Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Favorite Day of Teaching...Ever!

*For your blogging enjoyment, please read this post in its entirety in your best British Accent :)

I just finished the best day of my teaching year.  I loved every second of it.

Here's why:

Yesterday in Social Studies we learned about the 13 colonies, King George, and all that taxing.  We acted out the Boston Tea Party which my kids have since begged me to do again!  They really enjoyed getting to "dump" a student pretending to be barrels of tea into the harbor.  Their sense of humor cracks me up!

Today, when my kids came into the classroom I had a few treats in store.  I made a crown.  Divided a bag of M&Ms into zip lock baggies and labeled each bag with a colony name.  I left these items on my shelf next to the carpet.  My very observant students noticed these at once, even before I was finished greeting everyone at the door.  I waited to tell them what was happening until our family meeting time.

I explained it like this (in my best English Accent, of course!) as I put on my made five minutes before the students came to class out of the materials I found in the scrap paper box unique, homemade crown:

I'm making my best "English" face.....

"Class, today I am Queen and you are a colonist.  These M&M's are yours to keep.  Now let's start learning.  Since I am a nice queen and I have let you sit on your carpet spot, I need you to pay me 1 M&M as a tax."


Now, this is the first year I have used M&M's instead of paper money.  I got the inspiration from a great blogger, Amanda over at Collaboration Cuties.

Collaboration Cuties

Click here to read her post.

This was also the first year I decided to talk in an English Accent All.Day.Long!  It was too fun!  By the end of the day, I had some of my firsties talking along with me!

I could tell my students felt what it was like because of the M&Ms.  You can imagine how painful it was for a seven year old to give away an tiny piece of chocolate.

As the day progressed, I added lots more taxes.

We paid taxes for sitting at our desks.... 

 using our math manipulatives.....

using a toy at recess.....

eating our lunches.........

participating in PE......

trying different flavors of tea.....

My students were eating.this.up
Delaware spilled his tax money on the floor and had to throw most of it away before 9am.  He ran out of taxes WAY too early in the day.  Instead of missing out, my students generously gave him their M&Ms so that he could participate. I didn't even have to suggest it.  I had students jumping at the chance to help him pay each time.  It melted my heart.  So sweet, this group.

Every time I forgot to use my English Accent, they would ask about it. 

They were trying to guess the next thing I would tax.  

And most importantly, they were scheming against me to get their tax back!

I saw so many crossed arms and frowns.  

But it was all good because my kids got "it" and enjoyed the learning process.
(And I gave my students back M&M's to eat at the end of the day!)

After we had enjoyed the M&Ms and Tea, we discussed the day as a class.  I asked the students what they would have done if they were really living back then.  Would you throw the tea in the sea?  Or come up with a new idea.  We wrote about our own ideas.  The ideas that first graders come up with are so stinkin hilarious! One student said they would throw the tea on the Queen (that's me)!

There were lots of laughs today.....especially when my accent got out of whack!

In the beginning of the day, I felt like this:

puppies and rainbows!

After my Stellar Math Lesson, I looked like this:

When I decided to only tax the students who brought a lunchbox because I was getting a school lunch and didn't want to pay a tax, I beaming at my brilliance.

This is me walking into the cafeteria:

By 2 O'Clock, their chatting revolting had gotten to me.  
It was beginning to show:

I took this picture of myself after carpool:


Have you ever gone *ALL OUT* for a lesson?  I'd love to hear all about it!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Highs and Lows Linky: January

I'm linking up with Katie
 over at Teacher to the Core for a fun monthly linky.

Teacher to the Core

I love that she explained this linky as 

"Share pictures… spill the beans… let that cat out of the bag!

Let us high five and hug you with the stories you share.

Let the comments you receive be your both

 "Oscar Moment" and your free therapy."

Don't we all need a little bit of both every now and then?

Here's my Oscar Moment:

I reached 50 followers this month!

I feel so blessed and honored to have real readers (I'm not talking to myself anymore!) who comment and give me feedback.  

How encouraging!
I have gained so much from following all of your blogs.  
It feels good to be able to give back a little.

And now for my therapy session.  By the way, how much will this session cost?  Do you take credit card, cash, check, or can I pay you in blog comments?

Mr. Hubby and I celebrating my 25 birthday.
After about 5 tries, his eyes were finally open!

I turned 25 this month. 
Cry me a river, bring on the tissues, and make a boat out of the empty boxes so I can float this river of tears......

BAH! Just kidding, I am, in no way, sad about that event.

Seriously, here's my real low:

The first two days back from Christmas Break, I lost two of my sweetest students.  They both moved away without much warning.  These girls, individually, were two of the most compassionate, caring, unique, and loving children I have ever met.  I feel blessed to have gotten to share a space with them for five months.

Their absence left a huge hole in our classroom heart that is still being repaired.

That left ten students in my class.  
Ten is a small number.  That doesn't leave too many options for friends.

We shed a few tears and grieved over these events.  

We all needed a little help to continue on without them.

