Five for Friday!

Did anyone else blink and now February is over?? I'm not sure that's a bad things because this month has been a doozy!  I know that March is a long one but I'm looking forward to some excitement to come!  My birthday, all the fun of St. Patrick's Day in the classroom, and of course SPRING!  Come on March, I'm ready for you!  Let's close out February in style with some Five for Friday fun!

Since starting this blog, connecting with other teachers has been by far my favorite thing about this experience!  On instagram I saw Ashley Schroeder from Schroeder Shenanigan's in 2nd (fellow Penn Stater wahoo!) post this simple yet effective idea for teaching Author's Purpose.  She took a a bucket of books and had her students sort them by persuade, inform, entertain.  My students discussed what Author's Purpose meant, read some different read alouds, and then sorted some of our past read alouds according to their author's purpose.  They did such a great job and we continued to talk throughout the week about author's purpose!  I was so proud when they connected to the fact that their purpose in writing workshop was to inform their readers for their informational chapter books!

Again, I have to cite Miss DeCarbo for this fantastic yet simple idea during guided reading!  I took a few of our vocabulary words from our guided reading texts and posted them on my whiteboard before my reading group met.  Having them on display before we started reading gave us the chance to really discuss the words, their spelling, and meanings before we started talking about our text.  Such a great spring board for my guided reading books.  Starting off our reading groups with the vocabulary words really motivated my students to talk about them as they came across them in their reading! To check out her original post about vocabulary during guided reading visit her blog here!

This is the time of year in first grade that I have to take a few steps back and appreciate my students' growth. It may not always be perfect but there are positives in every day of first grade!  I was finishing up a round of Daily 5 (which I try to get to at least 3 times a an ideal world it would be every day!) and I saw my little ones asking each other for help, finishing up word work activities and going to the bins to get another one independently, and laughing and showing pages of their books to their imaginary students during read to self.  It warmed my teacher heart to see this independence and I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

I am so excited for this book study with Kickin' It In Kindergarten and so many other inspiring bloggers.  I have been reading the first few chapters of Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites and I am already so inspired to try new things in my class.  I couldn't wait and I tried to incorporate a little art into our reading lesson this week.  After reading our mentor text about where food comes from, I split the students into three groups and had them design posters based on the facts they learned from the text.  They were so proud to show off their hard work!  Can't wait to see what other teachers are doing after reading this book!

{visit for more information about the book study!}

I was too excited about all of my purchases from the TpT sale that I had to fancy up my presentation for a faculty meeting on Friday with my new graphics from Whimsy Clips, font from the fantastic Cara Carroll at The First Grade Parade and digital papers from!  What did you all purchase during the big sale?!

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! 

Wordless Wednesday-Place Value Tools!

Happy Hump Day everyone!  We are halfway there ohhhhhh living on a prayer!  Sorry, sometimes I spontaneously break out into song to catch the attention of my students.  I guess it's no different over here on my blog =).  It's just been one of those days! I'm so happy to link up with the fabulous Miss DeCarbo for Wordless Wednesday today with a fantastic place value tool!

We just started working with place value at the end of last week and it's always a challenging jump for my students.  We were getting ready to tackle the dreaded dun dun dun ten more, ten less, one more, one less lesson and I knew that my students were going to need a scaffold to help them identify their numbers on the hundreds chart.

I found this idea on Pinterest (aka teacher's professional development) and knew I needed to use it right away.  The original idea is from, but I can't seem to find the link to post here, I'll keep searching for it!  I took this Fill It In activity freebie from, Bunting, Books, and Bright Ideas! and shrunk it WAY down.  My co-teacher and I cut out the frames and the middle sections and had them off to the side to start the lesson. We were quickly able to see some of our lovelies were going to need the extra support and handed the frames out to those who needed it.

They were SO helpful to my students and gave them the confidence they needed to keep trying throughout the lesson.  It's heartbreaking to look at some of their faces during a math lesson and see the look of defeat.  With this frame, they were so excited to keep working!  As the unit continues, we'll gradually move them away from using this frame but it really helped them to visualize the number patterns on a hundreds chart!

I hope you can use this idea in your own classroom!

