Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tricks of the Trade Thursday: Poster Storage and Organization

Thursday has come again!

Time for another Tricks of the Trade linky party!  Jessica and I are having so much fun hosting this linky.  It's been great to read everyone's posts.  I've already gathered so many great new ideas from all of you creative, organized teachers out there.

This week I am once again excited to share my ideas and to get some new ones for...Poster/Bulletin Board Storage and Organization.

Milk Crates

I have a confession to make.  I LOVE milk crates.  Milk crates are my favorite.  I have TONS of milk crates at home and in my classroom.  I use them for clothes, books, supplies, everything.  There are so many reasons why I love them.  They are cheap, yet durable, compact, stackable, versatile, and so much more.  I dream of one day having my very own milk crate benches for my classroom...
A First Grade Journey

Okay, Becky.  Time to snap out of it and get to the point.  Hehe.

I use a milk crate to store my posters/anchor charts.  The crate sits in the corner of my classroom closet and holds all the rolled up anchor charts and posters perfectly.

Sticky Note Labels

Now, I know some of you may be wondering, how do I tell the posters apart?  

Using sticky notes of course.

Sticky notes are another genius invention that I could praise for several paragraphs if I had the time and thought anyone would care to read about it.  Fortunately for you, I don't have the time to meditate on sticky notes right now.  Maybe another time... Hehe.

For now, I will just show you how I use sticky notes to label my anchor charts.

Basically, what I do is every time I am done with an anchor chart, I roll it up, rubber band it, and label it with a sticky note.  The sticky note either has the title or the topic of the anchor chart on it, so that I don't have to unroll the whole thing later to figure out what it is.  If I have multiple anchor charts for the same topic, e.g. realistic fiction, I roll them all together and just label them as a whole topic.  That way, when it's time for that unit, I have all the anchor charts I need ready to go.

In order to help the sticky notes stay on, I put the rubber bands right over them when I wrap the poster.  That way if the stick wears off, the label will still stay with the correct anchor chart.

Seasonal Drawers
One of the big projects I took on when I got back in my classroom last August was organizing my bulletin board supplies.  I had lots of letters in baggies and posters, but no real neat place to put them.  To fix this problem, I decided to try organizing my bulletin board supplies by season in a set of three Sterilite Drawers.

The top drawer is for Fall, the middle for winter, and the bottom for spring.  Inside each drawer, I have the posters and baggies of die cut letters I use for those seasonal boards.  I also have die cut seasonal die cut shapes like leaves, snowflakes, and flowers in the appropriate drawers.

Using this system of drawers has been great!  It has been so easy for me to find things I need from last year and to store new things I make.  I am so glad I took the time to set them up.


I have a few organizational goals for next year that will hopefully help me keep even better track of posters and bulletin board supplies.  

  1. Fix Border Storage: I need to find a better way to store borders.  Right now, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that they are haphazardly shoved into a cabinet.  Yikes!
  2. Organize Mini-Posters: I want to find I way to organize all of the little construction paper-backed posters I have made.  I have so many cute posters for reading, writing, math etc., but no real method of organizing them.  Right now, they are just in the drawer of a filing cabinet.
I have two ideas for ways to organize these little posters, but am not sure which is best.  I appreciate any advice you may have to give.  Here are my thoughts.  I could either put them in file folders by subject, so that they are stored more officially in the cabinet.  Or, I could put them in a binder using sheet protectors.  I like the second idea better because I am not a huge fan of file folders.  However, I am not sure if all of them will fit inside sheet protectors.  

What do you think?  How do you store your borders and little posters? 

I appreciate any thoughts and ideas.  You can share them in a comment or better yet, link up to share them with the whole blogging world.  That would be awesome!  If you decide to join the party, be sure to grab the button below and link up to this post.  

Also, be sure to check out Jessica's post for some more great ideas!
Joy in the Journey

Thanks!  Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wild, Wacky and Wonderful Wednesday and Persuasive Writing

It's Wednesday!  Not Monday.  Not Tuesday.  Wednesday.

I have had to repeat that to myself all day today, since my long weekend threw off my brain.   Thankfully my class has gym on both Mondays and Wednesdays, so I didn't have to worry about taking them to the wrong special.

Since it's Wednesday, it's time to link up with Alisha from First Grade Follies for her second ever Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Wednesday linky party.

Here's what's been going on in my life and my classroom:


The kids had a blast playing Bingo and several other fun games today for G-Game Day on our ABC Countdown.  They always get quite wild and excited when they have a word or get Bingo.

