Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Earth Day {A Hands-On Lesson}

We can talk all day long about how to take care of the Earth, and why it is so important, but children have a really hard time grasping the concept of pollution.  This hands-on demonstration will help your students get a better understanding of the importance of taking care of the Earth.
 Here is what you will need:
Tub or bucket
Tongs and/or a spoons
Trash and/or Food Scraps
Dirt (Optional)
Pour clean water into a tub and discuss how this is the clean water that we should see in lakes, oceans, and rivers.  (Next, I added a little dirt to the water to add to the effect, but this is optional.)
Pour about a 1/4 cup of oil into the water.  Discuss how sometimes oil spills happen in the ocean, and how it is extremely harmful to ocean life.
Next, begin adding some trash and/or food scraps into the water. 
(Any guesses what I ate for breakfast this morning?)
Talk about how when we liter, trash can end up in our water supply.
Have students work together to try and pull all of the trash out of the water.
 You can also let the students use spoons to try and get the dirt and oil out of the water.
They will find that it is nearly impossible to remove all of the oil and dirt from the water.
This activity can be followed up with student writing.  You could have them write about what they learned or how they would take care of the Earth.
You can click on the picture below for some free Earth Day writing paper.
These are some of my favorite Earth Day books.
Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

All About Our Mother's Day Celebration {Mother's Day Flip Books and a FREEBIE}

I absolutely LOVE celebrating Mother's Day in my classroom!  Our Mother's Day Celebration is probably one of my favorite days of the school year.  I was going through some old pictures on my iPad, and came across the pictures I took from last year's celebration.  It made me a little sad because I will not be in my classroom this year for this special day.  {I decided to extend my maternity leave, and take the remainder of the school year off.  I will be returning to my classroom in August.}
I realized that I never shared these pictures from last year on my blog because our celebration had to be pushed back later into May due to state testing.  Just one more reason to dislike testing!
 We prepare for the day by completing some Mother's Day activities to present to our moms (grandmas, aunts, or special ladies).  As we complete these activities, the students place them in a folder that they decorate for the occasion.

I made these Mother's Day Flip Books that would be PERFECT for a Mother's Day celebration.
This packet includes versions for Mom, Grandma, Aunt, & Mum (for my Aussie friends).  I also went ahead and included Dad, Grandpa, & Uncle, so you are all set for Father's Day as well.  You can find these booklets by clicking HERE and heading over to my TpT store.
We also use a lot of the activities in Cara's Precious Parents packet.
I split my students into 4 groups, and each group practices a Mother's Day poem to read during our celebration.  I did NOT write these poems.  I found them from a couple of different sources a few years ago and retyped them.  You can click on the picture below to download the poems.
We also make these fingerprint vases for our mothers.  This idea came from Michelle at Fabulous in First.  I buy flowers the morning of our celebration to place in each of the vases.  I get the vases each year from Dollar Tree.

My FAVORITE activity to do during our Mother's Day Celebration is our "Mom.  Let's Talk!" bags.  This was a last minute idea that I came up with three years ago, and I love it!  Before the special day, print off the discussion questions and place them in a bag for each student.  Cut out the "Mom. Let's Talk" labels and glue them onto each bag.
During the celebration, the child and their mom, or other special guest, will take turns pulling out a question and discussing the answers.
It is seriously SO heartwarming to hear your students having these wonderful conversations with their mothers.  Just click on the picture above to download this FREEBIE.

I also purchase some snacks and drinks for our special day.
At the end of our celebration, I show our Mother's Day slideshow.  For this slideshow, I show a picture of each of the students, followed by a quote from that student of what they think is the best thing about their mother.  I add music, and it's a super simple way to end our celebration.
 Some questions that I have been asked in the past include:
What do you do if a student does not have a mother that can come?
On the invitation, I say that if a mother cannot come, a grandmother or another special lady may come.  For those students that do not have anyone coming, I ask my colleagues to fill in for them.  I have always been fortunate that teaching assistants or Reading Recovery teachers have been able to come into my room to be a special guest for my students.  If this is not a possibility, I am sure that you have other mothers in your room that would be willing to let another child join their conversations during the celebration.
How far in advance do you send home an invitation?
I like to send it home as early as possible so mothers can plan to take off work if necessary.  At least 2 weeks prior, but 3-4 would be ideal.
Do you write a grant for the materials used for this celebration?
No.  I purchase everything myself, but you certainly could write a small grant for parent involvement.

