Thursday, April 28, 2011

Our New Author's Editing Checklist

Yes, I'm technically supposed to be on bereavement leave this week (and yes, I am on leave...), but I also have time on my hands, well more than I do when I'm working full-time, and I've also of course been checking my school email address.

Yesterday my principal emailed us with the "official" kindergarten writing assessment date: May 18th! As a kindergarten team we have been using a 4-Star Writing rubric in our classes. There are stars for:
-Starting sentences with a capital letter
-Using an endmark
-Using spaces
-Words that match the picture

While I love the idea of coloring in the stars, I've been trying to come up with something even more visual for my students. So, I made our new editing checklist! Take a peek, and let me know what you think! I'm hoping that the animals (and alien!) will be easy for students to remember when they are writing on the assessment since we have to take down our rubrics.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I was inspired by this Long i Ipad created by Sarah Cooley on First Grader at Last!, and so I decided to try to think of ways to spruce up the long vowel u! While I am gone all this week to be with my family, when I return we'll review the sound and spellings of long u.

So here it is: "Long u"tube! We'll see how my students like it, but I'm excited! They'll create a picture of a video that stars someone or something with the long u. Already my cousins are talking about unicorns--who wouldn't want to watch unicorns on "Long u" tube?!

Did I really just spend $15 on fonts and clipart?

Yes, yes I did..and I may or may not have downloaded 8 gazillion free fonts as well.

For this reason I'm reposting this contest from Erica Bohrer's First Grade to (maybe) get a $20 gift certificate for Whimsy Doodle Graphics.

Here's hoping! :)

What (OCD) Teachers Do in Their Spare Time

I am a to-do-list maker. I love planners and organizing. I just love love love when things look nice and when everything has a place. So, it should come as no surprise that in general my life refuses to follow my OCD-nature. Instead, my life tends to be the epitome of chaos and craziness.

This past Saturday, I flew home to Chicago to attend my grandmother's funeral. She is my mom's mom, and she was 90, nearly 91, so it's not as though this came out of the blue. I currently am staying at my aunt (my mom's sister) and my uncle's house with both of them and my two younger cousins. I decided to take the entire week off since fortunately it's a "perk" of my teacher's contract (to get 5 days of bereavement), especially since I am the only member of my immediate family here. My brother is currently in Germany singing up a storm and couldn't fly home, and my dad stayed at home in Florida since my mom has Alzheimer's and could not travel (can you sense some of the craziness that has happened in the past?), and he takes care of her.

So here I am the family "rep," if you will, for the week. I love being home, especially since it's been over year since I've been back to Chicago, and I have been able to spend time with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, all of whom are super important to me.

When I asked my aunt what I could help with this week, I knew a huge part of it would just be being around to help with whatever and especially to spend time with my cousins. My mom is my aunt's older sister, and so I am always amazed at how strong my aunt is. She handles not having her older sister around for advice and normal sister-ness amazingly, but I feel like this is especially a time where this would be difficult. At the funeral yesterday I realized that my aunt has now lost both her parents, and while my mom is still alive, she does not know who anyone is, and so my aunt no longer has her sister around either. Anyway, I digress, but at the same time, I want to make it quite clear how PHENOMENAL my aunt is.

In addition to just "being" here, I figured I should actually try to do something that would have an impact beyond this week. My aunt and uncle both work full-time, and their daughters are quite the busy bees.

So, the OCD teacher in me set out to clean out, to organize, and to label my aunt's pantry. While I did leave all my teacherly-organizing materials back in Cali, I still was able to move some things around and make it look quite different!


I didn't think of taking pictures until after I started to move some things out of the pantry. I'm still getting used to remembering to take photos!


Post-it labels? Check.
Expiration dates on all foods? Checked.
Possible future job as an organizer? Check.
On the bright side, I won't be pursuing a new career path just yet--my pink slip was rescinded yesterday! Thank goodness for some day-brightening news!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why I Love Lakeshore Outlet!

Today I needed to do some retail therapy. As most teachers know, this means a combination of classroom shopping and clothing shopping. Mostly classroom shopping of course. I've been stressed quite a bit lately, and then last night my grandma passed away...and my stress is peaking, especially since the vast majority of what has been going on is out of my hands/control.

So this morning I headed to the Lakeshore Learning Outlet with one of my best friends, and it was wonderful. Let me share with you some of my amazing purchases from today that I am so excited to use in my classroom when I return (instead of Monday, which would be the end of spring break, however, I'll be back next Monday after flying home for a week for the funeral and to support my family (or to try to support them as much as I can!)).

A sentence writing station (there are 4 different boards). I'm imagining having my students use the spinners to come up with several silly sentences, write them all neatly on the lines with a dry-erase marker, and then pick their favorite to write on paper and illustrate.

Fun materials for our newest unit: Red, White, and Blue! I think we'll use the stars for high-frequency words. I saw a really cute game of "I have...who has...?" and I think the cut-outs would be perfect for it.

Two phenomenal purchases here: 
1. The pointers, as you can see, are ridonkulously huge! I love it! They are 2 feet long! I know my kids will love them and use them often.
2. The composition books have space for students to draw pictures at the top, and then write at the bottom. I bought 5 journals the other day from Target, but they cost more...and I needed a couple more so I was stoked to see these at Lakeshore.

Yay yay yay! These book containers are SO wonderful. I recently got a bunch of blue ones from Donors Choose, and my closet filled with books looks so organized (and is so organized!). Can you believe that each container PLUS the books were $4 each?

How can anyone resist a super fun ball for PE?

Impulse buy, but I just had to have these. Anything that excites me about letters and learning I know will be exciting for my students.

....and finally, my favorite teacher purchase of the day (please note it's not all set up yet)...