Some of my students are still not over it.  They talk about the students daily with sad eyes and a heavy heart. I don't remember a close friend ever moving away when I was younger, but it happened two years ago and I am still an emotional wreck when I get to missing her.  
People move away. 
 It's a part of life, but that doesn't make things better.  

It's hard growing up.

Without these two students, I have noticed a shift in my classroom.  The girls definitely bicker more often (our peacekeeper is gone) and the general mental health of our classroom has declined (mainly their teacher's).

There is an upside to the story.  (I'm sure you are bawling your little eyes out for me right now huh? "Bless her little heart she only has ten students now...poor thing...would you please pass the tissues....and the chocolates?" )  One student relocated to our sister school, and we have planned to become pen pals with that class.  The teachers are even thinking about having a pen-pal meet up/field trip so that friendships can outlast the distance!  

As Pete the Cat would say, "It's all good."

I'm wondering, how do you and your students cope with students who move away and the ever-changing classroom dynamics?  Any tips or advice is welcomed!

Link up here.

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Read to self Book Nook

I have been contemplating writing a weekly blog post in order to stay consistent.  I think I've got the Five For Friday Flashback in order, but I'd also like to share great teaching tips and finds that have helped me in the classroom.

I'm writing you today to tell you about the for Read to Self Daily 5:

*Book Nooks*

I noticed after the Thanksgiving break that my students were having trouble getting started quickly during Read to Self.

I was hearing a lot of "I was sitting there first!" and "HEY! That's my spot!" instead of the quiet hum of readers.

This was unusual due to the training and general stellar-ness of my class this year.

I had read about letting students choose a permanent spot to read during Read to Self.  I tried it out during a mini-lesson and have not turned back yet.

I was honest with my students and said that I had noticed it had been taking a while to get started quickly.  I also told them I noticed how they were pushing, screaming, running, and beating each other with their book bags "rushing" to get the perfect spot.  I told them that was unsafe.  I wanted them to be able to get started quickly-without rushing.  It's a fine line my friends. A fine line.

The day of the book nook mini lesson, we all started at out reading at our desks (an unusual occurrence).
Each student, one-by-one, picked a "Book Nook" spot.

I gave them a sticky note with their name on it to place on their spot. That way, other students would know this spot was taken.

If a student picked a spot that was right next to their best friend I quickly discussed how that *might* lead to talking.  Everyone obliged and real reading happened.

The next day was the real test of success.  It was time to get started....quickly....without fighting to the death Hunger Games Style rushing to their spot.

They were excited and relieved to have their own reading spot.

Everyone walked.  I repeat: Everyone WALKED!

 Everyone was happy to claim their own spot.  There were no tears, back stabbing, or pushing.  

It worked like magic.

Since, I have not had a student ask to trade Book Nook spots.
I have seen an decrease in transition time.
I have been an all around Happy teacher!

Have you tried Book Nooks?

Do you have a system for picking out a stuffed animal or pillow (my students are allowed to read with one or the other).  Also, I have recently introduced "reading phones" which has created a HUGE distraction and reason to pout in 1st grade.  There's not enough for every student, which is code for "I had it first" arguments.

What's your solution for creating a fair environment of choice?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Five For Friday Flashback 1.25.13


Boy, oh boy, did I earn my Friday Celebration Rights!

This week was a tough one to get through.  
Third week back from Christmas break.  
(My high school coach used to always say the third time you are the most sore from your workout...I think the same is true for teaching!)
No MLK holiday.  
The 100th day of school.  
Work. Work. Work.  No happy hour in sight.
Anybody with me?  

I *AM* excited to show you my five random photos from this week.  


I spent my Sunday afternoon lesson planning outside in 70 degree weather!  
Hello?  Yes.  Uh Huh.  Goodbye.
(Summer just called.  It wants it's weather back.)


I decided to put my blog-stalking into action.  We had our first annual snow ball fight!
I am definitively doing this one again.  We just introduced counting coins with the quarter and this provided so much practice for my firsties!  It was also a great way to differentiate.  

"You can't count that high you? You weren't listening when I said a quarter is worth 25 cents? You are not sure how to count 5 quarters?  Toss it on the floor and grab another one sweetheart."

I gave very explicit directions.
 (No throwing a snowball at any other human being.  No throwing the snowball at school property.  No throwing the snowball overhanded.  They pretty much just set the snowball on the floor lightly tossed the snowball towards the carpet.)
Needless to say: it was a blast!

My students had no idea they were doing math!  
All smiles and "this is the best!day!ever!" talk.

This is me.  Can't you see the resemblance?
I "tried" to teach Self Portraits by using symmetry for art this week.  Tried is in quotation marks because I have never.ever.ever. taken an art class in my entire life.  In high school I opted for athletics, theatre, and that  "carry a fake baby-doll around for two weeks and pretend it's real" class.  I have no clue what I'm doing.  NO CLUE I tell ya!

I think they turned out alright.  
My student's obviously erased the line in the middle afterwards.  

On Monday, my school celebrated MLK by having school.

