Monday, November 30, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

What a lovely week!  We had 2 wonderful family thanksgivings full of cousins, family, laughter, and great food!  I can't even begin to list all of the things I am thankful for, but a wonderful family is at the top of my list!  Having a job that I LOVE and being a part of my students lives every day is also pretty high on the list! We celebrated Thanksgiving with our students on Tuesday with a traditional Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!  The popcorn was cooked to perfection and the jellybeans were the right combination of sweet and chewy!  #charliebrownthanksgiving
 The 2nd best part of Thanksgiving?  BLACK FRIDAY!  It has been a girl's tradition in our family to shop, and even though my mom's recent health hasn't been great, we still were able to go! We did wait to go until 8 AM.  :)   We got tons of great deals!  I will admit to doing a ton of on-line shopping on Thanksgiving morning!  I am excited to get all our packages delivered this week!

Today has been cleaning and lesson planning!  #funisover
My students love using songs as practice for reading!  They keep mini-books in their book boxes and pull them out during silent reading.We will highlight our word wall words and there is a writing prompt at the end of each song.  You can click on the picture to take a look!
I made a religious edition too for one of my friends in a private school.


We are also reviewing our math facts with this Holiday Dinner game:

and of course, word problem practice!!!
But our big focus this week is REINDEER!!!
Come back this week for reindeer ideas

I am very excited to shop tomorrow for the 
Cyber Monday and Tuesday TeachersPayTeachers Sale!  
I have a cart full of great products!!!

Don't forget to use the code: SMILE

Happy Shopping!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Turkey Tasks

We have been going crazy with the turkey centers in math!  Our objectives have been adding and subtracting word problems and fluency.  {common core standards 1.OA.1, 1.OA.2, 1.OA.6, 1.OA.8} We have also been working on numbers to 120 and starting place value. {1.NBT.1, 1.NBT.2}

Here are some of our tubs!

Turkey roll and color! 1.OA.6

 Missing Numbers 1.NBT.1
 Turkey Clip Its 1.OA.6

Turkey in the Straw game 1.OA.6

This  week, we are making these cutie headband turkeys to practice fact families.  The 2 parts are the number of each color of feather.

We will also be playing my new Feasting on Facts Game.  I even bought a Dollar Store roasting pan to put my food pieces!

Students match the food cards to the target number on their plate.  We are practicing addition, subtraction, counting money, tally marks, and number words all in one fun game!!!  It is also in my TpT shop!

I am probably keeping this one out until Christmas!  There are a lot of good skills to practice!!!

Thanks for peeking in! 
 Hope you have a great week!


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tips and Tricks to having a successful teacher observation

Have a successful teacher observation every time when you follow these simple tips!  Teachers share their strategies to having a great teacher observation!


Observation.  A word that can make a teacher's blood run cold.  One colleague of  mine used to always say she would rather go to the gynecologist  than be observed!  But being observed doesn't have to be stressful and can make you a better teacher.  Here are some tips to have a successful observation:

Before your observation: 

You really start preparing for  successful observations day 1 of your teaching.  Principals look for:


 Do you show that you like your job?  Do you spend your lunch hour complaining about accommodating a student's needs because it is extra work?  Are you welcoming and friendly to parents and your colleagues?  Do you contribute to the learning community as a whole?  Impress your principal by showing a passion for teaching!  Make positive connections with students, parents, and staff.   Be positive, even on those days you don't feel it.  Complain to your spouse, your best friend, your cat or your mom- but try to keep complaining out of your work conversations.  Always bring up a problem with possible positive solutions.  

Classroom Environment

Provide a classroom for your students that is pleasing and organized.  Remove excess clutter. So many teachers are savers (myself included!!!)  make sure what you keep is neat and put away.  Hang examples of rigorous and meaningful student work in the hallways and classroom bulletin boards.  Show that there is learning happening in your classroom on a regular basis.

