Saturday, April 12, 2014

April Bright Ideas:Pencil Wars

It's that time again! Time for April's Bright Ideas Link UP!  Together with some of my favorite blogger friends, we are bringing you some amazing BRIGHT IDEAS for you to use in your classroom.   Be sure to check out everyone who linked up and all the amazing ideas at the bottom of the post!

Ever feel like you spend endless days searching for pencils in your classrooms?  I am down to my last nerve when it comes to pencils in my classroom.  Students are always losing their pencil and never seem to have one when they need one.

Well FINALLY I was DONE!  I decided that I would assign everyone a pencil and see, just see, if they could possibly keep up with it!  Well let me tell you!  I am so proud of my firsties!  They all started out with a brand new pencil on Monday, March 31st.  I have four table groups each labeled with a color.  I also assign each student a number at the beginning of the year that we use for EVERYTHING we do in class.  I purchased some colored dot stickers from Avery (there are enough to last me through next year I am sure) and I went to work.  I put a dot on their pencil in their table color and then wrote their number on the sticker.  I put a piece of tape around it just to secure it so they didn't take the sticker off.  I gave them all new eraser tops at that time as well!  

Here were the rules!  

1.  You may not sharpen your pencil.  If it needs to be sharpened, trade it in and when I see them in the "please sharpen" bucket I will sharpen and lay out for you to come get.  You must return my pencil you borrowed when you pick up your sharpened pencil.

2.  If I find your pencil on the's MINE...and you lose it and must borrow one from me and you owe me 2 min of your recess each day for the rest of the week. 

3.  At the end of each day, the student of the day will pick up all the pencils and turn them into the bucket to be sharpened for the next day.  Student of the day will sharpen pencils before we leave each day and lay them out at the supply station.  You may pick your pencil up each morning.

4. On Friday, at lunch, all pencils will be turned in for a final inspection.  Your pencil must be free of chew marks and must have their eraser toppers.  If you have your pencil and it is in good condition you will be awarded a SUPER IMPROVER star on our Super Improver Wall (see Super Improver Wall posts under the archive).  

Easy...Peesy...Lemon Squeezy!!!  

I was skeptical but this is what was turned in on Friday, April 4th!  WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!  Every child turned in their pencil!  I was so proud!  Even my little who didn't have her eraser was excused because it broke during an activity we were doing while she was erasing and she just hadn't had time to get a new one.  No pencils on the floor, no fighting over who's pencil was whose...SUCCESS!  

Week 2:  I was super excited!  Lets see if we can have success!   This was the view throughout the week of pencils in process.  I had to replace one pencil this week because it became a pinky pencil!

Week 2 Turn In:  WOOOO HOOOOO!  The NEW pencil you see on the top is because me...yes the teacher...dropped her pencil behind the bookcase (a really heavy one) and I haven't been able to retrieve it!  Leave it to the teacher to lose the pencil! :)  It's all COOL!  She got her new pencil for next week a little early!  

I have all their new pencils ready for next week so as these become PINKY PENCILS we can replace!  This has been the most success I have had with pencils!  I am super excited!  

 If you enjoyed this blog post please consider joining me on

For more amazing ideas from 150 bloggers, please browse through the link up below.  
Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Daily I am asked about Whole Brain Teaching!  It's a topic that I love to talk about!  Often I am asked how WBT fits into small group instruction!  With so many educators turning to small group instruction to make differentiation easier, the inquiry into how WBT fits is a valid concern.

So much of WBT is aimed at whole group direct instruction.  Or so it would seem.  Any part of Whole Brain teaching can be used in a small group session or in a class size that is smaller than a normal class.  For example, many special education teachers are using WBT strategies to facilitate learning in their pull out groups.  Whether you are a full in Whole Brain teacher or you are using small parts of the program, these strategies will take your teaching, and in turn the learning your students are doing, to a whole new level!

