Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gobbling Up Great Writing!

I am very much looking forward to gobbling up some great writing from my students this month! There seems to be a lot of fret over writing w/ the common core and writing w/ our district provided units and how B-O-R-I-N-G it is. At first glance, it might appear that there's not much wiggle room in some curriculum/pre-packaged units. I, myself, struggled with these new teacher's manuals that are scripted word for word what to say throughout and entire lesson. I felt like someone handed it to me and w/o any words said: "Here, do this."

No teacher that teaches with a lot of style, art,  heart and flair wants to be told: "Here, do this". No teacher that wants their students engaged and on the edge of creative thinking wants to hear: "Here, do this." We want to teach with our own unique style, enthusiasm, use our own dialogue, and meet the diverse needs of our students without the script. Truth is, there are some teachers who might need that script. Even if it's to get the gist of things until they can make it their own. I know I've been there. There are some teachers that need that script all the time....although, we know if you are reading this, you are NOT one of "THEM"!

If we step back, we can read between the lines of "Here, do this" (did anyone actually ever say that out loud to you? I thought I heard it, but when I think about it, no one said "script it like a robot"....we have to differentiate our own teaching style. Administrators and districts choose curriculum based on a variety of criteria. So while new curriculum is often coming in with scripts, it doesn't mean your district wants you to stand up like a robot and read it word for word. They don't want it, you don't want it, and your students certainly don't want it. So don't do it! They want you to read it, get the gist of it, and make it your own. As always, the curriculum should GUIDE your instruction. Follow the units/concepts/pacing/vocabulary/etc. set forth by the comprehensive pack of your core curriculum...but don't forget to make it your own!

So there's no need to get your stuffing in a bunch this Thanksgiving....or at any point of the year. Simply know your district and state/national objectives, your goals for your students, and have a plan for how you're going to get them there.

I've considered the Common Core Objectives and the units from our local district writing curriculum and have intertwined that with topics that I know my students will be interested in doing. We will be engaged this year as we write, write, and write our way through the common core standards.

Bring on the small moments stories, the "how to" writings, informational writings, and opinion writings!




I've linked up to my TPT writing pack for November (click on the photo above). It touches on a variety of writing types and is aligned to the common core K-2. Look for more small moment writing opportunities coming soon! And stop being afraid of curriculum that just so happens to include a script. Think of it as an extra resource....use the script, or don't. It's up to you....you are the professional!



Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Study & a FREEBIE

I recently purchased and fell in love with the scholastic book, Nightsong by Ari Berk. That little Chiro is the cutest little bat! This book reminds me so much of Stellaluna....and I knew it'd be perfect for a mini-book study, so I went ahead and made one with lots of cross-curricular activities. I am excited to use it with my students throughout this week.




It is currently FREE to the first 3 people to leave a comment on my facebook page for Sweet Life of Teaching. Hurry----there's only 1 taker so far! You can grab it by clicking on the photo below from TPT!



I've also committed to keeping my students writing---even during the crazy holiday week. I'm offering up a little FREEBIE for your students to write about their Halloween costume. An alternative is provided for those who do not participate in Halloween! There is a lot of writing and drawing space on the back of this file.



Happy Halloween with your students! 



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Digital Storytelling & Publishing----it's the cool thing to do!


I am so proud of several of my students this week for learning how to write and publish digital stories. I am continually amazed at the quality of work that they produce when given a venue to explore and create. They have the freedom to take their learning to new heights, in the direction they choose---and they typically produce more than I could ask for! I simply introduced them to story bird.com, gave them log-in information, showed them a thing or two about adding pages to a story, and how to drag and drop pictures. I am pretty sure I could have just let them log in and they could have figured it out without any of my little tidbits! So after my little intro., I walked away to tend to some other students and let the group of storybirds dive into the world of digital story-making and publishing.

What I got in return was more than I could ever have imagined from 6-7 year olds. Not only did they choose to work on their stories over the course of the week, they created lengthy stories, intertwined characters, started new stories and begged me to show them how to publish their stories. Publish is a word we love in my classroom! We publish things all the time. I tell them that digital publishing is a quick way to share your writing and thoughts with the whole world! They know the blue publish button on kidblog.com & the blue publish button on storybird.com to be the key to sharing their work with a wide audience---but mostly intended for their family, friends, teacher, and principal.