As I've already posted about, last week my kids got decked out in some funky 80's clothes.  They were so cute!

Groovy Green
I just got my new sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies in the mail today.  I can't wait to try it out!  Stay tuned for a demo in the near future.

Now, it's time to join Jivey for Workshop Wednesday.  This week's theme is persuasive writing.

This year, persuasive writing was a new unit for all of us in first grade.  Although it took us all a bit to wrap our minds around the idea of persuasive letter writing, we all came out on the other side of the unit feeling good about how our kids had done.  In fact, even some of my struggling writer's caught on to this style surprisingly well.

Here are some of the ideas and resources I used to teach persuasive writing.

To begin the unit, I introduced the students topersuasive writing by reading  I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff.

Next, I used several pages and posters from Brigid's awesome Persuasive Writing Pack to teach the kids what it means persuade someone and the difference between facts and opinions.  I highly recommend checking up her pack.  It has some awesome Fact and Opinion posters, sorts, and note-taking pages.  They really helped my students understand the concepts.

To help students apply their understanding of Fact vs. Opinion, we reread I Wanna Iguana and then discussed the different examples of facts and opinions that Alex includes in his letters.  For example, it's a fact that iguanas are quiet, but thinking that iguanas are cute is a matter of opinion.

After that, I introduced students to the OREO format of persuasive writing and we really dug deep into how to think of reasons that mattered to the audience of the letter and examples of those reasons.  Some  ideas we talked about were including personal stories or bargains (If you give/do...I will...).  The kids really enjoyed coming up with bargains.  They had some very creative ideas including promising to do 5 extra pieces of homework one night if I didn't give them homework that night.  I'm not sure they thought that one through.  Hehehe.

As the students caught on to how to write letters, I began to get them thinking about craft some more.  We talked about author's voice/style and how different writers have different voices.  To help the students see this idea in action, I used I Wanna New Room, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.
After I read excerpts of each book, I asked the students to describe the voice of the character who was trying to persuade someone.  Then, we compared and contrasted the voices.  Here's how we described them:
  • Alex (I Wanna Iguana and I Wanna New Room)- sounds relatively smart and responsible; only a little bit of "pleading/begging;" uses facts that appeal to his audience
  • Pigeon (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus)- sounds whiny and annoying; totally begging and pleading; doesn't consider his audience.
  • Wolf (The True Story of the Three Pigs)- sounds somewhat smart, somewhat sneaky; tries to appeal to "common sense;" stays calm and cool, rather than pleading
Finally, we discussed which tone was more convincing.  I used this discussion to help get the kids away from saying "please" over and over again because it sounded whiny like the pigeon, rather than smart and convincing like Alex.

Overall, the persuasive writing unit was a super fun one.  The kids enjoyed it and I enjoyed it.  I look forward to visiting everyone else's Workshop Wednesday posts to gather even more new ideas to make the unit even better next year.

Now, before I head off to lift weights and perhaps lesson plan, I have to announce tomorrow's Tricks of the Trade topic.  It is...

How do you store your posters/bulletin board materials?

Link up tomorrow to share your Tricks of the Trade! :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Giveaway Winners and a Map Mentor Text (freebie included)

Happy Memorial Day!!

What a beautiful day it is to celebrate those heroes who have bravely fought to defend our freedoms and the freedoms of others around the world.  I am so thankful to all the men and women of the military for their sacrifices.

Before I share a bit about my adventurous long weekend, I have something else to celebrate.  My 100 Follower Giveaway was a huge success!  I had so much fun hosting the fun and am so appreciative to all those who donated and who entered.

Now, that the giveaway is over, I am super excited to announce the winners.  They are...
a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway
Congratulations to Cindy, Mary, and Kim!!!  I will be e-mailing you shortly to coordinate you getting your great prizes.  I hope you enjoy them!  Thanks so much for entering!

Now, back to my adventures.  I just got back from my camping trip, which was so much fun!  I went to Rickett's Glen State Park in PA with my parents, Jessica and her husband, and Jessica's parents.  We had a great time hiking, biking, playing, games: corn hole, Balderdash, Apples to Apples etc.  Last night, my dad made delicious sticky chicken in the Dutch oven and then we made scrumptious s'mores over a beautiful campfire.

It was so peaceful to get away from hectic every day life.  We all were forced to take a break from blogging, texting, e-mailing, etc. because we had NO cell phone service.  My iPhone stayed off all weekend and I must say I didn't miss it.  Well, not too much.  Hehehe.

The only downside to our camping experience was the...FREEZING COLD WEATHER!!!!