Today I am going to share how I do guided reading.  I have to start off with a disclaimer.  I am by no means an expert in guided reading.  In fact, this is my first year truly using guided reading.  I have always done small leveled groups for my reading instruction, but this year I implemented many elements that are signature to guided reading.  While there are more experienced educators out the peer that have done Gr for years! this is what is working for me in my Title 1 school.  I have used many of these strategies for my entire teaching career and some are new idea that I pulled in this year.

However, all these strategies have produced readers that are at or above grade level.  Most of my students are above grade level, reading at a 2nd-3rd grade reading level.  You be the judge...again...they work for me and my students.

Included in the pack are stately friends for "tricky" words.  They have created independent readers that don't ask me "what's this word?"  My students know to look to our Strategy friends to figure out a word.  Amazingly, 9 out of 10 times they figure it out on their own and I am a happy teacher when I see that smile of accomplishment on their faces.

Comprehension is why we read right?  We need our students to be able to understand what they are reading.  Sure you can create fluency that allows them to read anything you put in front of them with tone and expression!  But do they understand it?  Our Comprehension Friends along with our WBT power pix help us when we are working on a particular strategy for comprehension.  I introduce these one at a time in a WHOLE GROUP setting, typically during a shared reading or close reading passage.  I use WBT teaching strategies (Teach/OK, Mirrors, Mirrors and Words...etc) to introduce them and then in small group I use the same strategies to review and expand on each super hero!  

At the beginning of each GR lesson we take a moment to check to sounds.  Sometimes our GR lesson calls for focusing on one particular sound or several sounds at once.  I will review those sounds in our flip book and any others that we have learned.

As teachers we all know our students love to get their hands on things.  I use the word sorts in my Spelling Palooza Pack to work on vowel sounds and other letter combinations.  When we have reviewed them to my satisfaction in small group, I move them into my word work MY CHOICE buckets for my students to pick up when they are done with their assigned word work for the day!  These stay in my classroom all year and my students are always looking for a reason to get one out!

Homework is mandatory in our classroom due to district regs.  So, I want homework to be meaningful and continue the learning that we have done in class.  Phonics homework is easy breezy with this part of the pack.  Great word sorts that go with each set of digraphs and vowel teams.  

It is hard to put into words how easy my Guided Reading groups run and how successful they are!  A typical group runs as follows:

Opening (5 min):  Super Speed 1000
Re-Read (5 min):  Students re-read a previous story from their library individually or to me.  I take this time to work with a student that I know was struggling with a particular story.
Words to Watch (5 min):  I have printed the tricky words or new vocabulary words for the new story on index cards and we  as a group go through them using our strategy friends to figure them out!
Strategy Friends (2-3 min):  Introduce new friends or review old.
New Read (5-7 min):  Students stagger start reading and I take notes as I listen.  They are reading with oral punctuation and working on expression and fluency work.  If a student needs extra help I make a note of it and try to guide them to the Strategy Friends.  IF they still need help I note it and try to find a time to pull them or work with them directly the next day during group Re-Read!
Comprehension Check (5 min):  We talk about our Comp Super Hero that we introduced during whole group reading that pertains to the days story.  I model how our super hero helps us with the task at hand and prepare them for their journal activity.
Writing response (independent before going to next rotation):  Each student has a reading journal that they complete a comprehension activity in for the story we read.  If a student still needs to work with the story I may pair them with a higher student to play CRAZY PROFESSOR (seen in the video above) to work on the story before completing the activity!  

My whole GR group takes about 30-35 min from start to finish!  As the year progresses each section shifts in time because they become used to the flow!  Depending on the complexity of the text, we could only take 20 min.  If you don't have 30-35 min available for each group then you could split this up over two days.  

So there you have it!  Loads of Whole Brain Teaching right there in a small group atmosphere!  The powerful reading that my firsties do by the end of the year says it all!  The group you see in the video read Charlotte's Web as an end of year novel study and had a blast!  First graders who read a chapter each night without fail!  TEACHER HEAVEN!!!!

Check out the packs above in my store!  They are on sale until midnight tonight!  