I loved their excitement about storybird.com from the moment they logged in. I could see the gears turning. They would sit for a long time.....typing, dragging/dropping pictures, backspacing, searching for periods, wondering how to get capital letters in there, and even going back to edit a 'completed' story because they found errors when they read it out loud! One student even heard me conferencing with another storybird writer about their closing sentence. I thought the story was going to go on, but it ended so suddenly and there was nothing to give me a clue the story had come to and end. Not only did that writer go back and fix that, the student that overheard us later informed me that she stopped at the end of her story to think of a good "wrap up" sentence before she published it! Seriously?! Is this really happening in the first marking period of first grade? It really, really is! I couldn't make this stuff up! Here are a couple videos of students presenting their story. 





When we are working with paper/pencil, we are working on so many mechanics just to make it legible and intelligible. We are always working on: putting spaces between your words, using the handwriting lines as a guide to size your letters correctly and form your letters properly, start with a capital, end with a period, know where your sentence ends, etc. Not to say that we don't work on this in the digital world----but it's much easier! I can stroll by a student and point out where to find the period on the keyboard, how to hit shift 1 to get an exclamation, how to hold the shift key for a capital letter, etc. It takes 2 seconds and a quick backspace versus lots of erasing and re-writing.  Not to say that we don't have some errors with capital letters, ending marks, etc. with digital printing, but it's a quicker, different type of fix-up as the students learn and grow as writers. I love writing----and writing on paper/pencil won't be a lost art in my classroom, but we are a digital world, and we are embracing that, too! There will always be a balance, an intended audience, and meaningful, purposeful writing.

So before I unleash the links to the wonderful stories my students have created, let me also tell you that the publishing doesn't stop here. Storybird.com offers real hard copies of the books! I plan on using my box tops money (THANK YOU to our wonderful PTO that give us our cash back!) to purchase the PDF copy so students can print and assemble their book here at school. For a nicer copy, there are options and sizes for hard/soft cover books. Parents can visit their child's storybird.com account for more information and to load up their shopping cart! Now....here are the works of he(art)!




Saturday, August 10, 2013

SALE!


Everything in my shop is on sale! 
Enjoy 5-35% off all items until August 30th! 
Happy Back to School Shopping! 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Meet the Teacher: A give-a-way & Movement Math!

If you've been following me from my transition from PreK-land to 1st grade, you already know that I was wanting to ensure I have plenty of sensory & movement opportunities for my students. I've been busy accumulating ideas this summer. I came across a Melissa & Doug store this summer while on a spa day with my Mother-in-Law. LOVE! Love her, love the store, too! 

I did some damage in that store and one of the items I bought was this hopscotch puzzle mat. It looks kinda baby-ish, but I thought some great math skills could be incorporated into a math station that let's kids hop around while learning some good stuff---especially at the beginning of the year! 

Aligned to the common core, students can play hopscotch and graph, practice number writing/formation, compare numbers, order numbers, add 2 numbers, add 3 numbers, and more!! It's aligned for K-1. I hope my students like it!! You can see it HERE

Also---I've been thinking about those first few days of school. I've created a "Meet the Teacher" slideshow so my students have a great visual and can get to know me (and a little about my family) on the first day. Would you like one? First 5 people to leave their E-mail address in a comment on my Facebook page can have it FREE! I think I will like doing my intro. this way! You can check it out HERE! It is completely editable so that all you have to do is pop in your own pics! Here's just a few of the slides. All seasons are included, favorite foods, and more!! 






Thanks for stopping by!! 
 






Monday, August 5, 2013

Cutsie It Up!!

Normally at this point in the summer, well---maybe a week from now, I wander in to my room with the excitement for new furniture arrangements, new decor stuff, and DREAD. I absolutely dread removing my furniture from a huge heap in the middle of my room. It's heavy, bulky, odd shaped, and there's so much of it. I love re-arranging, don't get me wrong....but that big heap of tables, chairs, bookshelves, etc. is so overwhelming at first. 

This year, however, our maintenance staff was AMAZING! Those ladies sure know what they are doing, and I cannot thank them enough! They took pics of my room and put EVERYTHING back exactly where it was. Even my "teacher space" on my counter (I don't use a desk). It looked phenomenal. And soooo clean! I'm excited to see them again & thank them repeatedly-----they made my coming back so easy! 

I only re-arranged a little bit this year, and moved 2 centers. With the extra time the maintenance crew saved me, I was able to tend to my I-feel-like-organizing and cutsie-it-up mood! Here's the results & if you want the EDITABLE labels, too....click on the photo(s)! Lord knows we all have these plastic drawers in our classrooms!!!!!

These are the drawers I use to keep my copies or anything that gets handed out to the kids. I used some washi-type tape (not really washi, but some off brand or something from Walmart. LOVE IT!) to adhere it to the front of the drawer. This little decorative tape is one of my new favs! 

