Monday, May 30, 2011

Beach Ball Madness!

I found some cheap beach balls in Target's dollar section. MMM-MMM, I LOVE me some Target!! I bought 3 of them! 

On one beach ball I wrote random numbers (1-20) all over it.  When sitting together on the carpet, I'll call out a student's name and toss the ball to her.  When she catches it, she will create an addition sentence using the 2 numbers that her thumbs land on.
*You can also do subtraction, state if the number is even or odd, greater than/less than, start with the number on your right thumb and count until you get to the number on your left thumb (whether it's counting forward or backward)...etc.  

 On this beach ball I wrote word endings and vowel patterns all over it. (-ag, -oi, -ole, short u...etc.) I would call out a student's name and he would have to give a word that has the correct ending or vowel pattern that his right thumb landed on.  For example, if his right thumb landed on "-ed", he could say "bed".  (Good way to see who STILL does not know left vs. right.)
 *To make it more challenging, have the students state a sentence or list a group of words that has the correct ending or vowel pattern. 

On this beach ball, I listed some story elements such as Characters, Title, Main Idea, Setting, Beginning, Middle, End...etc. After reading a story, we would toss the ball around and the students would have to state a part of the story that their right thumb landed on. If someone else landed on the same element, he would have to explain his part in more detail or add to what was already stated.   

 (I have vacation on my mind. I can't help it!) 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reading Strategy: "Magnifying Glasses"

This is not my idea and I can't remember where I found it.  If it is your idea, or you know who thought of it, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due!  However, it's lovely and my kiddos enjoy it.

To help our eyes focus on specific words or search for different types of words, we made pipe-cleaner magnifying glasses.  (On this specific day, I had my students quickly browse for words that they did not know before we even read the text.)  You can use these for many different reasons.  It makes reading a little bit more enjoyable and interesting for the kids! Plus, it helps the students that have visual impairments focus on small text.

 I have my students keep their 'magnifying glasses' inside their *browsing boxes.  (*Each student has their own box with 5 books from our classroom library. They are allowed to read these books anytime they finish work early or during D.E.A.R. time. They switch books once a week.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

End of the Year Letter Writing

Every year I have my students write a friendly letter to someone in our building that has made an impact on their first grade year. (We call them "Lucky Readers".)  We start out by reading And Here's to You by David Elliott.
Click to purchase via   
 Afterwards, we worked together to brainstorm and create a list of people in our building that helped us throughout first grade.


We continued our brainstorming by listing the many ways we were helped throughout the year.  
We also made an extra word bank to help us with our spelling...      

After we reviewed the parts of a letter, we began working on our rough drafts.  We had our neighbors use editing guides to help find any mistakes.  Then we finished with our final copies on good writing paper.  

I attached the following to each letter...
Click for the Colored Letter
Or you can use...
Click for the Black and White Letter

The students put their letters in addressed envelopes and we used stickers as stamps! Then we personally delivered them to our Lucky Readers!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Shaving Cream Fractions

Just a different (and simple) approach to teaching fractions...

  1.  First, my kiddos cleared their desks and I gave them a glob of shaving cream.
  2. I had them draw a certain shape in their shaving cream.  (This was a great way for me to see who knew their shapes and who didn't!)  
  3.  Next, I asked them to divide their shape into equal parts. (fourths, thirds...etc.)
  4. Then, I asked them to shade in a certain fraction of their shape. 
  5. Once they finished, each student was to write the fraction in their shaving cream. 
After we did many fractions together, I had the students break off into groups to practice.  They loved it! Besides...our desks and little hands were in need of a good cleaning! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Strategies for Uninterrupted Time

Being that it's the end of the year, most teachers might be trying to get their assessments finished.  If you're a first grade teacher, you probably know how annoying it is to have every child become 'needy' the instant you start working with another student.  It never fails.  All of a sudden... Johnny needs to go to the bathroom, someone called Molly a 'poop head', Bob can't find his pencil, Cindy found a staple on the floor, Matt's shoe is untied and Tommy's paper ripped...all simultaneously!! It never fails. Never.  ;)

I attended a professional development meeting not too long ago, led by my former first grade teacher...who is wonderful!! M.J. (Marijo...not to be confused with Michael Jackson. However, she's just as awesome!) is now our Literacy Coach.  She gave some great ideas on how to get uninterrupted time with your students. When she had her own classroom, she used to wear a special pair of reading glasses whenever she needed time to focus on selected students.  Marijo's class knew that they were not to interrupt her when she was wearing those glasses unless it was a true emergency. (And if you're a first grade teacher, then you know that it is necessary to give examples of what is considered to be an emergency. Finding a staple on the floor may not be one of them.) :)  You can go to the dollar store and get a funky, cheap pair of glasses.

Being that I wear glasses regularly, I needed to think of something else to use as a visual.  I have a clay flower pot sitting on my table.  It is filled with 'flower pens'.  My special education teacher and I use these pens to let the students know that we need time to focus on the person that is sitting with us.  If a child forgets, I simply hold my pen up and he usually goes back to his task until I can address him. (And by then, the problem is usually solved.)
This is not mine, but it looks just like it!

You could also wear a head band, put up a sign, turn on a lamp, put on a vest...anything that stands out!

 If you have any other ideas that you find helpful, leave them in a comment!  Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Writing Prompt Templates: A Quiet Place

I was in desperate need of some 'quiet time' in first grade. This is rare, but I made it happen. It's getting to the point of the year when my students start to get sick of each other.  On top of that, it has been raining here for WEEKS.  Seriously...weeks.  We are all anticipating summer vacation.  I was thinking the other night that I needed to create a plan for my students to have some quiet time all to themselves.  That made me remember one of my favorite books, A Quiet Place by Douglas Wood.
Click to purchase on

I started our activity by 'lighting the fireplace' to create a quiet atmosphere.  I use my Elmo to project Blazing Logs on the screen (see below). If you've never heard of this site, check it out!  (Turn your volume on to hear the sound of crackling logs!) It's great! My students instantly quiet down to listen. They all LOVE when we 'light the fireplace'!

Next, we held a group discussion by the fire and talked about many different types of quiet places.  We discussed where we might go, what we might do and why we would want to go to a quiet place.  *Someone asked if 'home' could be a quiet place.  Another boy yelled, "Definitely not my home!" :) So sweet. 

After we brainstormed, we read A Quiet Place.  They students really got into it!  They especially loved the many different places that were mentioned in the story.  It made them think! Afterward, each of my kiddos found a 'quiet spot' somewhere in the room to illustrate a picture of their favorite quiet place.  (I made sure to mention to have DETAILED pictures. I told them to draw where they were, what they were doing, who was with them...etc.)

 The students then used their illustrations to help them write about their quiet place.

Illustration Template

Writing Template

I think they all enjoyed having break from working in groups.  I even enjoyed it! Every elementary teacher...and student can use some 'quiet time' once in awhile. ;)