer and focus on cleaning out my Outlook inbox. Since I started using a smart phone, I've gotten terrible at this! I read or dismiss my messages on my phone, but never delete them! I realize the solution is to just delete them (duh), but I've mistakenly deleted important things and always tell myself "I'll go back and read it later." Anyone else? 
I could use a pep talk in this area!

The above items are things I should be doing right now, but instead I'm working on my NWEA Math card set. I'm on Page 89 and don't want to stop! All 400+ questions are already completed and student-tested. Now I'm painstakingly adding the RIT bands and touching up the clipart. The cards will coordinate with my NWEA MAP Primary Reading set. I've had other teachers reach and out and ask for them - I really appreciate it and will do my best to complete and upload the set within the next two weeks! 

What's on your to-do list today?  Please link up to share at:

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Friday, September 19, 2014

5 for Friday & 5 Places

Happy Five for Friday!

I'm switching it up this Friday for Doodle Bugs Teaching linky:

 I thought I would also tag along with Lifestyle Sistas 
for "5 Places I Want to See..."

It may be a little off topic, but the subject of teaching still makes a sneaky appearance!

This is actually a tough post to write because I've been lucky enough to have visited so many wonderful places and I interpret this linky as places I haven't seen yet. 

Places 1-4 are random choices, but
 #5 holds a special place in my heart :)

1. Belgium. As in Belgium Chocolates. I love chocolate, but don't have cravings for it. I'm sure a trip to Brussels may change that!

2. London. I actually don't want to visit London, I want to LIVE there. I love history and would literally spend my days on a park bench people-watching (while drinking tea).

3. Atlanta. It would be a DREAM to spend the day at Ron Clark Academy. You can register for professional development...maybe I could write a Donor's Choose for it!

4. Harlem. I teach inner city and feel very called to do so. If I could, I would take a sabbatical and go live and volunteer at a school in Harlem. I'm fascinated with what the charter schools are doing there and would love to experience it first-hand. 

My father was born in Latvia and came to the United States as a child. Growing up, I experienced Latvian culture, tried to pick up the language, and heard nostalgic stories from my grandparents. I've always wanted to visit and connect with my heritage. The history is so rich, plus the beaches look pristine! 

Where would you want to visit? I'd love to add to my list!

And because it's Friday...
I'm linking up to share a freebie I'm excited about!

At my school, we have TDL's (Teacher Development Leaders). There's about 10 teachers who receive training on instructional coaching and then work with 1-3 teachers throughout the school year. It's similar to mentoring, except everyone has one - regardless of role or experience. The TDL's do weekly check-in meetings and drop-by observations. I'm honored to be a TDL this year. The training is top-notch and pushes me to
1) hopefully be an effective mentor teacher, and
2) be a better teacher for my own students.

This year, I have the privilege of working with one of the kindest and most thoughtful special educators. The really awesome thing (and I'm sure the administration planned this)? This teacher works with my caseload from last year! The caseload I ADORED.
Every question and topic we've discussed has been centered on launching these new second graders on the path to success. I've been so impressed with what this teacher has already done in only one month!

This past week, she asked about the different reading intervention programs we have access to and how to maximize small group reading time (did I mention how awesome she is?). It's no secret how much I love using Leveled Literacy Instruction and she seems to agree (yay!). She will be using the weekly lessons and looking for opportunities to insert even more phonemic awareness/phonics skills based on the text.

I made this little cheat-sheet for reference:

What do you think? Am I missing anything?
Please let me know and I can add it to the list.
Right now, this list is available for free by clicking here.

I'm linking up this freebie with a few of my faves:

The Daily Alphabet

Freebie Friday

Enjoy your weekend!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

WIWW, Number Bonds, & Freebie!

Happy Wednesday!

I hope you're having a wonderful week!

The past few weeks I had so much fun collaborating with a lovely (& fashionable) group of ladies organized by Alison from Get Your Pretty On. Sadly, the Work Your Wear Style Me Challenge ended last week and I was left to my own devices. I'm already counting down until the next challenge starts!