Don't forget to head on over to my TpT store and shop the Teachers are Heroes Sale!
It's been extended for another 24 hours!

Graphics from Starr Spangled Planner

Opinion Writing: How to Engage Your Students

This is the time of year where writing starts to click with my students.  They are more independent during writing workshop, they know to rely on partners rather than just the teacher for help, and they are furiously writing and not just drawing pictures...teacher truth. In the next few days we will be celebrating our informational chapter books that the students have been working so hard on.  I'm so proud of their writing and can't wait to showcase some of it here on the blog.  

As exited as I am for that day of celebration, I realize that the next unit in our writing workshop curriculum is a big departure from what the students are used to.  This unit,in my opinion (see what I did there hehe) is one of the more difficult kinds of writing for my kids to do.  For this reason, I wanted to set aside a week of activities where I could immerse my kids in wonderful mentor texts and hands-on activities that engage them in this kind of work. I am so excited for what has come from this little brainstorm!

This packet uses mentor texts such as, UNICORN Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea, the Pigeon series by Mo Willems, and Red Is Best by Kathy Stinson, to engage students in activities to form their own opinions.  

To start the activities off I plan to use my "This or That? Snack Mats!" to get my students thinking and talking about their opinions.  I mean who doesn't love snack time?!  Why not use it as a powerful teaching moment! Laminate the snack mats or pass out the same mat to each student.  Ask students to decide, this or that?  Which one would they rather choose.  Once they have formed an opinion, pour their snack over that side of the mat.  While the students are eating, start a discussion about why they chose the side that they did and ask them to give reasons to defend their opinions. A friendly debate is sure to take place!  There are several snack mat options in the packet!

You can continue "This or That? Snack Mats!" throughout the first few days of the unit, throughout the whole unit, or sporadically throughout the year!

The next activity pairs with the AWESOME picture book UNICORN Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea.  Even if you use nothing else from this packet, do yourself and your students a favor and buy this book!  It's so funny and engaging, the students LOVED IT!

After reading this tale about Goat and Unicorn, ask students to decide who they would rather be friends with. You can have a lively class discussion, use pen talks, or use the response sheets provided in the pack to answer the question.  I'm even thinking of doing a little hot seat activity with the two characters...the possibilities are endless!

Within the pack there are two more activities sure to incite discussion and motivate students to share their opinions using more mentor texts.  Pigeon Party uses a classic classroom favorite, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and other Mo Willems books to create a classroom debate over a favorite book.  But, it also engages other classrooms by writing letters to other students asking them their opinions of the same books!

The last activity that I'm planning to use with my littles to help them understand what an opinion is and how to form one compliments the book, Red is Best by Kathy Stinson.  The kids will work in pairs with a stack of "What is Best?" cards.  On each card, students will decide what is the best...of different topics!  I know there will be some heated debates with a few of these!  I can't wait!

I'm hoping that you'll find some of these ideas helpful and easy to adapt to your classroom. Opinion writing can be so much fun but difficult for some little ones to grasp right away. For more ideas and activities, please visit my TpT store and check out the full packet here!

Don't forget to shop the Teachers are Heroes Sale this Wednesday on TpT!  Use PROMO code HEROES at checkout and TpT will give 10% off your entire cart.  My products will all be an additional 20% as a huge THANK YOU to everyone for my first successful month on TpT!

Can't wait to see what everyone has in their carts!  Enjoy!

Five for Friday!

Why is it always that the shortest weeks feel the longest?!  Wooh this one was a doozy between freezing temps, snow delays, and crazy kids, I am VERY happy to be celebrating the weekend.  So happy to be linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the fantastic Five For Friday!

We continued to retell throughout the week using the members of the Ist family.  We retold the Mitten by Jan Brett and then used our retelling bookmarks to work through our guided reading books.  By the end of the week, I'm confident my littles will continue to use The Gist, The List, The Twist, and the End to help them remember what needs to go into a story retell.

I am seriously in love with directed drawings.  I get so excited to see how different all of the kids drawings look and how proud they are of their work.  These adorable George Washington directed drawings unfortunately weren't finished by the end of the day but they were so fun to make!  Don't judge my attempt on the SMART board...I do my best ha!  These directed drawings can be found by Kindergarten Planet on tpt here!