Routines, Management, and Structure

From day 1, teach your students your expectations and routines.  Students that know routines are better behaved and you are able to be more focused on their learning.  Practice routines.  I review some part of our routines almost every day.  Even if it is just to quickly review a procedure before we  move on. For example about once a week I say, "it's time for lunch, please stand up, push in your chair, and walk to the door."   I don't say it every day, but often enough that they know I still want them to do it that way.  The days I don't say it, if they don't follow that routine I make them go back and do it over.  My students just know that is what they have to do or they have to go back.  They don't like to go back, so they just do it.  Another example is when my students come in to my room for math (I teach departmentalized first grade math) they put their work tubs in a certain spot and walk to the carpet for our class math meeting.  I may review the expectation once in a while, but by this time of the year if someone doesn't do it, another student calls them out on it.  I can spend those few minutes getting myself together so I am ready to teach as soon as they are sitting. Principals look for good classroom management during an observation.

Solid Lesson Planning

Good lesson planning can go a long way to having a successful observation.  Planning out the standards being taught, student-friendly learning objectives, essential questions, rigorous learning activities (include choice if you can!) to support the standards and informal ways to assess learning as you teach can make or break your lesson.  Make sure you have every copy, manipulative, and supply and even a few extras you need to teach your lesson ready to go.  Stick with activities you would normally do! This is not the time to try a group learning project for the first time!  If you normally do group learning projects go for it, but if not, stick to your tried and true lessons that make you feel comfortable doing and you know have high engagement.  I chose an interactive Venn Diagram activity the last time I was formally observed because I knew the kids already knew the procedure, but I then added a mathy spin to it.  I tried it out a week before my observation and then did a similar, but different lesson during. The principal loved this lesson.  Stick with what works!
Have a successful teacher observation every time when you follow these simple tips!  Teachers share their strategies to having a great teacher observation!Have a successful teacher observation every time when you follow these simple tips!  Teachers share their strategies to having a great teacher observation!

Be Proactive

Ask your principal what they are looking for during your pre-observation conference.  If your district is using  a evaluation tool such as the Charlotte Danielson Framework, see if your principal is willing to observe a standard or two that you need observational evidence.   Ask other teacher's for advice from their experiences of being observed.  
Know what your school priorities are.  One year at our school the principal was looking for posted objectives, if you didn't have it you would be marked down, last year we had to have expert walls and listed standard operating procedures, this year we are not supposed to have expert walls, but we do need to have data walls.  Whatever the priority is for the year, make sure you have it.
Make sure you have everything ready for your lesson.  Don't forget to have a good supply of sharpened pencils!   You don't want any time of your observation to be wasted sharpening or worse, a child not engaged in the activity because they don't have a pencil and don't want to say anything because the principal is in the room!

Prepare Students

Give your students the head's up that someone is coming in to observe the learning that is going on in the classroom.  Some teachers make a point to say that the principal is coming only to evaluate the teacher and some make a point to say that the principal is coming to see the students.  In reality, neither and both points are the truth.  The principal is coming in to observe the learning environment as a whole which includes the teacher and students.  I usually tell my students that the principal is coming in to see all of the great learning that is going on in our classroom.  This way, students don't stress over it, they just feel proud to show the hard work they do on a daily basis.

During your observation:

Set your objective

Make sure that your students know what they are going to learn.  Have it on the board, say it, have them say it.  Make it clear that they know what they are going to learn .  Research shows this increases learning!

Stay Focused on Learning

Don't try to pull off some kind of big fancy show with you as the star.  Let the learning be the star!  Every part of your lesson should be about keeping the students engaged in their learning.   Some things principals watch for is student engagement, teacher/student connections, lesson flow (don't rush out of nervousness!), classroom management, as well as student learning.  It is a lot to juggle but, relax, you do this multiple times a day!  Follow the lesson plan as best as you can, but be ready to be flexible if you need to be.  Make sure that you end with some kind of informal assessment.  An exit ticket, a journal entry, a practice page - something that shows learning was happening!.
Have a successful teacher observation every time when you follow these simple tips!  Teachers share their strategies to having a great teacher observation!


Try not to be nervous or stressed.  An observation is meant just to be a snap shot of your teaching and student learning, if it doesn't quite go the way you want, use it as a learning opportunity! 