Here's a glimpse of my last few outfits:

This outfit doesn't look too great in the picture, but I had fun wearing it! I ditched the green cardigan early on and the black sheath dress had a cute skinny belt. I wouldn't have chosen the nude shoes if weren't for the challenge, I would have automatically reached for my safe, basic black. The chevron scarf picked up the nude and I liked the balanced look!

I really have to remember to move my phone down - you can't see my long statement necklace :) I have to thank Alison for easing me back into wearing blazers. I've never loved the look on me, but after participating in the challenge, I dug out this vintage (aka: old) J Crew burgundy blazer. LOVE shopping in my own closet!

 This dress was what I wore yesterday for Back to School Night. It's my "no-brainer" go-to dress when I have a big day ahead of me (13+ hours at school!). It's a power dress because it's stretchy jersey knit (comfy) and I'm wearing my Lululemon leggings underneath - a must-have for any special educator who just may end up on the floor at some point in the day (coaxing a student from underneath the table). The dress is a couple years old from White House Black Market and since then, I've picked up 3 more variations - you can't have too many dresses :)

I linked up with Lovely Little Wardrobe, Tucker Up!, and The Pleated Poppy for this Fashion Snap glimpse!

This week I started pulling my math intervention groups 

♥ ♥ ♥ 

I'm a huge believer in hands-on practice and use math mats for EVERYTHING! Hands-on also requires engaging manipulatives (cue: Michael's and Target Dollar Spot). I've already professed my love for the quietest manipulative (pom-poms)...I also love to incorporate mini-erasers and "table scatter." 

What in the world is table scatter? It's those plastic little figurines that are themed for seasons and holidays. They are ADORABLE and super-inexpensive. Unfortunately, right now my students are taking the "scatter" part seriously and the little "plinking" noises can be a little distracting for other students.

We've been working hard on understanding number relationships using number bonds. I use math mats for our guided practice and just realized that I never uploaded my THEMED math mats. My students get such a kick out of these!

I cheated and used colored cardstock, but the themed math mats could also be printed on simple white copy paper and inserted into plastic sleeves or sheet protectors. I have two formats: one with empty space at the bottom and/or four number sentence frames (above). I tend to use the four sentence frames, i.e.: my students would write 3 + 1 = 4, 1 + 3 = 4, 4 - 3 = 1, and 4 - 1 = 3. 

In the picture above, you can see three types of table scatter I just picked up at Target last weekend: yellow acorns, red leaves, and orange pumpkins. I'm also showing pasta (elbow-shaped and wagon wheel), a pom-pom (autumn colors from Michael's) and the little white bean with two eyes (ghost!) If you're using the plastic sleeves, you could also simply draw dots/write numbers using a dry erase marker. 

I just updated my Number Bonds Through the Year with 23 new themed math mats! If you have already purchased (thank you!), please redownload. This file is over 220 pages and $5.00 at 

Here's a link to a number bond freebie for a closer look! 
I hope your students LOVE them as much as mine do :)

I'm also linking up with Miss DeCarbo for Wordless Wednesday:

Here's a picture that warms my heart & needs no explanation:

Have a wonderful week!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Talk: Reader Response Freebies!

Every school year brings new challenges and areas to focus on. Last year was all about MATH. It was our first year with Engage NY and most evenings were spent figuring out "what just happened?" and "what are we going to do about it?" It was a lot of work, but so far it has really paid off...this year's math lessons have run SO much smoother :)

This school year seems to be all about BEHAVIOR. In the past few weeks, I've shared many ideas and freebies that (fingers crossed) have made a positive impact on my little learners. 

Another area that I'm so thrilled to be focusing on is LITERACY. This is where my ♥ is and it's been already so much fun sharing and discovering books together with this first grade crew.