On a more personal note, I am a proud Penn State graduate!  7 years ago I had the honor of dancing alongside thousands of college students for 46 hours in the largest student run philanthropy in the world; Penn State's Dance Marathon or more commonly known as THON.  THON weekend is always the 3rd weekend in February and I'm so proud of all the dancers who are standing up tonight and celebrating this amazing event and the courageous children that stand alongside them.  One day we'll dance for joy until then we dance for a cure!  We Are...Penn State! For more information on the fight against pediatric cancer please visit! 

I love collaborating and working with my team to create and plan activities for our kids.  However, I'm getting so bogged down with the mandated basal series that we have to use for reading instruction.  I found this book at Barnes and Noble the other day and I'm hoping this will give me some ideas on how I can incorporate a reading workshop approach but still use the basal reading series materials.  Anyone else heard of this book or in the same boat?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

I posted this picture of my fur baby on Instagram the other night and felt like I needed to show him off here.  He's my best blogging buddy all curled up in his favorite spot.  Yes, that's my couch pillow and no there is no shape to it left!

I hope everyone stays warm this weekend and has a chance to relax and recharge!  Enjoy!

Hands On Long Vowel Activities

So, this is how my day started...womp womp...

A beautiful pixelated picture of my computer screen projected to my SMART board.  RIP SMART board screen.  I had a moment (maybe two or three, I'll admit) of sheer panic.  WAIT teach without my SMART board, what was I going to do?!  You don't realize how dependent on technology you are to engage your students until it's taken away from you..tear.  

But, every cloud does have a silver lining.  I was feeling like our phonics routine was getting stale, so I spent the morning trying out a few hands on activities to help us break out of our rut.  We're in the middle of a long vowel review week, not just long vowels with magic e at the end but also the beginning of some vowel teams such as ee and ea.  This is A LOT of material for the kids to digest, so I wanted to make sure that the activities were fun and meaningful.  

I introduced our spelling words by flipping our cards over for a memory match game.  Instead of telling the kids what our spelling pattern for the week was, each student had to try and flip two cards over and find words with matching long vowel sounds.  

Once we were all sorted and the matches had been made, we discussed the different vowels that the words had.  The students were quick to realize that our week's focus was to review long vowel words. So much more effective than me just telling the kids our weekly focus!  Hands on minds on is really more my style!

Afterwards we worked through a little "human sort".  This is inspired from something Kelley Dolling has done with a short i word family game called "Stick 'Em Up!" To check out her original post on the game visit her site, Teacher Idea Factory here !

I adapted my game to include all five long vowels instead of the short i family Kelley plays with.   I quickly titled this version, "Take it to the Vowel" to tell my kids.  I assigned a vowel card to five students (I tried to find kiddos who had long vowels in their name but had to stretch it a little with U for Luciana and E for Evangelina) Oh well the kids ate it up!  These "Vowel Veterans" were in charge of checking each vowel word that came up to them.

I broke the rest of the class into three small groups.  I assigned a writer and every other student would run up to the vowel veteran with their post-it from their team's list.  Ohhh my love of post-its, what would I do without you in a pinch?!

Once the kids were broken up into teams, they were given a list of 14 long vowel words. When I gave the signal the teams had to work one word at a time down the list to figure out which vowel the word had in it.  Then the kids took turns running the words to the vowel veteran.  If the vowel veteran said the word had their vowel in it, they got to keep the word card.

My kids constantly were talking about the vowel sounds they heard, helping each other sound the words out, and debating which vowel had collected the most words.  It was such valuable review and so much fun! The kids kept shouting, "This is awesome!"  Love a little teacher trickery, they don't even know they're learning!

By the end, the vowel veterans had to read back the words they collected.  They were super excited to report back to the teams on how they all did!

Love the look of victory on these littles' faces!  This human sort is easily adaptable to any phonics skill and is a real crowd pleaser!  I will definitely be trying more hands on phonics lessons in the future.  Thank you broken SMART board for letting us break out of our rut!

Enjoy your night!