A Calendar Math Center! There are so many amazing things about this center (and yes I realize the first day of Spring is incorrectly placed on the calendar...), but I love the Hundreds, Tens, Ones section to reinforce place value...

...and these daily math questions to encourage students to think about math in a very real sense.

However, my favorite part of course has to be the discount on the center:
 If you can't read exactly what the label says, allow me to help.
Original price: $99.00
Current price: $24.79
Why the markdown, you ask? Oh, because the BOX is torn and crushed a little on the corner. Not missing a single thing, nothing you actually use with your students is ruined...oh no, it's just the silly box.

...and the icing on the cake:

...Need I explain more why I *LOVE* Lakeshore?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Know I Can...Be What I Want to Be...

This year, as with last year, I've had to tackle how to help my students believe in themselves! I have students who are perfectionists (yes, at 5!),  and they struggle when their pictures aren't "just right." Last year I had a student who would get so upset if he was unable to finish his work...and he often wasn't able to finish his work, because he worked so carefully and slowly that he took significantly longer to complete his work than other students.

From the get-go this year, I have prompted my students with: All you have to do is do your... (and they chime in with) Best!

However, I've noticed for some students, their best isn't good enough, and I can relate! I remember being a perfectionist when I was younger too. I would get so frustrated if my printing didn't look right (or my hair or anything else for that matter!). So, I am always on the look for ways to boost my students' confidence.

I mentioned the book Ish in an earlier post, and I have to include it again!
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

This book is amazing! At first, my kids thought that ish was a bad word (who knew?!), and so they seemed shocked I was reading this book to them. However, once we established that ish is indeed not a bad word, the lesson took off! We read the story two days in a row, talking about how Ramon, the main character might be feeling, and about his ish-drawings. Then, we all made our own ish-drawings and labeled and/or wrote about them. My students are now not as stressed if their artwork or writing isn't perfect, and I love the ish-ful thinking taking place in my class!

We also start each day with a chant/cheer to get excited about the day in front of us and to remind us *why* we are working so hard in kindergarten. 

I got the chant from Achievement First, and the clip art obviously comes from my many google searches! My students love to lead the cheer, and it ensures that college is a part of their daily vocabulary. We just had our field trip to a local college as part of Kindercaminata, a district-wide field trip, and I love that my kids know that college is the path to their amazing futures.

I also just purchased I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem by Jamie Lee Curtis, and I'm excited to read it to my students soon.
I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem 
I've become a huge fan of Jamie Lee Curtis' books, and I love her book It's Hard to Be Five : Learning How to Work My Control Panel too!
It's Hard to Be Five : Learning How to Work My Control Panel

I want my students to go to 1st grade ready academically, socially, and emotionally...and I think the academics are the easiest part! It's the social and emotional development that really takes time and lots of individualized planning to make sure my students have the skills they need to believe in themselves and to care for each other! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm overdue for a post...

...but sadly even though it's spring break I don't have the energy just yet! I promise a new post is coming soon--I'm just trying to balance grad school, work, and job hunting...the joys of pink slips!
I had to explain to a parent this past week that I was pink slipped, because her daughter (who is amazing) keeps telling me how much she's going to miss me when she goes to first grade...but that she'll come visit me next year. Usually I can barely squeak out: "I hope so!" before changing the subject to something else. Not only am I often on the verge of tears when students say things like "I'll visit you next year!" but I also made this girl's mom cry. :( Boo pink slips.

Friday, April 1, 2011

What Did You Do For April Fool's Day?

This morning I dutifully slaved over the die cut getting my brown E's prepared for my students today. I saw the great idea on a blog called Lesson Plan SOS, and I wasn't 100% sure how I would do it in my class. Here's a screenshot of the blogpost, and a link to it as well. I want to make sure I give credit where credit is due, because this April Fool's joke just went over so well!

You see, I hated April Fool's day when I was little! People always played mean jokes...or jokes where you felt embarrassed, because you "fell for it." So, I wanted to make sure that whatever I did for April Fool's (if I did anything!), my kids loved it and were able to use it later, and the brown E idea just worked so well!

I put my brown E's in the baking pan, covered them with aluminum foil, and then asked my students if any of them wanted some! They all looked pretty eager, but we'd had a rough start to the day with our line (too much talking, not enough walking), so I decided to reward my students who had been working really hard and moved their clips to "Perfect Purple." I took three students outside (thank goodness for my co-teacher!), and I showed them the brown E's and followed up with "April Fools!" They started to giggle, and I was so relieved! The joke was a success!

Then, I decided on-the-spot to take the joke one step further. Since those three girls had been great sports, I let them take part in our little joke. They went back into the classroom, and they really did an amazing job.

"Mmmm those brownies were delicious!"
"Gosh I want some more of those," another girl said while rubbing her stomach.

Later I let a few more kids in on the joke, and right before recess I revealed the brown E's to everyone. Phenomenal! They had so much fun with it! A few seemed confused (and one even seemed a teensy bit upset) at first, but once we talked about the joke, they figured it out and enjoyed it. I told them that this joke is great, because no one got hurt, and everyone got to have fun! Once they realized they too would get to play the joke on a family member when they told them they had a brown E in their backpack, all the kids were stoked. I love the idea of teaching my kids to have a sense of humor about things! Life is easier if you laugh!

Now, I'm just not sure what I'll do next year for April Fool's! I'll have to be on the search for a joke that is funny, smart, and confidence-building! I loved how proud my students looked when they gave their parents their brown E's, and I hope I can come up with something just as great for next year!

Check it out: A parent emailed me a picture of the brown E now hanging beside her son's bed (on the left). He apparently tried to trick people all afternoon! I didn't take pictures of my actual brown E tray, but this picture is even cuter!