Yesterday had glimpses of reading magic as we dug into books throughout the day. Here's a glimpse of what we did:

Leveled Literacy - my reading intervention group met and read Too Much Stuff (LLI Lesson 6) together. Such a sweet group!

During this intervention block, I also have a Close Reading block using Tara West's a-m-a-z-i-n-g resources!

 (sorry it's sideways!)

I also have an additional intervention group after lunch participating in Shared Reading using DeeDee Will's Poetry Units. This week, we read Family from her August/September set. 

We revisited Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library in Comprehension.

And finally, we had a listening station with reading response pages (freebie!) set up for early finishers. 

In the station, I have the book, a QR code-card to listen (& watch) on the iPad, and these reader response pages copied double-sided:

My students love listening to books SO much, this served as a little "brain break" for them!

Don't worry, we also finished with a dance party to Taylor Swift's Shake It Off (I'm not proud of that, but it was fun!).

Yesterday, I shared this freebie to use with the iPad and Hooked on Phonics e-books:

And that was only Monday...can't wait to see what today brings!

Please visit Deanna to read about more books and teaching tips. 

This post is also linked up with the marvelous
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Have a terrific Tuesday!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Manic Monday Hooked on Freebies!

Happy Monday!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend :)

It was beautiful and busy here. The Blue Angels were in town and literally did fly-bys over my house - super-exciting and very, very LOUD. They had a show both Saturday and Sunday to help Baltimore celebrate their Star-Spangled Celebration.
We had prime seats right at the end of our street:

 It was a picture-perfect Sunday!

I also accomplished quite a bit to prepare for the week!
I'll be posting pictures soon on Instagram and Facebook of all the fun seasonal loot I picked up at Target and Michael's. I think I'm more excited than my students for autumn!

Sensory materials remain at the top of my list for this caseload. Have you seen these?

Michael's had them for $0.29! Scents include pepperoni pizza, toasted marshmallow, and buttered popcorn. Needless to say, I bought all of them. Scentos have magical powers of my firsties (♥), but they also show through on our thin copy paper. These Crayolas will be a nice way to mix it up :)

I also picked up 10 boxes of pasta for $10 to create this:

It's SUCH an easy and inexpensive way to add visual and texture variety to a sensory bin. I posted about our first bin last week. It was literacy themed with onset/rime cubes, word families, and more:

I provided my students with a clipboard and paper to record all the words they could build. My students kinda lost their minds over this (in a good way), so I decided to keep it permanent and purchased an additional box to use for our weekly rotating themes.

I just created an autumn, Halloween, and farm theme for upcoming weeks - stay tuned!

 I'm so humbled and overwhelmed by the generosity of donors who contributed to my Donors Choose project:

My students received an iPad!!!

Can you believe it? I'm SO thrilled for them! I'm working with several students who have a diagnosis of autism. They are very technology-savvy, yet still building their stamina to participate in the first grade classroom setting. In kindergarten, they were slowly increasing their time on task (up to 5 minutes) with technology breaks. They probably weren't too thrilled to begin working with me - technology-barren! But no longer... I'll be introducing the iPad to them this week and I already posted a new project for additional iPads so all of my students will eventually be able to use one. I feel this is important because they are all at different levels and I'll be able to differentiate to meet their needs. 

In the meantime, I created a reader response packet to accompany the Hooked on Phonics app! I downloaded the app for free on Teacher Appreciation Day last year. It's A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
You can try out the first lesson for free - I downloaded it from iTunes. And here's a 5-page freebie for Unit One:

I'm almost finished with the entire packet - it will be 50+ pages and include mini-Grit Trackers! Stay tuned!

This post is linked with:
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Woohoo! It's back!
Thanks Charity :)

A quick note: We just wrapped up testing last week! Now that I know my students' current scores/RIT bands, I'll be introducing the NWEA practice cards this week. I'll be posting more soon on how I use them, plus I'm adding NEW cards to my packet! I'm also working on the math set :)

Have a fabulous Monday!

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