Here are some other great packs from friends of mine that I absolutely love to use for fluency practice.  Check them out and be sure to stop by Growing Firsties and check out all the amazing posts that linked up!  HINT HINT!  There is a GIVEAWAY GOING ON! 

 Even though I am not on their giveaway I am going to giveaway a copy of both my packs above.  Comment below, share on FB and leave a link!  I will pick a winner on APRIL 4th!  Remember if you don't want to can get it on sale through midnight!  It's only $8.00!  What a steal!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Station Round Up

One of my New Years resolutions was to blog more often and share resources that we are using in our classroom!  Well, the best laid plans...right?

Most of my problem is finding time to snap pictures in my classroom.  I can always get pictures when I'm making stuff or putting it together but my favorite pictures are of my students actually using the resources!  

Yesterday I was able to do just that!!  Finally I have pictures to share!!  Sit back, grab your coffee, or drink of choice!  And take a look at our stations from this week!

First up is our double digit subtraction Double Your Luck!!  My students are finally pros at regrouping and this was perfect for them to practice and brush up after Spring Break!

We also had a double digit addition center called Double Trouble!!  Fabulous!!

"When Did It Happen?"  Verb tense is a skill my firsties have to know for our EOY testing!  We got some practice in with this station!  Read the sentence and decide if the underlined verb was past, present or future tense.  Worked on context and reading at the same time!  Fabulous!

My firsties also have to be able to identify parts of speech at the end of the year!  This is a skill we work on from the beginning of the year and the words get a little bit more complex throughout the year!  Perfect review for our test!  

With all the oral writing that goes on in my classroom and the Genius ladder work, my firsties still need practice determining what punctuation goes at the end of a sentence.  Firsties often have their favorite punctuation that they use in their writing but it isn't always correct!  So we got in a little practice this week with our Top It Off station!!!

Graphing anyone?  We know that collecting and analyzing data in math is crucial in first!  We went for the gold with our Graphong for the Gold station!

Standards for telling time are different across the country!  My firsties have to know how to tell time to five minutes for our ELY exam!!  We got in some extra practice with Once Upon a Time!!

Clover Hunt was one of my students favorite this week.  While they only needed eight words for each long vowel sound on their recording sheet, this station gave them enough words to complete their sheets three times with different words!  They played it in pairs drawing cards, we played it in Guided Reading as a phonics warm up and they even wanted to take the cards on our field trip an activity we did while waiting in line to be seated at the concert!  They loved it!

Who doesn't like some gold?  Gold Covered Contractions had my firsties matching the gold coin words with the contraction pot of gold they belonged in!  Great practice!!!

Kiss Me...don't pinch me!!  Glittery graphics represent the hundreds, tens and ones where students must match a picture representation to the number, number words and expanded form!  Then students recorded their matches on their recording sheet!!!

There was one more station that I didn't get a picture of!  BOOOOO!  But overall we had a fabulous time practicing our skills!  Super smarties in this group!

All of the stations we used this week can be found in my Over The Rainbow Pack on TPT!  Click on the image to check it out!

Did you see the big Spring Cleaning Sale that is going on?  So many great teacher authors are participating!  

You can get 20% OFF everything in my store through the 31st!  Here are just a few things you can get!

Thanks for stopping by!  Off to work on my lesson plans for tomorrows Visual Lesson Plans Link Up!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring Cleaning Sale!!!

Have you ever had the itch to just clean out and get rid of stuff you don't need or clean up to stay focused on what really matters?  Well, that's where I am in my life.  I want to be able to spend more time with the kids, less time doing house chores, and less time doing work outside the classroom.  So, what better way to do this than to clean up my Teachers Pay Teachers Wish List and hone in on the items I think would benefit my kiddos the most.  Here is a step by step for my computer and TPT Spring Cleaning:

1-Comment on all of my purchases I have made in TPT.  I am always so excited to have the new purchase that I forget to go back and comment and rate the seller.  YOU KNOW YOU GET CREDIT POINTS FOR DOING THIS???  I just think that is sooo cool!  