It was SO COLD the whole time!!!!!

All of us spent the weekend wearing as many layers as possible and trying not to shiver.  We could not believe it was 40 degrees on May 25!

Now, that I am back, it's time to get mentally prepared to finish the school year.  It's going to be a whirlwind.

One thing that is coming up soon is the final social studies unit "Looking at our World."  Students learn about different continents and the children that live there.  They will also finish discovering their place in the great big world.

As most of you know, Me on the Map is a perfect book to use for any social studies unit like this.  Still, I am going to highlight it for Collaboration Cuties Mentor Text linky.

The book begins with a little girl thinking about where she is in her room.  Then, she zooms out to thinking about where her room is in her house, where her house is on her street, where her street is in her town etc. until finally the whole earth is seen from space.  The book doesn't end there though.  After zooming out, it zooms all the way back in until the girl is back in her room in her house.  All along the way there are simple maps to look at and study.  

The text and illustrations are simple, but the concepts are important.  Students are able to see how they are part of a bigger town, state, continent, and world.  They also see how maps can be made of different locations and how there are many different reference points for where someone is in the world.  I know my students often confuse continents and countries or states and countries.  This book helps them see the difference.

As I perused Pinterest, I found a TON of cute projects to go along with this book.  Here are some I am considering trying this year.

I also created my own World Address sheet, so that students can record where they are in the world.  I may have them do this before doing the project or in lieu of it if I don't have time to do anything in depth.  That would be sad.  

Anyway, here's the freebie.  Hope you can use it.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Have a great Memorial Day everyone!  Thanks again to our heroes in the military!  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Five for Friday 5/24/13

It's Friday!

For me, it's already the weekend, since we have a 5 day break for Memorial Day.  This is what makes me happy to not use snow days.  We really needed the break this weekend because the kiddos have been zany!  They are ready to be done.  Actually, we all are.  However, we have to push through until June 25.

Despite the Spring/Summer Fever, I had a really good week.  Here's my Five for Friday to show you the highlights of my week.

DRA Progress

Before I share anything else, I have to celebrate how well my students are reading!  They have made SO much progress!  Some of them have progressed steadily throughout the year, but others finally had their big "I can read" leap just in the last few months.

As I was doing the DRA this week, I kept getting more and more excited as my strugglers showed off their much-improved decoding skills (thanks to the OG intervention program) and their comprehension.  For many of my students, comprehension has been difficult because they have been expending so much energy on figuring out the words.  Now that decoding is finally clicking, they are actually enjoying reading and are able to talk about and understand stories.  It's so exciting!

I just want to quickly share a few kid's amazing progress.  One girl started the year on a DRA level 2 (GRL B) and is now reading on a 14-H.  She moved from being 2 levels below grade level to ending the year, instructionally on grade level (16-I).  Another girl was a 3-C when she started the year and was still a 3-C in March because her comprehension had still not caught up to her decoding.  Well, I did a major happy dance when she reached a 14-H this week!  Although she is still independently one level below grade level and instructionally on grade level, I am AMAZED by how far she jumped in just a few short months.  Things finally clicked for her.

Admittedly, I still have some sweeties who are several levels behind, which is too bad.  However, I have worked all year to get them the support they need and will still fight until the end to make sure they are set for next year as much as possible.  Even though they are still below grade level, I have seen them progress and am very proud of them.

Seeing kids learn to read is by far the best thing about teaching first grade.  It is so miraculous and exciting!


This week, I introduced my students to a new fun math game called Lightning.  I found this idea on Jivey's blog, but was not sure it was appropriate for first grade.  However, when I found out some of my colleagues were using it with their kids, I decided to give it a try.  The result kids LOVED it and had a blast playing it all week.  I loved it too because it fit perfectly in our mental math unit since the kids have to add and/or subtract (students in higher grades can multiply or divide) mentally to find the target number.  Also, the game self-differentiates since higher level math students can use more complex number combinations and strugglers can just use their basic facts.  I have felt badly this year for not taking enough time to think of enriching activities for my high-fliers in math as much as I should.  Seeing them come up with some crazy addition and subtraction combinations for Lightning made me glad because I could see their brains working hard and could tell they were enjoying the challenge.

You can get the game directions free from Jivey by clicking HERE.

Tomie dePaola Author Study

After getting to know Tomie dePaola last week by reading a short biography and talking about his life, it was time to dive deep into his books.  This week, I started off the week by focusing on some of his characters, since the kid's still had characters on the brain from our character study unit.