I think this is my new favorite spot in my classroom. I really wanted comfy places for the kids to read this year. I know there may be some arguments over this one---but we'll get it figured out! I have a lovely 31 consultant/teacher-friend who feeds my addiction to cute bags & bins! 

Here's a bunch of little odds and ends that you'd probably find in a teacher's desk. Like I said, I don't use a desk, so I keep my randomness stored in these drawers on the counter. Also----as of last year, band-aids are a kid-accessible item. I got WAY to tired of fetching band-aids at inconvenient times. Fostering independence here, people! 

I LOVE my new Ikea 3-tier cart. It's stocked with everything I need for small groups/reading instruction---including my new personalized binder I'm using for assessments! If we have to assess all the time, it might as well be easy on the eye! 

More places to store my stuff! I'm a big fan of chalkboard labels & chalk markers! 

Oh yes....we must have a place where completed work should land. 
Now, it has a matching label! 

Here's my new Ikea rug, more labels for types of paper that the kids will need access to. Last year was such a whirlwind, it never got labeled. They managed....but this year, I'll sleep better knowing this is done. HA! 

I also keep my activities sorted for lang. arts and math by skill. Shown above is a box of word work activities for short vowel & cvc word blending. Look REALLY close in the bottom right corner of that tote and you'll see the cute little logo/graphic from my friend Julie at Make-Take-Teach. She makes some GREAT products, and that's where I keep all those bad boys! 

Another show of my "teacher space". And another 31item. 
Love me some fold-n-file boxes!! 

And finally, here is my new trash to treasure----the bookshelf! 
YES! It's one long bookshelf a colleague threw out, and I snatched it up! 
So lucky!!! 

Happy Back To School & Happy Decorating!!!! 


Friday, July 26, 2013

Teacher's Tropical Vacation?!?!?! #ShouldHaveThoughtOfThisSooner!

Well, I don't know about you, but I am spending my summer on a tropical island, enjoying the sounds of the ocean, the breeze, and the sway of the palm trees. It's absolutely gorgeous, and I couldn't imagine a more serene way to spend my summer 'vacation'. Here's a pic of me.....soaking up the rays! 



By now, I hope you know how far fetched that introduction was! Ha. That's just a terrible picture using the effects on Photo Booth! Notice the long sleeves and pants? It's rainy here in Michigan today, and I now feel like Richard Simmons...so let's get on with what's really going on over here. 

 Here's how I'm really spending my summer: taking kids to/from sports camps, day camps, friends houses, boating, reading, soaking up the sun, gardening, meeting up with my friends and teacher-friends, hosting family gatherings, lifeguarding at the backyard pool, cleaning my house, doing lots of laundry, and more! It truly is a great summer. I'm looking forward to our ocean side condo vacation coming up in August (for real!). Know what else I've been doing? Sneaking in WORK! 

Today was the last day of all camps for my 3 kids. It's raining, and I didn't want my laminator to get too out of practice, so I thought I'd fire it up today! I've been busy making products for my classroom and TPT and TN stores, as well as downloading great products from others. I decided to print and laminate it today. Here's my huge stash. 

As I'm sitting here laminating things, something in my brain begins to nag me about how much time is spent SITTING while I search, download, and put page after page through the laminator....which snacks and TV in front of me. After I've spent some time trying to change my eating and exercise habits the last few months, SITTING around too long felt all wrong. 


So----I decided to combine my work with exercise and I found out I could get 13 squats in per page from the time I put it in the laminator till the time is rolled all the way through. Once my muscles got warmed up, I sometimes hit 17-20 squats. I did 23 pages today (lots more to go)----but I'll just go ahead and average 13 squats/page and multiply that by 23 pages for a total of 299 squats!!!! 

I'm happy to have gotten two birds with one stone today....and thought I could easily incorporate different exercise while I'm waiting for those pages to slide through. 
  • planks
  • sprint in place
  • jog in place
  • ab exercises
  • stretch
  • push ups
  • some plyo stuff I learned from my Insanity DVD'
  • More! 
I'm excited about this new multi-tasking opportunity. I mean, that's what moms/teachers/women do best anyway, right?! Of course, I have no idea why I didn't think of this sooner.....I bet I'd be a lot more fit if I combined my work with exercise a looooong time ago....especially since I seem to spend a lot of time on work and not enough 'ME' time. Although, playing geeky nerd on the computer is 'me' time, and I like it a lot. But being a thinner, in shape, geeky-nerd would be even better!!