After your observation:


What went well?  What flopped?  The students didn't fully grasp the lesson?  Get ready for your post-observation conference with a plan of what you will do next.  Your students were writing notes on their sticky notes instead of what they were supposed to write?  Have a plan to fix the behavior .  We are not perfect, things don't always go our way.  Principals already know that you don't have a classroom where everything goes perfectly 100% of the time because no one does!  What you need to be prepared to show is what you do when things are not so perfect to make it better the next time.  We should be in a constant state of reflecting as educators...  plan, do, check, adjust!  Focus on the positives and how you will change the negatives!

Be positive

We can be our own worst critic!   Use your observation as a learning opportunity.  Don't go into your post-observation meeting ready to bash yourself!   Make sure that you use your post-evaluation conference to ready to highlight your positives.  Show data that shows good results if you can, such as a pre-test and post test.  Use this time as an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with your principal about your strengths  and things that you can improve to be the best teacher that you can be. 

Take Criticism as an opportunity 

No one is perfect.  Observations are not meant to "get you" , they are opportunities to find out how to improve.  Listen to criticisms with an open mind and do not react defensively.  Even if you don't agree, listen respectfully and take note of  what your administrator wants you to do differently.  If you would like to offer a written rebuttal, follow district procedures.  In our district, we type a letter of rebuttal and it is attached to the evaluation.  Choose something from your evaluation to work on until next time.

Hopefully your observation will be a great reflection of who you are and what kind of learning that happens every day!  Try to relax, you will be great!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

3 Activities to Add Rigor to your First Grade Geometry Unit

Geometry has always been one of the most fun units in first-grade math.  We took this unit and Common-Cored it up to make it more rigorous, but we kept the fun!  

The standards that we worked with are 1.G.1 and 1.G.2:

1. Distinguish between defining attributes (e.g., triangles are closed and

three-sided) versus non-defining attributes (e.g., color, orientation,

overall size); build and draw shapes to possess defining attributes.

2. Compose two-dimensional shapes  or three-dimensional shapes

 to create a composite shape, and compose new shapes from

the composite shape.

We pulled out every kind of manipulative we had and came up with activities for them!   

1) One of the kids' favorites was building the shapes out of playdoh and toothpicks!  Here are some of the 2D shapes we created!

Tip: You have to have larger vertices made out of the playdoh, or they will fall apart too easily, and the kids get frustrated!
And...  don't buy 6000 toothpicks!  1 box of 1000 was way more than enough! 
(Learned that one the hard way!) #overachiever  

 And in Common core fashion, we wrote on a recording sheet to explain what we knew about our shapes! 
There is a LOT of writing in this unit! 
I made a point of explaining that the playdoh balls were called vertices or corners.  They picked u;p the terms pretty quickly! 
We did this a few days later using 3D shapes.

2) "Shape Snack!"  Students brought in snacks that were in 2D and 3D shapes.  I provided a list for parents, but I loved the creativity that our families have!  One parent told me they were walking around the grocery store for 15 min, and their child was naming what kind of shapes different food was. I love how into it they were getting!

The kids all brought in food "shapes," and we ate them as a snack!

And of course, writing to tell me about what they ate!  We had so much food we did this all week! And... wrote about it every time!  By the end of the week, I was getting some GREAT sentences! (I made them write a sentence before they could dig in!  #willbeengagedforfood)

The super cutest thing about it all?  They kept on talking about what shapes they were eating at lunch and snacks!

3) Have fun with it!
We watched "Spookly the Square Pumpkin."

this led us to a debate about whether or not he was indeed a square! (lol!)
We decided that they called him a square because his face was a square- but he was really a cube!  Nice segway into the faces on a 3D shape!  I love it when the stars align for these teachable moments! 

And we made Amy Lemons cute little Owl Craftivity!

We discussed the shapes it takes to make the owl.  This fit wonderfully into our Owl Unit we are working on in reading and Science!  I found this Red Ribbon Week display to put on our bulletin board! 

We finished up with daily building and tangrams task cards to make our composite shapes!  It was a lot of fun Hands-on activities! The students were so excited to have math every day, they learned a ton, so I could not be happier! 

All of these activities are in my unit.

I included every manipulative I could and wrote assessments to end each of the standards.  I also added a page of technology links and a sample lesson plan to explain how I used it!

I hope you have a great night!