2-Open my wish list and add the items to my cart that I just cant live without any more.  Now y'all, I am all about making my life simple and being a mom when I get home.  So, I am going to make sure that the products I have in my cart stand the test of time.  I'm going to ask myself- does it have rigor?  Is it an easy to print pack, can I use it for direct and independent practice, and lastly, is it within my budget?  

3-I'm going to purchase these items after, and only after, I have all my credits towards future purchases (remember-I'm a cheapskate and love a sale).  

4-I'm going to shop at this wonderful Spring Cleaning Sale my favorite shops have going on this weekend.  

Y'all know I love my blogger friends, they are my inspiration!  So below is a link to each of their stores in case you want to see some of their phenomenal products they have for sale!

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Welcome to the March Bright Ideas Blog Hop!  If I am the first stop on your hop thank you so much! I hope you find a great resource to use in your 1:1 Technology classroom or even if you have only a few devices that you use in small group!  

If you are here from Laura's Blog, I want to to say what a great idea she has!  We are on opposite ends with dry erase and then all the way to technology but it's something that I think I can finally find a use for all those dry erase boards I have.  Thanks Laura for the great idea!

Have you ever thought to yourself..."I would love to have a 1:1 classroom but how would that even look?"  Often when administrators here electronic devices are being used they are skeptical (unless they are familiar with it) that they will become simple busy work and time filler devices.  They are not sure HOW the technology should be implemented or HOW it will look in a classroom.  Will it change the way the teacher teachers?  Will the kids learn what they need to know?  I am here to tell both of those questions.

Last year I wrote a proposal for an iPad lab for my first grade classroom.  I personally had been using an iPad(my own personal) and an Apple TV along with a projector for many of my lessons as well as small group activities.  I thought, if I can do all this with one iPad imagine what I could do if EACH child had one.  Little did I know I was in for a heck of a roller coaster ride.  But just look at all that technology goodness. that I had them what did I do with them?  I attended a conference in Chicago put on my BER (Bureau of Education and Research) on iPads in the classroom and it was amazing!  I highly recommend that you attend one of the conferences even if you only have 1 or a few iPads to use in the classroom.  So much information that helped me to implement iPad learning in my classroom.

One of the apps and sites that was discussed was a phenomenal tool that truly turned our iPads into interactive learning devices during the lesson.  No longer were they just devices we go out after the actual lesson and did review work on or practice activities in learning apps.  They became HOW we learned!  With 21st century learners it made a huge difference.  I am a Whole Brain Teacher to the core and this app took technology and blended it with WBT to create my TEACHER HEAVEN!  

So what is this app?  Nearpad is a website/APP that takes your iPad lab and puts the TEACHER in control of EVERY iPad in the classroom.  The teacher starts a lesson, the students sign in, and they iPad is now in the control of the teacher.  The lessons can show slide shows, images, questions that students must respond to, and so much more!  Here is a picture of Nearpad being used in our classroom:

Here we are doing a lesson on subject verb agreement!  The lesson goes from slide to slide and with each bit of information of the lesson I use the WBT strategy of TEACH/OK to have the students discuss what we just learned.  In the end, the Critical Thinking and Assessment portion of the lesson is handled with a quiz, a open ended question response, or other activity that I have designed.  As the students complete their responses you will see in real time on the teacher computer or iPad who has responded and who is still working.  I love that with a quiz I can see immediately whether they are answering the questions correctly or not and walk over and help them without them knowing it is because they are getting them wrong.

Now this isn't the only way we use our iPads in the classroom and in general Math lessons whole group and some Language lessons whole group are taught using NearPod.  They have a great starting library of already created lessons but you can create your own as well using their CREATE function! I love creating lessons!  Check them out if you have a 1:1 classroom or even if you only have access to a few.  I could change your small group instruction as well!  Click on the link to check them out!

If you have loved this BRIGHT IDEA and are looking for more amazing ideas, hop on over to Chrissy's blog for some BRIGHT Ideas about Personal Editing Checklists for Writing!

Check out some other amazing ideas!

09 10