This was the first in our school calendar to schedule school on this day and to not have school on President's Day in February.  
Since January until mid-March is an eternity such a long stretch of time, the board voted for this schedule to help the teacher's keep their sanity to help the general mental health of the teachers and students.

(finally) *FIVE*

We celebrated the 100th day of school on Thursday!  
Some teachers got together on Monday night to make 100 themed tshirts.  
I choose pom-poms because I'm cheap, I didn't haven 100 noodles, I didn't have time to look on pinterest I'm resourceful and used the supplies I had in my classroom. 
Don't judge. 
Just smile and tell me you like it!

Hip Hip Hooray! I survived the 100th day!

(backwards mirror pic from my lame non-iphone-camera)

 We brought 100 items from home and counted them in all sorts of ways (tens, fives, twos, and then I got tired bored of watching them count so we switched to the "how many _____ can you do in 100 seconds" game.)  

THAT was entertaining!  Have you ever watched a seven year old try to blink as fast as they can?  What about how many times they can stand up and sit down.  100 seconds is a lot longer than you think!


Warning: If you look closely at the faces you might be creeped out. 

Look beyond the creepy and realize we dAnCeD our way to class on the 100th day of school with a tunnel of parents!  

Soul-train style!

So. Much. Fun.


My last Friday I was worried about linking up with two linkies in one post.  I thought you might kick me out of this blogging universe because I was breaking some kind of rule.  
How should I know?  I have NO clue what I'm doing on here.  
But alas, Amanda (who created THE flashback linky) said it was A-OKAY.  
I will be sleeping much better.

What are you waiting for?

Please join in the fun.  
Link up here and here!

Anyone else planning on heading up to school tomorrow?  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Guest Blogger

Happy Weekend!

It truly is a happy weekend because I made a trip up to see my favorite teacher and BFF today!  Our first year of teaching we lived in the same apartment complex and became instant friends.  Now she lives 2 hours away.  It was so good to get to spend some quality time with her.  I love friendships that outlast situations.  Don't you?

Anyways, I'm blogging today to let you know that I am a guest blogger at
Leach Teach

I'm talking about a great procedure I use during Writer's Workshop in order to get my kids engaged in writing.  Head on over and leave a comment for Melissa with your thoughts on this topic.  
Are you willing to try it?  
Do you already do something like this such as the "Quiet Ten?"  

Click on the picture below to see the post.

  For those of you  who have MLK off (AKA the entire nation except my school!), say a little prayer for me as you eat your popcorn while watching daytime soaps on the couch!
I hope you have a great weekend.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Five for Friday Flashback


Hip Hip Hooray!  It's Friday again! 

Who's been hanging out at Happy Hour for three hours?  Me! (I wish)  
Side note: I was daydreaming about happy hour enjoying a nice tall class of lemonade as I finished up preparing for next week  in my classroom this evening.  

Here are my 5 random posts from this week:


After reading Teeny's Post about her Fun Friday incentive, I decided to incorporate it into my weekly routine.  Today was our first day to experience the tears and broken hearts from the students who never finish anything ever joys and rewards from the students who are responsible enough to finish our weekly work. I decided to make my chart a CLIP chart despite all the negative attention.  It seemed to work well today- only one million clips broke in the process.

Here, two responsible students chose "Free draw" and one was teaching the other how to draw a Ninja Turtle. Don't you love it when they teach each other?

Hubba WhAAA?  How'd you do that?
So talented!


In social studies this week we were learning all about how to navigate a map.  
I took my students on a scavenger around the school in order to find the prize worth more than a million bucks to any first grader alive today: a juice box and crackers.  

They were out.of.their.minds. excited.


My students drew maps of their own bedroom after reading "Me on the Map"
We learned all about the Key part of the map as well.


I created a Word Work Tic Tac Toe for my students and taught them how to use it this week.  
We decided which choice we would go to for that day and circled it.  When we completed the task, we crossed it out.  Their spelling words are at the bottom of the page for the love of "my neck hurts from bending it upside down in order to see the words on the wall" easy access.

I am currently using Rachelle's Spell With Me from What the Teacher Wants
My students LOVE all of the different choices for word work and I LOVE that they have consistent paper to practice spelling.  

Here is where I keep all of the supplies needed with the Word Work.
My students about died when I let them use PENS!  
I also have a bunch of old cell phones (you know, the ones that had BUTTONS with the alphabet on it? Don't worry, my student's don't remember either.)  We use them to type the spelling words into.  
Call Me, Maybe?

We go bAnAnAs for Write Stamp Decorate!


We added more "seeds" to our Writer's Notebooks today.  I sent a note home at the beginning of the week attached to a zip lock baggie asking parents to help their student find ideas for writing.  

Examples included: baby pictures, family pictures, favorite stickers, coloring pages, wrapping paper, mom's cleaning receipt, and much much more!  

Needless to say, my students will not be "stuck" during writing time in the near future.

Does anyone else think I am cheating with linking up with MORE than 1 linky? 
Am I breaking some kind of blog-universe rule?  
Are you going to kick me out? 

What have you done this week?  

Link up here and here!