Monday, November 30, 2015

Santa Advent Calendar

Today we made one of our absolute favorite projects!  Our Santa Advent Calendar!

This precious Santa Calendar template was originally hand drawn by one of our 1st grade teacher's moms decades ago and has been a 1st grade favorite ever since!

My 1st graders were SOOOO excited when I pulled out my sample and announced that we were making these advent calendars. They couldn't wait to get started.

As always with 1st grade, each Santa was unique and precious.

After only 30 minutes, our Santas were done! All ready to hang on the wall and add a cotton ball for each day! It was hard to tell them they couldn't take them home quite yet...

Get your Santa Advent Calendar HERE.

Thanks for looking!

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

FREEBIE Christmas Roll and Cover Game

This Holiday Roll and Cover is a sample from my Math and Literacy Christmas Fun Pack. Our 1st grade team uses this pack every year to supplement our math and literacy programs and to add some fun over the holidays!  

This game is a class favorite, and students want to play it throughout the month of December during math centers and even indoor recess! Without realizing it, students are practicing addition skills and facts to 12!

Directions are included and are simple to follow. 

Get your Christmas Fun Pack Here.
Get your FREEBIE Holiday Roll and Read Here.

Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MUST Do MAY Do: An Alternative to Rotating Reading Centers

Guided reading groups are hard enough to manage without the constant activity that is created by students moving to and from reading centers.  During team meetings, our 1st grade team regularly discussed alternatives to reading centers, looking for less disruptive alternatives for independent student work time.  

What we disliked the most was the loss of instruction time when students were stopping what they were doing, watching the "wheel" turn to the next activity and then cleaning up one area to rotate to the next.  Sometimes it would take 3-5 minutes to move to the next center or to get to the guided reading table. Students not only took too much time to clean up, but also had questions or problems about what center to go to next.  These transitions rarely went smoothly. They also complained that they weren't finished at their center and needed more time.  There was so much unfinished work to keep track of. 

As teachers, we knew there had to be a BETTER, MORE EFFICIENT way to get students to work independently so we could teach our guided reading groups with very little instructional time lost. 

What to do... 

After LOTS of discussions, trial and error, we thought we would try a list approach.  

A MUST Do, MAY Do Approach.

With this approach, students stay at their tables (I seat them with their reading groups) for most of the time except for partner reading when they sit on the floor or carpet side-by side to read. When called to the guided reading table, all they do is stop working and get to the table.  No commotion, no wheel turning, no stopping everyone from what they were doing, etc.  

In other words, a lot more time for instruction!

They have a list of what they MUST Do and when they are finished with that, what they MAY Do.

HERE is a free PowerPoint copy of our MUST Do MAY Do list that you can download.   The list can be edited to fit your students' needs in each group. It looks like this:

And you can fill in your own lists to suit each group's needs like this:
(Notice the list is non-specific for what vocabulary words or what anthology story to read. This is so I don't have to make a new list each day or week! The vocabulary words are either posted on the board or the next page in their vocabulary notebook. And they know which story to read.)
Easy Peasy!

I differentiate the lists for each reading group depending on their reading goals and color code the lists by printing the each list on a different color. For example, if my struggling readers are working on sight words, I make sure "Flashcards" and "Drills" are on the MUST Do list, not MAY Do so they are getting the practice they need. In other words, I determine what each group's goals are first, and then I create the lists and fill their bins with the needed materials.

Speaking of bins...

I purchased these bins to organize books for partner reading so they would stand vertically and titles could be more easily seen.
I purchased them on Really Good Stuff HERE.

I found this to be the best way to organize the bins.  All bins and their parts, including the MUST Do, MAY DO lists, are color-coded to match the tables where they sit and/or the reading groups they are in.  

Really Good Stuff no longer sells the bottom bins that I have shown here, but I found some other primary colored deeper bins that would work HERE.