When do you do this during the day, and how long does it last?
I have always done mine in the morning around 9:00, and it lasts about an hour.  My students come into the room at 8:00, so this gave us time to get everything set out, and to practice our poems one last time before "show time."
Hope that helps!  Even though I will miss out on this year's opportunity to do a Mother's Day celebration, I know it will be a tradition that I will continue to carry on throughout the years.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Stich Fix #2 and a Giveaway

I couldn't wait to get my second Stitch Fix box today.  It's so much fun to have clothes delivered right to your front door!
I left a note on my Stitch Fix page to include some more "spring" colors this time around, so I was excited to see some brighter colors.
Here is what was in my fix.
1. Carissa Striped Fit & Flare Dress
I loved the look of this when I first pulled it out, and I wanted it to work SO bad.  It definitely had potential, but the top was cut in too far {you can't see it in the pictures}, and there was a weird gap on the sides. 

2. Aviva Boyfriend Jean
These jeans were gigantic on me.  I looked SO boxy and frumpy.  I was, again, hoping that these would work, because I need some new jeans for spring, but these definitely DID NOT.  I could barely keep them up.

This picture doesn't even come close to showing how saggy they were in the back, but trust me...not a good look.
3. Moni Geo Print & Camisole Blouse
This is the top from the pictures above, which I loved.  I paired it with some white pants, and it was even better.
4. Esten Button Up Sleeveless Blouse
I liked the color of this one, and I loved the very top of it around the neck area.  However, it was a little too short, and it felt boxy to me.
5. Solana Color Block Cardigan
This sweater looked better on than I thought it would, but it was a little bit itchy.  I'm picky about how my clothes feel.
So...final decision time.
Carissa Striped Fit & Flare Dress- Return
Aviva Boyfriend Jean- Return
Moni Geo Print & Camisole Blouse - Keep
Esten Button-Up Sleeveless Blouse- Return

 Solana Color Block Cardigan - Return
I was disappointed that I didn't like more in this box.  There was a lot of potential in it, but the fit just wasn't right with a couple of the items. I cannot wait until next month to see what is in my fix.
Do you want to try Stitch Fix?
Head on over to Stitch Fix and fill out your Style Profile.  Each fix will cost you a $20 styling fee, but if you choose to purchase an item from your fix, your styling fee is deducted from the cost of your clothes.  If you purchase all 5 items, you get them all at 25% off.  I'd love for you to use my referral code, and head on over.
{I get a credit if you use my code.}
Want to win a $20 Stitch Fix Gift Card?
 Enter using the rafflecopter below to win a $20 giftcard to Stitch Fix.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 6, 2015

What Will Your Students Remember About You?