Based on a conversation I had at a Language Arts training day, I decided to be sure to use Tomie's books as examples of bigger concepts that students can recognize and apply more globally.  For example, this week, we talked about the character Big Anthony.  First we talked about his character traits as we read Big Anthony.  One of my students impressed me by comparing him to Amelia Bedelia because he doesn't pay attention or do things the right way.  What a great text-to-text connection!

Throughout the rest of the week, I read several Strega Nona books to show the kids that Tomie included Big Anthony in other books.  We had a great discussion about how Big Anthony has the same traits in every book.

To make this more global, I asked the kids to think of other authors who do this and their characters who stay same in different books.  They came up with so many examples:

  • David in the No David! books by David Shannon
  • Lilly in various books by Kevin Henkes
  • Elephant and Piggy, Trixie, and Pigeon all from Mo Willems
  • Froggy in all the Froggy books by Jonathon London
  • Etc.
Since we are writing realistic fiction, I want to start transitioning into looking at Tomie's character Tommy and how he is the same in different books.  Also, we are going to discuss how author's write from their own life experience and create characters based on themselves and people they know.  To solidify this I am going to read Tomie's autobiography 26 Fairmount Ave. throughout the rest of the unit, so that the kids can connect the picture book stories to Tomie's real-life experiences.  

It should be fun!

Realistic Fiction Writing

As I mentioned above, we are starting our realistic fiction writing unit.  Although the students love the idea of writing fiction, they are a bit disappointed when they realize it has to be realistic.  They would much rather write about fairies and princesses, monsters and zombies, and talking animals.  However, by learning how to write realistic fiction first, they will be better prepared to write more creative fiction stories because they will understand story structure and other elements like characters.  To make the unit more fun and accessible, I am connecting it to our author study by having the students do what Tomie dePaoloa does: fictionalize stories from their own lives. 

This week, I dug out the kids small moment stories from the beginning of the year and had the students look through them to find the problems and solutions.  Then, we talked about how to choose the strongest problem by choosing the one that gave us the biggest feeling.  I asked the students which would make a better story: 

Getting a paper cut.  OR  Falling out of a tree and breaking a bone.

Of course they said breaking a bone.  I told them that is because the character's feelings would be bigger and the stakes would be higher.  After the kids planned some more ideas for problems, they brainstormed how one problem could get worse before it gets better.  

Finally, we started planning our characters.  Based on a suggestion from Heather, I decided to have kids think about the problem first because that is really the basis for the plot.  Characters are important, but if the kids get too caught up in describing their character, they won't have a strong story.  Now that we are beginning to plan our characters, I want the students to be very deliberate in choosing names, external characteristics, and internal characteristics.  I want them to begin to understand that different characters will react differently to the same problem just as different people react to the same problem.  Therefore, they need to make their characters have consistent traits most of the time.  

In case you are wondering, I found all of these FANTASTIC graphic organizers FREE from Happy Teacher Kids.  Click here to check them out.

ABC Countdown

My class ABC Countdown to the end of the year is in full swing!  This week, we had C-Colorful Day, D-Disco Day, E-Estimation Day, and F-Fruit Day.

Disco Dance Day

Estimation Day

Estimation Day was a BLAST!  Before school, I prepped containers of various manipulatives and some yummy candy.  I made a tub or bag of 10 for each object and then counted out a random number into another tub or bag.  The sets of 10 helped students visualize how much space 10 objects took up, so they could guess about how many 10's were in the other cup although I didn't put exact multiples of ten in each cup.  I actually even "tricked" the kids by making one cup have 9 counting bears in it, so they had to figure out that it looked less full than the cup of 10.  Hehe.
Most of the students did a great job estimating.  I gave out sticker prizes for the students who won the manipulative estimation activities and divided the candy up among with winners of those estimation activities.  If several students tied or guessed numbers equidistant from the exact total, I gave out multiple prizes.  Also, students could win more than one prize for their accurate estimates.  In fact, one girl won THREE different candy estimations.  She went home with a bag of Hershey Kisses, Starbursts, and Skittles.  Even cooler than having her win the candy was seeing her smile and hearing her say, "I usually never win anything!"  She really is one of those sweet, quiet girls who can get lost in the background of a more boisterous class, so I was so happy to give her a moment in the spotlight.
Fruit Day

So, that was my busy and fun week!  Now, I am super excited to go camping this weekend with Jessica and her husband, her parents, and my parents.  Bring on the campfire and the s'mores!

P.S. It's not too late to link up with this week's Tricks of the Trade Thursday: Field Trips.  Click the button below to check out some field trip ideas and freebies.