In order to target your reading instruction and include materials that meet your students' needs, you need to do regular testing and group accordingly.
Check out my updated blog post on 

  • I select seatwork that is differentiated to meet their reading goals. I use the activity sheets that come with our Houghton Mifflin Journeys series, but you can use any seatwork that supplements what your students are working on. For example, if your students are working on long vowels, my Long Vowel FLIP Books would be a perfect supplement! Or get the BUNDLE of Long and Short Vowel FLIP Books and save $$! There are also many Short Vowel FLIP Books to choose from as well!
7-Up Sentence Writing using sight words is another product that works great as seatwork.

 Like many of you, I color-code my groups (red, yellow, green and blue) and their bins and folders reflect those colors. Their seatwork folders can have the Must Do May Do lists attached or displayed somewhere in the room for them to reference.

 Every day I insert differentiated seatwork into their folders on the "Not Done" side with names on. I have found that if I write names on the top, I can better keep track of who has completed their work. It takes a few extra minutes each day, but is well worth it! When they are finished, they insert their work on the "Done" side. The next day, I staple any unfinished work to their new seatwork. If their stapled packet of unfinished work begins to grow after a few days, it is time to decide
1. Is the work too challenging? Do I need to modify for that child?
2. Is the student off task during their seatwork time?
3. Do I need to move the student closer to the guided reading table so I can better monitor their independent work?
4. Is seatwork even appropriate for this student? Perhaps this student is not an independent worker and needs to be included in two guided reading groups.
5. Is it time for a note/call home?

Games for the week are included right inside the bins unless they are too large. Then students are instructed on my expectations for the week. I try to include games that are simple and those they are familiar with so I am not constantly giving directions. I make sure all materials are included:
  • I include games/activities (most have this listed as a MAY Do) that will support their reading goals as well (sight word games, fluency games, etc.  Whatever their reading needs are at the time).  Here are some sight word games to check out:
  • I change out books as needed, but research shows that repeated reading of familiar text can support fluency building.  I make sure the books are at their independent reading level so they can easily read them with a partner with success.  I also include books that they have read successfully at the guided reading table.
  • I include sight word drills, fluency phrases, sounds drills etc. that will support their reading needs.  See below for an example of a Houghton Mifflin Sight Word Roll and Read Game
See my TpT store for lots of center activities like the one below.

Partner reading is a practiced skill.  We regularly review expectations for partner reading.  How they sit, who reads when, how to point, etc.  I include 2 copies of each title per partnership if possible, but sometimes they share. :)  Expectations for both of these scenarios is important as well.

So far, our MUST Do, MAY Do system is working!  As with any program, teaching students your expectations for each activity is a must.  

Our students enjoy mostly uninterrupted, quiet work time (unless they are called to the guided reading table) and much more instruction time at the guided reading table!  

More time in text.  Isn't that what they need?

Let me know your thoughts!

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Monday, November 23, 2015

STAR of the WEEK!

Who doesn't love being the star?!  My students can hardly wait until Friday when I draw for the next week's big star of the week.  I reach into the cup of names and (drumroll...) 

The lucky star of the week goes home on Friday with an information sheet and poster to fill out and return on Monday.

On Monday, the Star returns to school and the poster goes up on our bulletin board.  All week, the Star of the Week is the teacher helper.  They are the line leader, the poem leader, the calendar leader, the "go-fer" (go for this, go for that on errands), the pencil sharpener, etc.  Included in the Star of the Week Pack is a list of suggestions for the week.

On Friday, the Star of the Week gets to wear "the cape" (shown above and below), but a special hat, button, etc. works too.
I like to have the Star of the Week present on Friday. In the parent note, parents are told to send in photos, a favorite toy and a favorite book to share. I have students use the document camera to present their posters and the items they have to share.

Friday is also the day when students write about the Star of the Week and the Star makes a book cover.  We staple the book together for the Star to take home.

Check out everything that is included in the preview.  Click HERE to check it out!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Welcome to your Blog!!

Just seeing what it's all going to look like :)
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