A throwback to me in 1st grade.
As I was up feeding the baby last night, I started to think about school.  Not surprising for a teacher, right?  This time it was a little different though.  I really started thinking about what made each of my teachers in elementary school memorable.  I am very fortunate that the majority of my elementary school memories are positive ones, and I truly hope that I am able to give my own students positive memories as well!
I really don't remember too many details from Kindergarten, but I know that my teacher was fabulous. Not only because I loved Kindergarten, but she was one that followed her students throughout their lives.  In high school, anytime my picture was in the newspaper for sports, she would write me a note or send a card, and mail it to our house.  Two years ago, she sent me this letter after giving my speech at the "Back to School Teacher Rally" for our school corporation.
I know that she did things like this for a lot of her students through the years!  Seriously amazing, and definitely memorable!
Something random that I remember from my 1st grade teacher was that she would write "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" on papers that she would grade.  Can you even imagine how long that would take to grade papers?  But....memorable! 
 I could have sworn that I saved some of those papers in my baby book, but I could only find this letter that she had written.
I remember my 4th grade teacher so well, not only because she was really nice, but I LOVED her handwriting!  Like, seriously, I was obsessed with it.  I found this letter below.  How beautiful is that writing!  I wanted my cursive to look like hers so bad!
A fun little side note.  My daughter is in 2nd grade, and my 4th grade teacher is now the 2nd grade writing teacher.  She sent home a certificate made out to my daughter, and her handwriting is still beautiful!
I know that as you get older, you remember more.  So, I'm sure that's part of the reason why I can remember almost everything about 6th grade, but it may also have to do with the fact that I had THE BEST 6th grade teacher!
He related things to real life, and made learning so much fun! I can still remember our "classroom economy."  Every year he had his class create a city. Our class voted on a name (Socracity, named after Socrates), and the name of our currency (Bubs).  Each person had to create a business in the city and work to earn money.  I owned a store with three other girls, and we sold perfume samples.  I can still remember dragging my mom through all of the department stores in the mall to collect perfume samples to sell.
Like I said, almost all of my elementary school memories are positive.  I do, however, remember a particular teacher that called me out in front of the class with a big red F on my paper.  I don't remember if I had gotten them wrong, or if I didn't finish, or what happened, but I was devastated, and so embarrassed.  Unfortunately, this is one of the few things that I remember from that year of school.  The rest of the year may have been fantastic, but that is the one lasting memory that I have. 
I try to remember this things when I am teaching my students.  They will not remember most of the things that we do each day, but I hope that if they are able to remember just one thing, that it is a positive one.
So, my question to you is, what will your students remember about you?
Teachers have SUCH an important job, and many days, it can be overwhelming.  We have to always remember what is most important.  We did not go into teaching because we couldn't wait to give tests and write lesson plans with our standards and objectives.  We went into teaching to make a difference in the lives of children.  We teach for those times when a student makes a connection, and understands a new concept.  We went into teaching for those days when our students say, "This was the best day, ever!"  We became teachers to TEACH children!
I want to thank all of my teachers that gave me such a positive school experience.  You have inspired me, and I hope to continue inspiring my students in the years to come.
This is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes, and I think it sums up this post perfectly.
How will you be remembered?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bunny Math FREEBIE & April Nonfiction

We are on Spring Break this week, but if you have school tomorrow, and you need a quick math activity for your students, this is perfect.
Students will spin on the Bunny Spinners to see what numbers they will be using to write their equations.  You can differentiate this according to each student's level.  You can have them add two numbers, three numbers, or more.  You could have students subtract their numbers, or even multiply.

I have also included two different grouping mats if you would like to have the students demonstrate their equation using jelly beans or seasonal erasers.
This freebie also includes a recording sheet for students to write down their number sentences.
You can download this FREEBIE by clicking HERE.
I have finally finished my Nonfiction in April packet, as well.
This packet includes units on Farm Animals (cows, pigs, sheep, & chickens), Plants, Rocks & Minerals (metamorphic, igneous, & sedimentary rocks), and Dinosaurs.
If you have already purchased the entire year bundle, go back and redownload it to get the new update that includes April.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ways to Make Fluency Fun

I’ve really been brainstorming ways to make working on fluency more fun lately.
Just having students reread a passage over and over again is sooooo boring for kids.
A couple of weeks ago, I made this 5 Step Fluency packet. 
I loved it so much that I made a 5 StepFluency for Beginning Readers and a 5 Step Fluency for Advanced Readers packet.

These packets are such a fun way for students to practice their fluency skills.  They love to be able to reread the passages in their special voices.
Since it's such a fun activity, I had a chance today to sit down and make these Fluency Voice Sticks.

The students pull a stick out of the container to see which voice they will be using to reread.  These can be used with any passage or book.  Fluency Voice Sticks can be used in a whole group or small group setting.  They would also work well for an independent reading center.
I made these into Fluency Voice Cards as well.  These give you another option of hooking the cards to a metal ring, or allowing the students to just pull a card from a box to see what voice they will use.

I also thought it would be fun to make some Fluency Voice Spinners.  The students spin a voice to see how to reread their passage or story.

I placed all of these ideas into a new packet that you can check out by clicking on the picture below.
What are your favorite ways to practice fluency?
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